11 Theater and Performing Arts Programs for High School Students

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

A conductor holding his wand with the orchestra playing in the background

11 Theater and Performing Arts Programs for High School Students

Exploring the world of theater and performing arts can be a transformative experience for high school students. For those passionate about this field, pre-college programs offer a unique opportunity to delve deep into various aspects of performance and production before heading to college. This guide introduces 11 Theater and Performing Arts Programs for High School Students, each designed to provide immersive experiences in theater and performing arts.

These programs, located at prestigious institutions across the country, offer a range of specializations, from acting and musical theater to stage design and production. They provide hands-on training, mentorship from industry professionals, and a glimpse into the rigorous world of performing arts education. Whether you’re just starting or looking to hone existing skills, these programs are tailored to help you grow as a performer and artist. Let’s explore what each of these 11 pre-college programs in theater and performing arts has to offer, helping you take the next step in your artistic journey.

1. Boston University Summer Theatre Institute

  • Location: College of Fine Arts, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts.
  • Cost: $6,370 ($ 75 application fee)
  • Program Dates: June 30-July 27
  • Application Deadline: March 29, 2024
  • Eligibility: Rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors in high school (typically 15-18 year olds).

The Boston University Summer Theatre Institute (BUSTI) offers a four-week program for high school students interested in theater. It simulates the first-year experience of the Boston University School of Theatre, focusing on professional training in various aspects of theater. Students attend sessions in acting, design, improvisation, and other theater-related subjects and work on an original production.

theater actors performing onstage

This immersive program also involves interactions with the Boston artistic community, aiming to improve students’ artistic skills and storytelling abilities in theater. Students who complete the program receive 4.0 college credits, which can be used at Boston University or transferred elsewhere. The program emphasizes practical experience, intellectual growth, collaboration, and creative storytelling in theater, making it valuable for aspiring theater artists.

2. Carnegie Mellon Pre-College Drama

  • Location: School of Drama, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
  • Cost: Residential Program: $11,485; Commuter Program: $8,378
  • Program Dates: June 22- August 3, 2024
  • Application Deadline: February 1, 2024
  • Eligibility: High school students.

Pre-College Drama at Carnegie Mellon University is a six-week residential program designed for high school juniors and seniors interested in drama. It focuses on preparing students for college auditions and interviews, offering a glimpse into the discipline and creativity needed for a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drama. The program features three options: Acting, where students develop a repertoire of monologues and skills for auditioning; Design/Production (DP), where students create a portfolio and learn about various aspects of theater production; and Music Theater (MT), which combines acting, singing, and dance training for auditions.

The program runs Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., with classes taught by Carnegie Mellon faculty and adjunct professors. Students engage in a wide range of activities, including classroom projects, workshops, lectures, seminars, and masterclasses. This comprehensive approach offers students not only practical skills for their future theater careers but also a broad educational experience in the arts.

3. Yale Summer Drama Program (Conservatory for Actors)

  • Location: School of Drama, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.
  • Cost: $9,900
  • Program Dates: July 1- August 2, 2024
  • Application Deadline: April 1, 2024
  • Eligibility: Junior or senior year of high school.

The Yale Summer Drama Program at Yale University offers an intensive, short-term theater education for students interested in acting. This program stands out for its ability to deliver a comprehensive theater experience in just a few summer months, making it ideal for both beginners and those with previous theater experience. A key feature of the program is the Yale Summer Conservatory for Actors, a 5-week course focusing on acting fundamentals based on the techniques of Russian theater pioneer Konstantin Stanislavski. Students who complete the program receive 2.0 college credits.

The conservatory covers various aspects of acting, including text analysis, on-camera acting, voice and speech, movement, and clowning. Classes are small, ensuring personalized attention and individual artistic growth. Unique to this program is its emphasis on experimentation and skill development without the pressure of public performance. Students spend their time in collaborative project-based learning, rehearsals, and personal study, with weekends dedicated to rehearsals and free time. This approach creates a nurturing environment for developing acting skills useful in future performances.

4. American Shakespeare Center Theatre Camp

  • Location: Mary Baldwin University, Staunton, Virginia.
  • Cost: $3,950
  • Program Dates: June 30 – July 22, 2024
  • Application Deadline: May 1, 2024
  • Eligibility: Rising 8th graders (ages 13+) through rising college freshman.

