UNCSA School of Drama is among nations's top 5

The School of Drama at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts is one of the nation’s top five undergraduate theater programs, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

In its May 16 issue, the weekly magazine includes an alphabetical, unranked list of B.F.A. programs along with a ranked list of 25 M.F.A. programs, and notes UNCSA offers “a top tier education that produced Mary-Louise Parker and Broadway director Joe Mantello.”

Arms and the Man

Hannah Myers, Everett Graham and Colleen Munro appeared in George Bernard Shaw's "Arms and the Man" in October 2017. Photo by Peter Mueller

 “This is welcome news as we propel another class of talented and hard-working actors and directors into the arts and entertainment industry,” said Chancellor Lindsay Bierman. “Like their predecessors, they will shine on television and in films, on Broadway and in regional theater productions throughout the country. And they will continue to blaze a trail on current streaming platforms and will innovate new ways to tell powerful stories.

 “I’m thrilled for Dean Scott Zigler, who has just completed his first year leading our School of Drama, and I am excited to see what’s in store as he mentors our actors and directors in the coming years,” Bierman said.

Zigler, who was named Dean of the School of Drama in June 2017, said the strength of UNCSA’s program is well-known. “Typically, UNCSA-trained actors land major roles within weeks of graduation, if not before,” he said, adding that among the May 5 graduates, Carl Bryant had already booked the season at American Players Theatre as a result of the class showcase in Chicago, and Mekhai Lee had booked the national tour of “The Color Purple” after a showcase in New York.

Carl Bryant as Judas Iscariot

Carl Bryant appeared in Steven Adly Guirgis' "The Last Days of Judas Iscariot" in November 2016. Photo by Peter Mueller

Zigler was previously Director and Head of Actor Training at the American Repertory Theater/Moscow Art Theatre School Institute for Advanced Theater Training (IATT) at Harvard University for 22 years.

While his background ensures that classical actor training remains the basis of the UNCSA Drama experience, he’s keen to teach his students versatility in acting for the stage, film, television and new media. “Most students today hope that they will have a career that includes a mix of many platforms, and it’s our job to prepare them for that,” he said.

Zigler especially plans on fully revising the school’s on-camera training in collaboration with famed on-camera teacher Bob Krakower, and working with industry players and UNCSA alumni to train students in Cultural Entrepreneurship.

“Not only should they be aware of the hunger for content from relatively new players like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu, but they also need to learn about the possibility of monetizing content on platforms like YouTube, Facebook Live, and Twitter. If we can teach artists not only to create but how to monetize their creativity, we will empower them to make their own opportunities within the profession,” he said.

Scott Zigler

Drama Dean Scott Zigler

“At UNCSA, we are committed to graduating a new generation of actors who aren’t waiting to get signed by an agent and then waiting for the agent to find them work – but ones whose entrepreneurship and originality ensure that the industry will come looking for them,” Zigler added.

Isaac Powell, a 2017 graduate who landed a leading role in the dazzling Broadway revival of “Once On This Island,” affirmed that lesson during a recent visit to campus. Faculty in the School of Drama taught him “that we are the CEOs of ourselves and we need to take ownership of our careers,” he said. “We have to advocate for ourselves, become visible and make opportunities. It’s so much more than luck, and even more than arts education.”

Last year, THR produced a ranked list of undergraduate programs worldwide, placing the UNCSA School of Drama at No. 5.

By: Lauren Whitaker

May 21, 2018