The Dedicated Performers of a Research School

by Lilly Ball

Having friends in the drama department has allowed me to discover what is been hidden beneath UCI’s title of “research university.” The school of arts is constantly abuzz with students running from dance class to movement (a class focused on acting with the body), from auditions to rehearsals, and their intense devotion to their art, which deserves to be a focal point of the school’s achievements. UCI may be hailed for its STEM focus, but it should also be known for it’s performance art majors, particularly the Bachelor of Fine Arts, an exclusive program focusing on preparing and training students for major roles in the world of musical theatre.

Drama students regularly take well above 20 units per quarter while simultaneously managing a busy schedule of classes, shows and auditions. With all this in mind, entrance to the B.F.A. program requires the completion of a rigorous series of acting courses, as well as those focused on musical theater, known in the major as “MT.” After this plethora of classes, students are permitted to audition. Though it takes an incredible amount of work, becoming a B.F.A. provides invaluable opportunities for students, including one-on-one work with the talented UCI drama faculty, admission to exclusive classes, and a performance showcase in New York in front of casting directors.

Junior Abbey Workman, a recent addition to the B.F.A. program who is fiercely dedicated to her craft, was drawn to UCI specifically for its approach to musical theater.

“While the voice is also important, their training primarily focuses on approaching music as an actor first. Coming from a vocally focused background where acting was incorporated into the process as a secondary focus, [the class]  offered a way to approach a medium I love in a new way rooted in truth. These classes have allowed me to deeply connect to musical material as an actor, facilitating a heightened form of the exploration of the human condition,” Workman said.

With the addition of her B.F.A. commitments to her schedule, Workman often finds herself on campus from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., her days filled with classes and rehearsals. Still, she remains positive throughout it all.

“I have always had high standards for myself in everything that I do, but the B.F.A. has pushed me toward specificity and depth in my training. Being accepted into the major was one of my goals for my UCI experience, and it has given me confidence that musical theatre is a field in which I have the potential to work professionally,” said Workman.

For those working towards their B.F.A audition, admittance into the program is a major ambition, one that requires an immense amount of effort and preparation. Sophomore Alyssa Corella is currently going through her courses with an end-goal of becoming B.F.A., tailoring her every decision to help her prepare for her eventual audition.

“At the end of the day, it’s about setting goals and becoming the best person you can be… and B.F.A. is the highest point I can reach for,” said Corella.

The Bachelor of Fine Arts is one of the many opportunities offered for UCI’s performers, and is respected throughout the department by actors and faculty alike. Becoming a B.F.A. student is an honor, but each drama student, B.F.A. title or not, is committed to becoming the finest performer they can be.

Drama majors perform on stage, in films, and in their everyday life, all while facing the same obstacles the rest of us do, even more so when they are taxed with proving the “worth” of their major. Those in STEM based studies are often viewed as the most intellectual of scholars, but the more that I am privileged with knowing them, the more I realize just how incredible drama students truly are.

Since my introduction to the drama department of UCI, its students have repeatedly proved themselves to be some of the most passionate and determined people on campus. They are eager to share their culture of devotion, love, and enthusiasm with all those who embrace it, including non-drama majors such as myself.