The American Shakespeare Center Theatre Camp in Staunton, Virginia, offers a unique experience for students aged 13-18 to develop their acting skills and prepare for college. The camp, held at Mary Baldwin University, focuses on Shakespearean plays, providing intensive training and academic exploration in a supportive environment. The camp emphasizes personal growth, confidence building, and skill development in theater arts while giving the opportunity to earn college credits.

Theater actors in medieval costumes play in the play

During the three-week program, campers immerse themselves in a collaborative and creative atmosphere. They participate in rehearsals, workshops, and performances at the Blackfriars Playhouse, a recreation of Shakespeare’s indoor theater. The experience includes leisure activities like trips, parties, and relaxation, balancing intense training with fun. The program concludes with a Final Performance Festival, where students showcase their talents on the Blackfriars stage, providing a real taste of professional theater performance.

5. Rutgers University Summer Acting Conservatory

  • Location: Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey.
  • Cost: To be determined
  • Program Dates: On hiatus (summer 2025)
  • Application Deadline: To be determined
  • Eligibility: High school students.

The Rutgers University Summer Acting Conservatory is a four-week intensive training program for high school students interested in acting. Held in a college setting, the program offers classes in acting, movement, and voice/speech, taught by professional theater artists. This program stands out for its comprehensive approach to actor training, focusing on developing well-rounded artists ready to face the acting industry’s challenges.

The conservatory, rich in history and tradition, is part of Rutgers University’s long-standing commitment to the arts. It provides students with a sense of belonging to a lineage of influential artists. The curriculum is designed to cover all aspects of acting, ensuring students become not just skilled performers but also versatile, adaptable artists.

6. Theater Arts Institute at Choate Rosemary Hall

  • Location: Choate Rosemary Hall, Wallingford, Connecticut.
  • Cost: Boarding: $9,630; Day: $7,700
  • Program Dates: June 23 – July 19, 2024
  • Application Deadline: January 31, 2024
  • Eligibility: Middle school (grades 6-7) and high school (grades 8-12) students.

One of the country’s leading Theater and Performing Arts Programs for high school students, The Theater Arts Institute provides a four-week intensive program for students passionate about theater. It offers a complete immersion experience, where students participate in daily classes covering acting, singing, dance, set and costume design, and playwriting. This comprehensive approach allows students to explore and develop skills in all areas of theater production.

theatrical mannequin in a theater stage next to colored clothes

The program includes practical experiences such as scene work in classical and modern drama, musical performances, and hands-on design projects. To enhance learning and inspiration, students take weekly field trips to professional theater and artistic performances in New York and New England. The Theater Arts Institute is tailored for young individuals who are serious about enhancing their theater knowledge and skills, encouraging them to engage fully and take risks in various aspects of theater.

7. Summer Musical Theatre Intensive at Southeastern Summer Theatre Institute

  • Location: Southeastern Summer Theatre Institute, Hilton Head High School, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.
  • Cost: $6,975
  • Program Dates: Session one: June 3- June 30, 2024; Session two: July 8- August 4, 2024
  • Application Deadline: March 4, 2024
  • Eligibility: Grades 8th- high school seniors.

The SSTI musical theatre session, which contributed to SSTI’s ranking as one of the top five summer theatre programs in the nation, is a four-week intensive program for students interested in musical theater. The first three weeks are dedicated to developing a professional musical, directed by a professional from a major university or Broadway. In the final week, students engage in college-level courses and receive guidance on audition materials from visiting professors from top colleges and universities.

At SSTI, students start fully prepared and off-book, diving into three weeks of intense rehearsals for a musical, directed by New York professionals and designed specifically for SSTI. Shows are often double-cast, giving students a real-world experience of professional theater life. Additionally, professors from leading universities coach students on audition techniques and answer questions about college-level musical theater.

8. Powerhouse Theater Training Program at Vassar College

  • Location: Powerhouse Theatre, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York.
  • Cost: $6,000 ($60 application fee)
  • Program Dates: June 20–July 28, 2024
  • Application Deadline: April 1, 2024
  • Eligibility: Ages 17- 19 years.

