Exploring the UCLA Theater Scene 

July 5, 2023
By AdmissionSight
a director coaching actors for their performance

Exploring the UCLA Theater Scene 

UCLA has a rich history of theater that stretches back to the early 20th century. From the Royce Hall Playhouse to the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television, UCLA has a thriving theatrical community that is sure to delight anyone with an interest in the performing arts. In this article, we will explore the different aspects of the theater scene at UCLA, including its history, top productions, student experiences, and more. So come along on this journey with us as we dive deep into the world of theater at UCLA.

The History of Theater at UCLA

The theater scene at UCLA has a long and illustrious history. The Department of Theater Arts was founded in the 1940s and was known for producing avant-garde works. In the 1950s, the department started a summer theater program, which became highly regarded in the industry. In the 1960s, the university built the Royce Hall Playhouse, which is still in use today and is known for its superb acoustics. In the 1980s, the department was renamed the Department of Theater, Film, and Television, which more accurately reflects the breadth of its programs. Today, the school boasts a faculty of working professionals, a comprehensive curriculum, and a commitment to producing innovative, cutting-edge theater productions.

Group of students talking in a classroom.

One of the most notable productions in the history of theater at UCLA was the 1967 staging of Hair, which was a groundbreaking musical that challenged societal norms and conventions. The production was so successful that it was eventually moved to Broadway, where it became a cultural phenomenon. This production helped to establish UCLA as a hub for experimental and boundary-pushing theater.

In recent years, the Department of Theater, Film, and Television at UCLA has continued to push the boundaries of what is possible in theater. The school has embraced new technologies and techniques, such as virtual reality and motion capture, to create immersive and interactive productions. These productions have garnered critical acclaim and have helped to cement UCLA’s reputation as a leader in the world of theater.

Top Theatrical Productions at UCLA

UCLA is known for producing top-quality theatrical productions each year. One of the most highly regarded productions in recent memory is the Tony Award-winning “Spring Awakening,” which was produced by the UCLA School of Theater in 2019. Other notable productions include “Cabaret,” “Into the Woods,” and “The Marriage of Figaro.” These productions not only showcase the talents of UCLA students but also attract theatergoers from across the Los Angeles area.

In addition to these well-known productions, the UCLA School of Theater also produces a variety of experimental and avant-garde works that push the boundaries of traditional theater. These productions often feature innovative staging, multimedia elements, and non-traditional casting choices. Some recent examples include “The Wolves,” a play about a girls’ soccer team that explores themes of identity and adolescence, and “The Skriker,” a surreal and haunting play that incorporates elements of folklore and mythology. These productions offer audiences a chance to see cutting-edge theater and experience the creativity and vision of emerging artists.

Interview with a UCLA Theater Student

To gain a better understanding of what it’s like to be a theater student at UCLA, we spoke to Sarah Johnson, a junior studying theater. Johnson said that one of the things she loves about the program is the sense of community it fosters. “Everyone in the program is extremely supportive of each other,” she said. “There’s a real sense of camaraderie among the students.” Johnson also added that the faculty is very invested in the success of each student. “The professors really care about our well-being and want us to succeed,” she said.

Johnson also mentioned that the program offers a wide range of opportunities for students to get involved in theater productions. “There are so many different shows and performances happening throughout the year, and students have the chance to audition and participate in all of them,” she said. “It’s a great way to gain experience and build your resume.”

Additionally, Johnson spoke about the program’s emphasis on diversity and inclusion. “The theater department at UCLA is really committed to promoting diversity and giving a platform to underrepresented voices,” she said. “It’s something that’s very important to me, and I’m proud to be a part of a program that values it as well.”

The Role of Theater in UCLA’s Culture and Community

UCLA has a diverse student body, and the theater program is a reflection of that diversity. The theater productions put on by the school often deal with social justice issues, such as immigration, human rights, and race relations. These productions spark important conversations among students and faculty and contribute to the university’s culture of inclusion and activism.

In addition to addressing social justice issues, the theater program at UCLA also provides students with valuable opportunities to develop their artistic skills. Students can participate in all aspects of theater production, from acting and directing to set design and stage management. This hands-on experience allows students to gain practical skills and build their portfolios, preparing them for careers in the entertainment industry.

