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Monkeys Dip Their Toes Into the Water – The University of the Arts

20 Sep

Monkey Mama has decreed that her son apply to at least one school with rolling admissions, and we found the perfect candidate in our first campus visit: Ira Brind School of Theater Arts at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia.  Its acceptance rate is higher than many conservatory programs, and they conduct auditions in Philadelphia ahead of the frenzied “Unified” auditions in New York City (which will undoubtedly be the topic of at least one future post).  The University of the Arts is small, with no campus to speak of.  The closest thing to a “quad” is an alley between a residence hall and the main office building.  It has an unmistakable vibe to it, nevertheless, which Monkey Son cottoned to immediately.

The University draws distinct divisions between visual and performing arts, with some overlap in areas like film and stage design.  The performing arts majors include dance, acting, directing, musical theater, jazz studies, and playwriting.  All students are required to fulfill a liberal arts requirement of at least 42 credits, roughly one-third of their undergraduate course load.  UArts offers an attractive selection of courses that might appeal to the artistically inclined – literature, art history, anthropology, history, psychology, along with opportunities for minors and electives in other disciplines.  Students are also invited to cross register in “hard” subjects at the University of the Sciences Philadelphia for up to 18 credits, no more than one class per semester, up to six classes in total.

Most upperclassmen prefer to live off campus, and so the scarcity of student housing isn’t considered a problem.  Freshmen are practically assured campus housing.  All dormitories are apartment-style.  We visited a unit with two small bedrooms, a common sitting area, a bathroom, and a kitchenette.

We toured with a young woman who hopes to pursue a B.F.A. in dance and although Monkey Son remained aloof while she spoke with some current dance majors outside the airy studios, he cannot have been oblivious to the lissome young women in the corridors.  Not surprisingly, women outnumber men in the dance department but the overal gender ratio at UArts is 58% women and 42% men.

UArts is located in the artistic and cultural center of Philadelphia, adjacent to the Kimmel Center, and within walking distance from City Hall.  The University actually owns the Merriam Theater, an ornate, 1,800-seat hall which it leases at a profit to touring shows and concerts.  Monkey Son was duly impressed by this facility, having expected to see only basic rehearsal spaces, or “black boxes.”  Monkey Mama was thrilled to hear The Sound of Philadelphia and Satin Soul piped out to the sidewalk from the Philadelphia Records store on the site of the great Gamble and Huff recording studio nearby.

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