My name is Linda Tardif and I just graduated from UMass in 2011. When I was a senior in high school I had my heart set on going to a conservatory because I thought conservatory training was the only training. I went through audition processes (the most painful thing ever!) and didn't end up getting in anywhere.
I just wanted to let you know that coming to UMass was a total and complete accidental blessing for me. I've had amazing opportunities here in my last three years, including interning with local professional theaters and touring a show to Europe. This summer, the theater department's adaptation of Spring Awakening will tour to New York City! I've also been able to explore other aspects of theater because the program here is not as narrow as a typical BFA program. The five college area has so much to offer an aspiring artist and I couldn't be any happier that I came here.
Linda was a theater major and a member of the Undergraduate Advisory Council. She acted in Pericles (photo above), Spring Awakening: Sin of Omission and independent productions in our department. She traveled to Serbia to perform in Milosevic at the Hague at the JoakimInterFest, and appeared in Spring Awakening: Sin of Omission at New York City's Looking Glass Theatre.
Do I have to audition?
No! If you are admitted to UMass, you do not have to audition to become a major. However, once you declare your major, we do require you to keep up a minimum GPA in theater classes and to complete required classes. See the PDF of our degree checklist below for details on required classes.
I'm interested in performance. Why are you making me take lighting design (and dramaturgy classes, and tech crew credits, and...)?
We are a BA program, not a BFA program. That means we take a broad "liberal arts" perspective of our art. We think that in order to be effective theater artists, people need to be aware of the many different sides of what the theater world encompasses. Theater is a collaborative art that can only be improved when all the members of a production can speak the same language and work toward the same goal. We also believe that whatever an individual's focus might be, he or she will be stronger in that area for having a knowledge of all the related areas. An actor, for example, might be able to make stronger acting choices based on an understanding of why a lighting designer is choosing certain effects and how they influence the way the audience perceives what's happening on stage.
Learn more about the different areas:
UMass is HUGE. I'm a little freaked out about getting lost in the shuffle.
We hear you — everyone's a little overwhelmed at first. The Department of Theater will make it easy for you to feel at home, though. In the first week of classes, you'll be paired with a peer advisor, which is a fellow student, likely someone in your area of interest. He or she will be happy, nay, EAGER, to answer your questions about the major, help you find your way around the building, and generally assist you as you learn your way around the department and the University. We also recommend checking on this website and our facebook page for all the getting-to-know you stuff we do at the beginning of the year to help new folks get situated.
I am thinking about double-majoring. Can I do that and still finish on time?
We have a lot of double-majors, and many of them do finish on time. The key is to be goal-oriented and to start working on getting your general education and other required classes completed as soon as possible. You should also be in close communication with your faculty advisor (well, you should do that anyway, really!) to figure out the most efficient and effective way to plan your courses.
What about shows? Do I have to audition for those? And do I stand a chance at getting cast as a freshman? And what if I don't want to major, but I want to act in one of your shows?
Yes! You must audition if you want to be in one of our productions, but we can and do cast first year students — if you're right for the part, we will cast you. Department mainstage auditions are posted in the department and on our audition page; we often host pre-audition workshops and recommend attending those, especially if you're new to the department. One of the advantages of being a major and being in a production is that often, independent study credit is available for performers. However, if you like theater but aren't sure about majoring, you should know that we will cast non-majors, too, if they are best suited for the part. If you aren't cast in a mainstage show, there are also ample opportunities in Cabaret 204 and independent productions, various campus performance groups, and off-campus at the other schools in the Five-College Consortium.
Musical Theater: I lovelovelove it. Do you offer it?
We do offer classes and workshops occasionally, and we have mounted musical theater productions, but we do not explicitly offer musical theater training as a primary component part of the major.
I like theater but I don't want to major in it. Can I minor?
There is no theater minor currently on the books. However, as noted above, we welcome non-major actors in our productions. Many of our classes are also open to non-majors. There are also a number of student groups on campus that offer performance or production opportunities outside the major; ask our students about them when you visit.
Where to go
The Department of Theater is located in the Fine Arts Center. We share the Fine Arts Center with the Music and Dance Department, the Art Department, and the Fine Arts Center Concert Hall. (After you get done admiring us, you should check them out, too.)
Where to stay
Tours of campus
We highly recommend visiting UMass Amherst as part of your decision-making process. Visits are best made during the year, on a day when class is in session, so that you can get a true sense of what the campus in general and the Department of Theater, specifically, are like.
Tours of campus are offered Monday through Saturday. These tours do not include an in-depth look at the Department of Theater.
Tours of the Department of Theater
Our department tours are offered on WEEKDAYS ONLY. We do NOT offer tours during the weekend. We recommend visiting during the schoolyear so that you can see us in action. However, if summer is your only time for visiting, please email us with information about when you might be available for a tour and we will try to arrange one. Please give us three business days' notice if possible.
Experiencing the department in action
We're repeating ourselves, aren't we? But it cannot be said enough: we really, really want you to see us in action. Come on a weekday while classes are in session. Please!
If you do that, you may have an opportunity to sit in on a class in your area of interest, or talk to a student who is concentrating in that area. Please check the schedule for a class that interests you, and contact the faculty member teaching the class three business days in advance, if possible.
We also love to invite prospective students to view one of our productions, whether it's a mainstage show, a cabaret piece, or an independent project. We will be happy to arrange tickets (provided they are still available) in advance or once you arrive.