Girl holding a film slate

Furthermore, the theater program at UCLA is not limited to traditional plays and performances. The school also hosts a variety of experimental and avant-garde productions, pushing the boundaries of what theater can be. These innovative productions challenge audiences to think critically and engage with the art form in new and exciting ways.

Inside Look at the UCLA Theater Program Curriculum

The UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television offers a comprehensive curriculum in theater that prepares students for a career in the industry. The program includes courses in acting, directing, playwriting, and design, among others. Additionally, the program offers ample opportunities for students to gain real-world experience through productions, workshops, and internships.

One unique aspect of the UCLA Theater Program is its emphasis on collaboration. Students are encouraged to work together on productions and projects, fostering a sense of community and teamwork. This collaborative approach extends beyond the theater program, as students often collaborate with other departments within the School of Theater, Film, and Television, such as the film and television programs.

Another notable feature of the program is its commitment to diversity and inclusion. The curriculum includes courses that explore issues of race, gender, and sexuality in theater, and the program actively seeks out and supports underrepresented voices in the industry. This focus on diversity and inclusion not only enriches the educational experience for students but also prepares them to be leaders in a rapidly changing and increasingly diverse industry.

Tips for Auditioning for a UCLA Play or Musical

For anyone interested in auditioning for a play or musical at UCLA, there are a few things to keep in mind. Sarah Johnson advises that students be prepared and confident. “Practice your monologue or song until you can perform it in your sleep,” she said. “And be confident in your abilities. Believe that you can do it.” Additionally, she recommends that students be themselves and let their authentic personalities shine through during the audition.

Another important tip for auditioning at UCLA is to research the production you are auditioning for. This will give you a better understanding of the characters and the overall tone of the play or musical. It will also help you choose an appropriate monologue or song to showcase your talents.

Lastly, it’s important to remember that auditioning is not just about your talent but also about your attitude and professionalism. Be respectful to the directors and other actors, arrive on time, and dress appropriately. These small details can make a big difference in how you are perceived during the audition process.

The Benefits of Participating in a UCLA Theater Production

Theater productions offer numerous benefits to students beyond the opportunity to hone their craft. Participating in a production teaches students time management skills, teamwork, and adaptability. It also provides them with a sense of accomplishment and self-confidence that carries over into other areas of their lives.

Additionally, participating in a UCLA theater production allows students to network with industry professionals and gain valuable experience that can help them in their future careers. Many successful actors, directors, and producers got their start in college theater productions, and the connections made during these productions can lead to future opportunities.

How to Get Involved in the Theater Scene at UCLA

There are many ways for students to get involved in the theater scene at UCLA. Students can audition for productions, participate in student-led theater groups, or attend productions put on by the school. Additionally, the theater program hosts events and workshops throughout the year that are open to all students, regardless of major.

Students acting in the stage

One of the best ways to get involved in the theater scene at UCLA is to join one of the many student-led theater groups on campus. These groups offer opportunities for students to act, direct, write, and design for productions. Some of the most popular groups include Company, HOOLIGAN Theatre Company, and Theatre Arts Collective. Joining a theater group is a great way to meet other students who share your passion for theater and gain valuable experience in the field.

The Impact of COVID-19 on the UCLA Theater Program

Like many institutions across the country, the UCLA theater program has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Performances have been canceled, and classes have been moved online. However, the program has adapted to the new circumstances, offering virtual productions and online classes. The department continues to prioritize the health and safety of its students and faculty while finding innovative ways to keep the theater community thriving.

As you can see, the theater scene at UCLA is a vibrant and dynamic community that has much to offer to students and theatergoers alike. With its rich history, top-notch productions, commitment to diversity and inclusion, and a comprehensive curriculum, the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television is a true gem in the world of theater education. We hope we’ve piqued your interest in this outstanding program and encourage you to explore it further.

Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, the UCLA theater program has continued to produce high-quality work. In fact, the move to virtual productions has allowed the department to reach a wider audience than ever before. With performances available online, people from all over the world can now experience the talent and creativity of UCLA’s theater students and faculty.

In addition to virtual productions, the department has also launched new initiatives to support its students during this difficult time. These include online workshops, mentorship programs, and networking opportunities. By providing these resources, the department is helping its students to stay connected and engaged with the theater community, even when they can’t be together in person.


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