The Hollywood Reporter has ranked the School of Drama at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) No. 4 in the world on its list of the 25 best institutions for a drama degree, and third among the B.F.A. programs included on the list.
The Hollywood Reporter cites UNCSA School of Drama as being “among the premiere training institutions to offer a B.F.A in acting,” and lauds it as “among the most innovative in getting students on their feet throughout the pandemic, with a combination of filmed theater, radio plays, and socially distanced in-person shows,” produced outdoors.
The publication consulted with industry insiders, casting professionals and alumni for its annual ranking, titled “The World’s 25 Best Drama Schools,” appearing in the June 16 issue, published online June 19.
“What the pandemic year has proven is that the appetite for content — and the actors necessary to bring it to life — has never been stronger,” the article notes, and says that “training grounds brace for a sharp increase in applicants” as the industry reopens.
UNCSA School of Drama, which offers a four-year undergraduate drama program for actors and directors and a one-year acting program for high school seniors, provides high-level training and access to the industry at a fraction of the cost of other top-ranked programs.
“It is no secret that UNCSA School of Drama is world class, and with outstanding value compared to its peers,” said UNCSA Chancellor Brian Cole. “Our drama school consistently ranks among the best programs in the world, and this year – despite challenges from a global pandemic – is no exception. Dean Scott Zigler’s leadership and hard work by faculty, staff and students in innovating around the challenges of COVID-19 allowed UNCSA to maintain the high level of training expected from the program, while also delivering a creative and professional performance season in an environment conforming to the highest safety standards being employed by the industry.”
Zigler commented, “It is gratifying to see the recognition of our program in the industry, particularly following a year in which our faculty, staff and students went above and beyond to succeed despite challenging circumstances. Our students benefited from safe in-person training all year and created an entire performance season, involving more projects than had been planned before COVID-19, using innovative methods that reflected the way the industry itself was adapting. I am especially proud that we brought our community together for safe, outdoor, live performances on three different occasions. For many audience members these were the very first live performances they were able to attend since the beginning of the pandemic. Our students are now even more equipped to handle the challenges of an evolving industry and are armed with the resilience and grit necessary for successful careers.”
Zigler, who has been dean of the School of Drama at UNCSA since 2017, has placed an emphasis on devised performance, on-camera acting, and entrepreneurship in the classroom, as well as making the creation of an equitable and inclusive environment for all students a top priority in the curriculum and across the performance season.
UNCSA students have a competitive edge with on-camera training woven into all four years of their training with leading on-camera teacher Bob Krakower, providing significant value and practical training for today’s industry. Only UNCSA offers integration with a nationally ranked film school right on campus, offering the unique opportunity for students to appear in films and arming them with a robust reel as they enter the profession. The drama school’s full-year devised theater curriculum, under the supervision of Tectonic Theatre Company founding member Andy Paris, positions students to be content creators and producers as well as directors and performers. Classes in the business of entertainment and entrepreneurship, which form the bulk of the fourth-year curriculum, give students the tools to take charge of their own careers and prepare them for real life in the profession. Taking advantage of Zoom during the pandemic, the School of Drama was able to “bring” more than 50 industry guests to the classroom to help prepare the senior class for life after graduation.
As UNCSA embarks on universitywide efforts towards equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging (EDIB), the School of Drama has recruited diverse ensembles across all four years of its undergrad program and has chosen a diverse repertoire that represents all people of color as well as transgender and gender-nonconforming artists.
Zigler said, “By adding a new generation of plays and playwrights to the syllabi and performance opportunities we offer our students, it is our goal that the material performed in our classrooms and on our stages reflect the actual experiences, hopes and dreams of our talented and diverse student body. While we still respect the Eurocentric and almost completely male Western classical canon, we must embrace an extremely wide spectrum of contemporary voices in order to best serve our students, remain relevant in the evolving industry, and create a thriving artistic community where every unique individual truly feels a sense of belonging.”
Recent works presented by UNCSA include Sarah Daniels’ “Neaptide,” Tim J. Lord’s “Down in the face of God,” Lynn Nottage’s “Sweat,” Caryl Churchill’s “Top Girls,” Adrienne Kennedy’s “A Movie Star has to Star in Black and White,” and more.
Among UNCSA’s prominent School of Drama alumni are Jonathan Majors (upcoming “Ant-Man 3,” “The Harder They Fall”; “Lovecraft Country,” “Da 5 Bloods”); Billy Magnussen (“Made For Love,” “No Time to Die,” “Aladdin”); Anthony Mackie (“The Falcon and the Winter Solider”); Krys Marshall (“For All Mankind”); Elizabeth Lail (“Gossip Girl,” “You”); Isaac Powell (upcoming film adaptation of “Dear Evan Hansen,” Tony in Broadway's “West Side Story”); Dane DeHaan (“Lisey’s Story,” “The Staircase,” “Zero Zero Zero”); Diedrich Bader (“Veep,” “Better Things,” “American Housewife”); Mary-Louise Parker (“The Sound Inside,” upcoming revival of “How I Learned to Drive,” “Fried Green Tomatoes,” “Angels in America,” Tony Award for “Proof”); and Orin Wolf (producer of Broadway’s upcoming “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and Tony Award-winning producer of “The Band’s Visit,” producer of “Beautiful - The Carole King Musical”).
Recent alumni include Ainsley Seiger, ’20 (“Law & Order: Organized Crime”) Cricket Brown, ’19 (“The Unholy”); and Jack Alcott, ’19 (“The Good Lord Bird,” “Dexter”). Additionally, recent third-year student Briana Middleton was cast by George Clooney for his upcoming film, “The Tender Bar,” and will also be seen in the upcoming “Beauty and the Beast” prequel and “The Last Will and Testament of Charles Abernathy.”
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June 21, 2021