The Theatre School > Conservatory > Undergraduate Conservatory

Undergraduate Conservatory

​The Theatre School’s undergraduate program is a highly specialized conservatory offering fifteen Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) majors across three departments: Design/Technology, Performance, and Theatre Studies. Each major is a four-year professional training program designed to provide students with the skills and experiences necessary to prepare them for their careers.

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What is the difference between a BFA and a BA?

Both a BA and a BFA are four-year undergraduate college degrees, but a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) program is conservatory training. The focus of a BFA program will be specific to one aspect of theatre and will couple coursework with hands-on requirements. Most of the courses you take will be part of your major, which means there are typically few general education requirements. All undergraduate majors at The Theatre School are BFA degrees.

Bachelor of Arts (BA) programs are about the broad, interdisciplinary, academic study of theatre. They are best for students who want to keep their focus broad or who may need time before declaring a major. Fewer courses are required to complete a major, which provides more flexibility to take non-major coursework. The Theatre School does not offer a BA program.

Design/Technology Majors

There are nine different majors within the Design/Technology Department. You can view the Design/Technology Department brochure (PDF) or you can explore each major individually:

Costume DesignCostume TechnologyLighting DesignProjection DesignScene DesignSound DesignStage ManagementTheatre TechnologyWig and Makeup Design & Technology

Performance Majors

The Performance Department has only one major at the undergraduate level: BFA Acting. You can view the BFA Acting brochure (PDF) or you can click below for more in-depth information:


Theatre Studies Majors

There are five different majors within the Theatre Studies Department. You can view the Theatre Studies Department brochure (PDF) or you can explore each major individually:

Comedy ArtsDramaturgy/CriticismPlaywritingTheatre ArtsTheatre Management

What does it mean to pursue your BFA at The Theatre School?

Each student receives personalized instruction and ample production opportunities. Our program capacities are intentionally small to insure individual attention and a collaborative, ensemble-based environment.

Each of our majors has a four-year progression-based curriculum, with each quarter building on the previous quarter and each year building on the previous year. Responsibilities and expectations of our students increase each year both in the classroom and in the productions.

Learning does not stop in the classroom. Each year The Theatre School produces more than 30 public productions of varying shapes and sizes to give our students ample opportunity to synthesize what they are learning in the classroom. Outside of the director of each of these productions—who is a member of the faculty, a guest artist, or a graduate directing student—every person involved in the production is a student doing what he or she is here to study. Students in many majors are also required to do professional internships as a bridge to their chosen career field. Explore some of our past mainstage productions here.

Our students learn from people who know what it is like to work in the business—because they do. The Theatre School has 28 full-time tenure-track faculty who are accomplished theatre professionals and continue their work while teaching our students. We also employ more than 60 adjunct, or part-time, faculty who are hired right out of the Chicago theatre community for their individual expertise. Being a professional training program, it is important to us that our faculty has a finger on the pulse of what is happening in the profession. You can read more about our faculty here.

Individual. Intense. Ensemble. Real Experiences.

“Our actors and directors bring dedication, imagination, humanity, and joy to their work. We train them to be inspired, collaborative, life-long practitioners of excellence in theatre, film, television, and beyond.”

Phil Timberlake

Head of Voice and Speech