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Emily Rhein   BFA Musical Theatre      rhein

How much do you get to perform at Western? When did you start performing at Western - first, second, third year?

I've had many performance opportunities at Western throughout my first two years as a BFA. Auditioning for Mainstage and Studio Theatre each semester really helps to get a lot of the department involved on all the shows we put on each term. In addition, there are some upper-division classes like Directing II that often need students to act in their scenes. You may not get cast in something every semester, but you still grow from your acting, dance and vocal performance classes and learn different techniques to apply to yourself when you are cast in a theatre production.

I started performing at Western my first semester. In addition to being a BFA, I got involved with University Dance Theatre (UDT) and performed in their Winter Faculty DanceWorks concert while working in the theatre department as properties designer for "Cabaret" and working backstage crew for “Take Me Out”. In the Spring, I was cast in my first production, “Spring Awakening”.

Is the Theatre and Dance Department a friendly environment or is it really competitive?

The department is a friendly environment. I truly think of this department as my family. I can come into Browne Hall's lobby at any point in the day and know that I'll see at least one friendly face on one of the couches. College can be a tough transition for some and I felt blessed to have developed a strong bond with many of my fellow classmates at such an early point in my first semester. The upperclassmen are so welcoming and their kindness helped make my transition easier. They (AND the faculty) want you to thrive in this department!!

Naturally in the theatre world, there is some competitiveness. But rather than feeling like you are competing against everyone else in the program, you compete against yourself. In our weekly seminars for voice lessons, students give feedback to you and help you find ways to grow in your performances. Your classmates are here to help you grow and want you to succeed! We're here to make it together!

Are the faculty supportive?

ABSOLUTELY. Whenever I'm preparing for an audition or have questions about something for any of my major classes, whether it be for dance, vocal lessons or acting classes, any single member of the faculty is always happy to help! You just have to stop by their office and ask, or email them to find a time you can meet! They're so wonderfully accommodating! I truly feel like they want to do anything and everything to help me, and everyone else in the program, reach their fullest potential.

What’s special about the musical theatre program at WIU?

What I find special about the BFA program at WIU is the sense of family we all have. We're a tight-knit group and everyone seems to mesh together perfectly that it's impossible not to find your own part in it! As I said before, the BFA faculty is here for us and for our personal growth. They all love what they do and know how to work with each student and find individual ways to help them grow, rather than treating us like the same person. Within the first week, all the faculty knew my name and knew who I was, which was a wonderful feeling. I've never felt like just another student to fill a quota in the BFA program. They focus on bringing out the individual qualities in each student that push us to our fullest potential.

Our program may not be as well known as others in the Midwest, but a school's familiar name is no where near as important as the quality of the education you receive. And that's why I knew that the BFA program at Western Illinois was where I wanted to be to study musical theatre.