Dramatic arts in the 21st century: Innovative schools for the contemporary student
Source: USC School of Dramatic Arts

Today’s digital revolution has ‘disrupted’ many professions – and the dramatic arts are no exception.

While this shift has kept the industry moving, prospective dramatic arts students must understand that to succeed in the field, they must choose a university that addresses the fast-paced changes occurring in the industry.

For example, budding actors must understand that advances in technology have increased human-computer interactions among actors, who in turn must adapt to the use of technology in the field. In a similar vein, the theatre industry has also changed, embracing digital technology, seen from the implementation of video and 3D projections, digital lighting systems and stop-motion camerawork, helping to improve the overall theatrical experience.

These are just some of the exciting advancements unfolding within the dramatic arts field in the 21st century.

So how can aspiring actors transform the currents within themselves into a stellar performance on stage or camera? How can budding sound engineers gain the knowledge and skills needed to branch into the entertainment industry? How can would-be stage managers learn the technical skills and knowledge required to get from where they are to where they want to be?

Source: The Guildhall School of Music and Drama

Regardless of where your interest lies within the dramatic arts spectrum, here are four institutions that can help hone your talents to meet the needs of today’s modern-day dramatic arts…


Budding actors looking for a strong undergraduate programme should consider USC’s School of Dramatic Arts’ Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) Acting for Stage, Screen and New Media.

Located in the entertainment capital of the world – Los Angeles, US – this programme connects the foundation of classical theatre with innovative training for contemporary performing arts.

Entrepreneurialism is key to actors finding work, so the school’s undergraduate performance degree has been redesigned with emphasis on refining skills for untraditional “digital opportunities”, such as ‘Camera and Improvisation’ and ‘Going Viral’, to help students succeed.

Apart from being able to generate a buzz by creating original material for social media, actors’ work can extend to include motion capture (or “mocap”), video games, voice acting, virtual reality and social media. No one understands this better than USC, who are among the first major universities in the US to embrace new media within its acting programme. The school also has a voice studio where actors can sharpen their vocal chops and learn the unique demands of animation and video game voice work.

Source: USC School of Dramatic Arts

USC offers a Summer Institute for International Actors; an intensive four-week summer training programme that combines rigorous acting courses with professional development opportunities for today’s emerging artists. Developed in association with the Shanghai Theatre Academy, the programme presents concentrated courses in audition preparation, acting for the camera, vocal development, improvisation and physical comedy, as well as workshops with leading entertainment professionals. Outings to film studios and theatres immerse participants in the vibrant culture of LA.

The school’s experienced faculty and guest artists enable students to receive practical insights into their art and crucial experience of performing in real-world conditions. They also make professional contacts critical for starting a career.

USC also has a range of programmes tailored to varied personal and professional interests, including a BA in Dramatic Arts, BFA in Musical Theatre, BFA in Design, BFA in Sound Design, BFA in Stage Management, BFA in Technical Direction and BA in Visual and Performing Arts Studies.

Students who want to delve further into their craft can pursue an MFA in Acting, a three-year course that fuses two strands of actor-training: the classical conservatory-style that attunes the voice, body and intellect to the demands of text and performance; and an innovative physical approach that draws upon the work of artists of the past 50 years.


NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts is ideal for those looking to study performing, cinematic and emerging media art. Students can choose from a variety of undergraduate programmes, some of which include Collaborative Arts, Dance, Drama, Performance Studies, Film and Television, Dramatic Writing and Cinema Studies, to suit your particular interests and career aspirations.

Source: NYU, Tisch School of the Arts

For example, prospective students interested in acting will find that Tisch Drama gives the artistic and intellectual know-how for a successful life in the performing arts. The studio system exposes students to different approaches to acting, music theatre, production, design, theatrical management and directing, giving you a chance to develop an individual way of working that suits you best.

The website notes that “To enrich students’ studio training, we place equal emphasis on an expansive theatre studies curriculum and general education courses in the humanities and sciences.”

Meanwhile, students interested in their Film and Television programme will be heartened to hear that some of the school’s notable alumni include directors Martin Scorsese (Goodfellas) and Chris Columbus (Night at the Museum); TV writer/producer Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad); and documentarians Nanette Burstein (American Teen) and Morgan Spurlock (Super-Size Me).

Located in bustling New York City, this school is sure to inspire you throughout the course of your studies.


Interested in studying dramatic arts in the land Down Under? NIDA, Australia’s leading institute for education and training in the performing arts, offers a broad range of accredited courses across different disciplines, including BFA courses in Costume, Design for Performance, Properties and Objects, Scenic Construction and Technologies and Technical Theatre and Stage Management.

Source: National Institute of Dramatic Art

Here, educators are seasoned professionals with proven expertise across the full range of dramatic disciplines including acting, writing, scenic construction, technical theatre, movement, voice, costume and production design.

Students who are interested in acting can obtain a BFA (Acting), a three-year programme that equips them with the knowledge and skills needed to pursue a career as an actor, whether on the main stage or with an independent theatre company, film, television and commercial arenas. NIDA’s famous acting alumni include Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving.

The school’s practice-based learning helps students develop technical skills in the disciplines of voice, movement, music and acting, while final-year students undertake public productions, industry-standard film and television shoots and a professional orientation programme focusing on the practical realities of the entertainment sector. The course also emphasises collaborative and self-directed work, preparing students to engage with communities and initiate their creative opportunities.


Located in London, enrolling at the Guildhall School means studying amongst a vibrant hub of musicians, actors and production artists. Prospective students can choose to study music, acting and production arts for their undergraduate options.

Source: The Guildhall School of Music and Drama

Incoming students will find that the first two years of the school’s BA (Hons) in Acting helps them acquire the skills they need as a professional actor. The classes are holistic and include acting, voice, movement studies as well as acting research, which investigates plays and theatre forms representative of the major periods of Western theatre, as well as examples from world drama.

There are also rehearsal projects that enable students to apply the skills learnt in class to a variety of plays, which comes in handy during their third year which will largely be spent rehearsing and performing to the public and potential employers. Students will regularly take part in audition showcases, which are attended by agents, theatre and casting directors.

Some of the School’s alumni include Dame Eileen Atkins, Orlando Bloom, Daniel Craig, Dido and Ewan McGregor. The Guildhall School of Music & Drama was rated Gold in the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), which was created by the UK Government to measure the quality of teaching in the higher education sector while the school was also ranked 13th for the subject area in dance and drama in the Guardian University Guide 2019.

*Some of the institutions featured in this article are commercial partners of Study International

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