Southeast Missouri State University student publication

OnStage Blog recognizes Southeast Musical Theatre among nation’s best

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Following a mention last May as the top undergraduate theatre program in Missouri, Southeast’s River Campus was recognized again by OnStage Blog on Nov. 7, this time as one of the top 30 musical theatre programs in the country.

Southeast was recognized alongside internationally recognized programs such as New York University, Pennsylvania State University and Carnegie Mellon University. Kenneth Stilson, theatre professor and chair of the Conservatory of Theatre and Dance, thought this was a great feat to accomplish.

“That’s pretty awesome to be mentioned in the same breath as those prestigious universities and prestigious training programs,” Stilson said.

According to its post, OnStage Blog recruited a little more than 20 committee members, including educators and students, to research programs across the nation for the top 30 list. Committee members compared general university factors along with the musical theatre programs. Among those factors were, university cost and scholarships, quality of facilities and safety, to name a few.

“Musical theatre majors have the opportunity to perform in six main-stage productions each year, two second-stage productions, the Fault Line Film Festival, perform in voice concerts, and audition for employment at regional and national theatre festivals,” OnStage Blog wrote in it’s “Why we love it” section of the November article.

Though OnStage Blog mentions the number of shows in which musical theatre majors can perform in and the variety as their favorite aspect, former and current students most appreciate the faculty and staff that train them. The university employs industry-trained professionals who pass knowledge on to the next generation.

Holly Lynn graduated from Southeast with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting in 2018 and is currently a graduate assistant in university communications in the Office of the President. During her education at Southeast, Lynn has worked with many faculty members at the River Campus and believes they are one of the many reasons the program has excelled.

“Our faculty is amazing,” Lynn said. “I was so fortunate whenever I was a student over there to receive the training that I did because it has prepared me for the real world situations of all the auditions I go to and the people I correspond with.”

The River Campus aims to train students to enter the real world with the knowledge they need to succeed.

Senior April Bassett is pursuing a double BFA in Musical Theatre and Theatre Design Technology and posed her own question: “What haven’t I learned?”

“[I’ve learned] how to do a show that is vocally taxing, while being healthy about it,” Bassett said. “Everything from getting a show together, on the backstage side of things, to working with a live orchestra and working with designers and different directors with their different styles.”

Bassett said how she’s learned how to save her voice and make healthy choices for her vocal cords during a large production, something she says she didn’t learn in high school.

OnStage Blog’s favorite part of the Conservatory of Theatre and Dance at Southeast, was the variety of shows and the facilities, but to Stilson, everything comes back to the students.

“It really comes down to the students and to the quality of students we’re attracting and the talent they bring into this program, the intellect they bring into the program; our students usually test very high academically,” Stilson said. “[But, it’s] not just the talent and their intellect — it’s their drive. The students that we work with here have an amazing drive to become working professionals in the entertainment industry and that is something that I am extraordinarily proud of.”