The Powerhouse Theater Training Program at Vassar College offers a conservatory-like experience for students interested in acting, directing, and writing. Over a five-week summer program, students engage in classes and practical experiences, working alongside professional theater companies and artists. This exposure provides a deep understanding of theater art and the industry, fostering self-discovery and exploring new theater-making possibilities.

The program creates a nurturing environment where theater enthusiasts, from students to professionals, can learn and grow together. It emphasizes collaboration and community, with the Training Company offering free performances during the season. Additionally, the Powerhouse Professional Season features developmental productions and workshops, providing a platform for students to interact with and learn from established artists. This approach forms a vital community that supports and amplifies the voices of American theater artists.

9. The American Academy of Dramatic Arts Summer Programs

  • Location: New York Campus; Los Angeles Campus; Online.
  • Cost: Depends on program ( $1,250- $3,750); $20 application fee
  • Program Dates: Programs run from June to August
  • Application Deadline: Unspecified
  • Eligibility: Students ages 16- 19 years.

The American Academy of Dramatic Arts Summer Program offers an immersive experience in dramatic arts for students interested in acting and performance. Renowned for its history and commitment to nurturing talent, AADA provides a platform for personal and artistic growth, allowing students to explore and express themselves creatively. The program, conducted by a prestigious institution with campuses in New York City and Los Angeles, is designed for aspiring actors aiming to enter the professional theater and entertainment industry.

For 2024, AADA will offer three training programs of two, four, and five weeks, each tailored to different needs and interests. These programs include classes in camera acting, scene study, musical theatre, voice, speech, auditioning, script creation, improvisation, movement, singing, and the business of acting. Students will benefit from small class sizes and receiving personalized feedback and mentorship from experienced instructors.

10. Musical Theater Acting Intensive

  • Location: Berklee College of Music, Boston, Massachusetts.
  • Cost: $2,720 ($50 application fee)
  • Program Dates: July 8-July 27, 2024
  • Application Deadline: February 1, 2024
  • Eligibility: Students ages 15- 25 years.

The Musical Theater Acting Intensive is a comprehensive program focusing on character development, acting, singing, and movement. Students explore a wide range of subjects, from Shakespeare to contemporary pop and rock vocal techniques, and receive specialized training in audition preparation. This program, inspired by the Boston Conservatory’s renowned musical theater programs, is ideal for students considering a theater degree, offering a taste of the Conservatory’s signature training.

Tailored for emerging theater artists, the program provides an opportunity to train with Broadway professionals. Participants will enhance their skills in acting, singing, and movement, crucial for developing a character and its personality. With a strong emphasis on audition preparation, the program is especially beneficial for students aiming to pursue theater academically or professionally, equipping them with the necessary skills and confidence for auditions and beyond.

11. Tisch Summer High School Program

  • Location: Tisch School of the Arts, New York University
  • Cost: Unspecified ($75 application fee)
  • Program Dates: July 7- August 3, 2024
  • Application Deadline: January 11, 2024
  • Eligibility: Current high school junior or sophomore.

The Tisch Summer High School Program is a four-week, tuition-based residential program on the NYU campus, offering a rigorous schedule of classes, projects, and professional training. Students can choose from various tracks, including Dance, Drama, Production & Design, Dramatic Writing, Filmmaking, Game Design, Photography and Imaging, and Recorded Music. This immersive program is academically intensive and rewards participants with four to six college credits upon completion.

Modeled after the Tisch undergraduate curriculum, the program provides a genuine experience of arts education at NYU Tisch. Students are expected to be fully engaged, completing coursework and meeting the demands of their chosen artistic track. This program is ideal for students who are serious about pursuing artistic careers and are willing to commit to a demanding yet rewarding educational experience.

Final Thoughts

Overall, these Theater and Performing Arts Programs for High School Students offer a remarkable opportunity to explore their passion for the stage and performance. Each program, with its unique approach and specialized focus, provides invaluable experiences that can shape your future in the arts. From intensive acting workshops to hands-on production training, these programs equip students with the skills, knowledge, and confidence needed for success in the dynamic world of theater and performing arts.

Whether you’re aiming to deepen your artistic talents or kickstart a career in the arts, the 11 Theater and Performing Arts Programs for High School Students in our list are stepping stones to achieving your goals and expanding your creative horizons. As you consider your options, remember that each program is a gateway to new experiences, learning, and growth in the exciting field of performing arts.


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