Travis Preston is the Dean of the CalArts School of Theater and Artistic Director for the CalArts Center for New Performance. In this article, Travis Preston explains the student’s journey in getting into the theater program at CalArts.
As the first U.S. school to develop a degree program centered on educating students of the visual and performing arts, Travis Preston of CalArts explains that the California Institute of the Arts theater program has long stood as the premier option for anyone aspiring to become an actor. Yet the program offers a limited number of highly competitive spots. To get in, students must excel and stand out from the crowd.
In this post, director Travis Preston explores how CalArts theater students manage to make it into one of the most prestigious art schools in the world. We’ll examine what sets CalArts apart from other programs and then dive into the application process.
Does CalArts Theater Program Live Up to the Hype?
The theater program at CalArts is unrivaled in its commitment to educating artists. The school’s philosophy is that the study of theater should be approached from all angles, with students learning about the history and theory of the art form while also developing their own skills as performers.
Travis Preston of CalArts explains that this approach has led to the program’s stellar reputation; in fact, it’s often cited as one of the best theater programs in the country. Alumni of the program have gone on to have successful careers in film, television, and theater, and nearly all graduates have secured a position as an actor later in their careers.
Travis Preston on What Sets CalArts Theater Program Apart
Travis Preston of CalArts notes that there are a few things that set the CalArts theater program apart from other programs. For one, the school has a long history of working with professional actors and directors. This means that students have the opportunity to learn from and work with some of the most experienced and successful actors in the business.
The CalArts Center for New Performance, the professional producing arm of the school, enables CalArts students to work shoulder-to-shoulder with celebrated artists and acquire a level of experience that goes far beyond their training curriculum – and offers them their first professional experiences.
Of course, the program offers a very unique curriculum that emphasizes both the academic and the practical aspects of theater. Students take classes in acting, directing, playwriting, and set design, among other subjects. But they also get ample opportunity to put their learning into practice, with regular productions and performances throughout the year.
This combination of theoretical and practical training is what makes the CalArts theater program so special. It’s also what makes the program so competitive.
The Application Process
Director Travis Preston explains that the first step in applying to the CalArts theater program is to submit a general application to the school. This application includes basic information about academic background and extracurricular activities. Then, applicants must complete a supplemental application for the theater program. This application includes a personal essay, as well as information about any previous theater experience and training.
Applicants must also participate in a live audition. Travis Preston of CalArts says that during the audition, theater hopefuls must perform one selection from classical material and one contemporary performance of their choosing. Due to COVID regulations, students may be asked to submit a video audition showcasing the same skills, following the same guidelines.
Finally, hopeful students must submit two letters of recommendation. These letters should come from people who can speak to your ability as an actor, such as a teacher, coach, or director. The application process for the CalArts theater program is highly competitive but if you’re dedicated to your craft and you have a strong passion for theater, you have a good chance of getting in.
Traits that Increase an Applicant’s Likelihood of Acceptance
There are a few things that will make you a more competitive applicant to the CalArts theater program. First, any experience you have in theater, whether it’s acting in school plays or participating in community theater, will give you a leg up. The more experience you have, the better.
In addition, Travis Preston of CalArts explains that it’s important to have a strong academic record. The CalArts theater program is looking for students who are not only passionate about the arts but also intellectually curious and able to handle the rigors of a challenging academic program.
Finally, it’s helpful to have a clear idea of what you want to do with your theater degree. The admissions committee wants to see that you have a plan for your future and that you’re dedicated to pursuing a career in the arts. If you can demonstrate all of these qualities, you’ll be in good shape as you apply to the CalArts theater program.
The Bottom Line
The CalArts theater program is one of the most prestigious and competitive programs in the country. To get in, students need to have a strong academic record, experience in theater, and a clear idea of what they want to do with their degree. Travis Preston of CalArts explains that the application process is competitive but if you have the right qualifications, you have an excellent chance of getting in.