Grounded in the liberal arts, the study of theater at St. Olaf is balanced, well-rounded, and exhilarating. The focus of the theater major is the making of dramatic art, but liberally educated students also explore subjects such as psychology, literature, political science, and history that add depth and breadth to their theatrical education.
Theater majors learn to be independent thinkers and critical reviewers of both their own work and that of others, able to distinguish between popular approval and true artistic success. The Theater Department is an accredited institutional member of National Association of Schools of Theatre. We also are a member of United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT), Communication and Theater Association of Minnesota (CTAM), and The Playwrights’ Center.
Students delve into all areas of the theatrical world, guided by faculty with decades of professional experience. The outstanding facilities include Kelsey Theater, a 320-seat proscenium stage, and the Haugen Theater, a 110-seat flexible-space theater. St. Olaf students also benefit from the college’s proximity to the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, one of the nation’s top theater centers, and from many performance opportunities on campus throughout the year. The Theater Department mounts five productions and a one-act play festival each year, and students are involved in all facets of the productions, from acting and directing to lighting, sound, costume, and set design. Students don’t have to be theater majors to become involved.
Off-campus opportunities include internships at Twin Cities theaters, concert halls, television stations, and Fortune 500 companies. The popular Theater in London course provides students with the exceptional experience of viewing and critiquing dozens of plays in London, from the traditional to the avant-garde. Students are immersed in the artistry of London, known as the theater capital of the world, where the number and variety of productions and the standards of acting and directing are unrivaled. Another popular Interim course is Producing Theater, in which students mount a major theater production that is performed as part of the college theater season.
Art for Life
Students also enjoy a first-hand look at the creative process through the New Plays on Campus program, a collaboration with The Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis, one of America’s premier incubators of new work for the stage. The Playwrights’ Center provides St. Olaf with fresh plays written by new playwrights who come to campus and work directly with the students.
Many theater majors pursue careers as actors, directors, designers, and playwrights. Just as often, though, graduates achieve success in other fields, including business, architecture, teaching, law, advertising, and the ministry. In addition to easily expressing their creativity, theater students gain expertise in oral and written communication, presentation skills, collaboration, organizational management, and leadership. Most of all, St. Olaf theater majors celebrate life through their art, using it to build community, orchestrate change, and enhance our culture.
Photos by Heidi Bohnenkamp ’12