About the School
Since the inception of the Fairmount College more than a century ago, theatre has been a part of the cultural life of this institution and the city of Wichita. The academic program in Theatre, started in 1924, was led through its first four decades by George Wilner. Upon his retirement in 1960, Wilner, a great Shakespearean scholar, handed the baton to Dick Welsbacher. Welsbacher guided the theatre program through its next three decades, adding to its list of accomplishments experimental theatre, summer theatre, as well as a Master's Program in Theatre as part of the Speech Communication Department.
In 1986, when the Elliott School of Communication was created, the theatre program was transferred from Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to the College of Fine Arts to round out the college’s arts offerings. Within Fine Arts, Theatre and Dance were combined to create the School of Performing Arts, with each discipline offering its own Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. A decade later, through cooperation between the schools of Performing Arts and Music, a BFA in Musical Theatre was added. Leroy Clark led the school through this decade of rapid growth and change. When Bela Kiralyfalvi became chair, he served as an advocate for students and faculty, and the school’s programs flourished. The Dance and Musical Theatre programs achieved national accreditation, something which the School strives to carry through in all of its endeavors, now more than 85 years after its bare beginnings.
Today, the School of Performing Arts offers a BFA degree with concentrations in: Theatre Performance, Theatre Design Technology, Musical Theatre and Dance. It also offers a BA degree in Theatre, Musical Theatre, and Dance. Many varieties of plays, musicals, dance concerts and operas are presented to give audiences and performance students an understanding of the richness and variety of styles and periods which characterize the historical evolution of the theatre. In addition, the SPA strives to produce plays that are intellectually and emotionally stimulating, and even challenging for our student performers and audiences.
The Alumni Committee of the School also proudly sponsors a "Spotlight Series" of distinguished graduates who return to campus and share their professional interests and expertise. Lectures, master classes, workshops, and seminars by other distinguished professionals in the field are held each year as part of the educational experience. Recent guest artists have included casting director Stephen Kopel (Roundabout Theatre Company), actress Jane Gabbert, Alex Stoll (West Side Story, National Tour) and actor/magician Mark Toland.
Our students and alumni have had performance opportunities and jobs with companies like Lyric Opera, Pittsburg Civic Light Opera, Light Opera Oklahoma, and of course our own local Equity Theatre, Music Theatre of Wichita. They have starred and performed in shows ranging from Les Contes d’Hoffmann, to the National Tour of 42nd Street, to The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, to Phantom of the Opera. Our alumni design work has also been featured with theatre companies like The Santa Fe Opera, and many of our design students have the independent business skills to utilize their talents in other media besides the physical theatre. Not to mention, we have graduates in AEA (Actor's Equity Association), SAG (Screen Actor's Guild), ITASE (The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees), and many other well-known unions and organizations that benefit artists and artistic communities. With the training received at Wichita State University, our students rest assured with the skills that will advance them into a career in the theatre for years to come!
The theatre, musical theatre, and dance programs offer more than $50,000 annually in undergraduate scholarships to new and continuing students. In addition, we offer a large number of paid student assistantships, which also serve as a valuable tool in rounding out students' learning opportunities in their own stage craft.
We hope that you will visit us soon! Our company of performers, designers, technicians, and professors looks forward to seeing you!
Director, School of Performing Arts
College of Fine Arts
MISSION STATEMENT: The School of Performing Arts at Wichita State University educates and trains students for a career in the arts and entertainment industry.
- Promote intellectual growth, exploration, and innovation through creative endeavors
- Support career development and advancement
- Encourage leadership in interdisciplinary artistic industries
- Foster entrepreneurial efforts
- Develop awareness of current findings, trends, and insights in the arts and entertainment industry
- Collaboration across disciplines
- Provide individualized student attention
VISION: To become so infused in the success of other programs across the university and so thoroughly instrumental to the vitality of the metropolitan area that it is widely regarded as indispensable.
- Education: With strong ties to the Wichita community through partnerships, internships and collaborations that extend its curriculum, the School of Performing Arts is an “urban laboratory” that values its role as the area’s leader in preparing students for successful careers in the performing arts.
- Inspiration: We value our potential as a “front door” to WSU through which students and audiences may enter, imagine, discover, learn and be inspired throughout their lives.
- Achievement: The school embraces its responsibility to serve as a significant cultural trust for Kansas and the nation.
- Critical Thinking: Students completing a degree program in theatre, dance or musical theatre will have completed projects that synthesize artistic concepts into actual bodies of work, illustrating critical thinking skills.
- Communication Skills: Students completing a degree program in theatre, dance or musical theatre will be able to express information cogently, completely, and concisely in both written and oral form.
- Knowledge of the Discipline: Students completing a degree program in theatre, dance or musical theatre will have knowledge of the general practices and major components of the arts discipline. Specifically, this knowledge will be demonstrated by an understanding of the art form’s history, theory, criticism, literature, fundamental skill areas, production principles and interdisciplinary collaboration.
- Career Preparation: Students completing a degree program in theatre, dance or musical theatre will acquire a foundation for a career as a graduate student, public school teacher, professional artist, or a professional in an allied field.
- Performance Experience: Students completing a degree program in theatre, dance or musical theatre will participate in the production of plays, musicals or dance concerts as well as classroom performances and practicum assignments. This opportunity for experiential learning will require the demonstration and application of knowledge of both the art and the craft of the disciplinary concentration.
- Creative Development: Students completing a degree program in theatre, dance or musical theatre will develop and communicate a sense of their own creative process, individual style and personal aesthetic.