Theatre Arts program unique in higher education

USAO Theatre Arts

Theatre Arts program unique in higher education


Ask any University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma theatre arts student what is unique in their major and chances are they will say “everything.” Since transitioning from a drama department, the program has undergone changes in almost every area – making it a unique program at USAO and in higher education.

“Theatre at USAO is the opposite of the stereotypical cut-throat theatre school,” said Katie Davis, associate professor of theatre arts and program coordinator. “We do not jury or cut. Students are not evaluated by talent, but by their initiative, discipline, grit and persistence in learning.”

The transition from drama department to theatre arts program created a unique learning experience that gives USAO students access to opportunities that are not available in other programs. “Only at USAO can a student receive interdisciplinary training awarding the Bachelor’s degree in theatre arts -- where the student’s degree emphasis is designed one-on-one with an advisor,” Davis said. The program places an emphasis on theatre as service, as a platform for social change, and as a way to grow and engage as a citizen.

Plays and productions at USAO are not picked based on box office appeal, but rather the production season is a laboratory for student learning.

“The theatre, the box office, the costume shop and all the other aspects of the program are designed to be learning labs,” said Davis. "Students are guaranteed involvement in the rotation of productions that will allow participants to learn about major styles, forms, and develop appropriate theatre skills."

USAO's theatre arts program has six main goals:

  1. To offer high-quality undergraduate theatre arts instruction and training in the classroom and through a range of diverse theatre productions.
  2. To provide appropriate and safe laboratory space, industry standard technology, and materials needed for students to train and practice in all areas of theatre.
  3. To recruit students who are distinctly suited for interdisciplinary theatre arts training in a liberal arts environment.
  4. To support the professional development of faculty and staff of the program.
  5. To increase the visibility of the program and enhance the prestige of the college.
  6. To facilitate student opportunities for personal growth, citizenship and the quality of the experience of a residential college education.

The program is not for every student, but the students who fit the program have the opportunity to excel. “Basically, USAO is a perfect fit for the individual who is an excellent student and is excited to learn (not train for a job). It is a great fit for someone who has not had the advantage of private lessons, fine arts classes in high school, or support and opportunities in a community with professional theatre. It is a great fit for someone who has learned to love theatre through extra-curricular activities or a community theatre and wants to be competitive for internships and in graduate school with students who are graduating from BFA and conservatory training programs,” Davis said. “We are the ideal fit for students who want to be big fish in a small pond. We are the best fit for students who want to learn theatre and make a life in theatre – not become famous.”

Although the program doesn’t focus on job training, the education students receive prepares them for a variety of careers, as well as continued studies. Students in the program are immersed in all aspects of theatre arts. “Our graduates are literary managers and dramaturgs, playwrights and community organizers, speech writers and stage managers. We excel at empowering each student with understanding of the diverse opportunities where theatre education can lead them and helping each graduate to envision mastery and the path to achieve it.

“USAO is a truly special place. We are driven by the belief that the advantages of liberal arts education should not be accessible only to those who can pay the high price of private college tuition,” Davis said.

For more information about the theatre arts program at USAO, contact Davis at 405-574-1310 or email at The fall production is scheduled Oct. 13 and 14 and will be a Greek Tragedy.