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Louisiana Universities Offer Powerful Programs for Actors and Filmmakers

Louisiana Universities Offer Powerful Programs for Actors and Filmmakers
Photo Source: Dave Montreuil

Ever consider the universities Louisiana has to offer? Check out some of its strongest programs from some great universities!

Tulane University
If you’re looking to get your beak wet in the world of performing arts, Tulane University in New Orleans has the perfect program for you. As part of its liberal arts curriculum, Tulane offers undergraduate programs in both dance and theater, and puts on four main-stage shows each year.

Its professors are diverse, teaching movement methods from Suzuki to Laban and beyond. Sara Valentine, a professor of voice and speech, says it’s important to teach as many different methodologies as possible. “We don’t have one methodology of training like, ‘Oh, we’re a Meisner school.’ We try and use our specialties to say, ‘Here’s a flavor of this. Here’s a flavor of that,’ so that hopefully they can put it all together and find what keeps their curiosity and study it further if they’d like,” she says.

Though prospective students aren’t required to audition for the program, once they’re in, required classes span various subjects including makeup, dance and movement, voice and speech, a sequence of acting classes, a practicum to learn industry inner workings, and several others. Students are required to audition for the shows—whether they’re in them or not—so that they can practice that part of acting as well.

In recent years, Antony Sandoval, the head of the department, says the performing arts scene in Louisiana has been “kind of exploding. We have a lot of new companies, and we’re getting more and more of them.” 

Dillard University
Dillard University in New Orleans offers an intimate B.A. film program, wherein opportunities are never scarce.

Keith Alan Morris, head of the program, uses his company, UFO Technologies, to enrich the learning experiences of the program’s 30 or so students. “A lot of L.A. producers come here that are partially financed, and we own all the gear, so that’s how I get my students on the [productions],” he says.

Though the school has fewer than 1,500 students, it managed to garner attention from one of the greats: Spike Lee used several Dillard students when filming “Oldboy.”

“We put 43 students on the film,” says Morris, “and 10 rose to the occasion of working full time on it. Just the day to day of hanging with Spike on set…the kids really enjoyed that.”

Louisiana State University
For actors who’ve already completed a B.A. or BFA program, and have some experience working professionally, LSU’s MFA acting program could be for you. This conservatory-style program takes place over two summer semesters and two regular school seasons, giving students the experience of a three-year graduate program in a fraction of the time.

Nick Erickson, the associate head of the program, says the school offers a tuition waiver and assistantship. “We’re able to offer them a paid position, in essence, and that means they’re required to teach acting classes.”

But how is it possible to offer every student tuition waivers and assistantships? Well, because there are only 10 coveted spots in each class, with a new class recruited every two years.

“It’s very intense,” Erickson says. Some students “discover they’re not really up for the challenge,” which he says happened with the last class, which has dwindled down to eight students. “It’s very demanding. They don’t have much of a life outside the program.”

The program might not be for the faint of heart, but its benefits are plentiful.

“Talent is everywhere,” he adds. “But to be a working professional, they need to really take the initiative and be a self-starter and understand the level of work necessary to compete professionally.”

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