Tag Archives: theater

Montclair State University – Public Option Part I

30 Nov

Monkey Mama is willing to risk an onslaught of vituperation from the Tea Party movement when she avers that the United States of America owes a great deal of its success to its early commitment to public education.  Montclair State University (MSU) began life as a “normal school,” in 1908, dedicated to training teachers.

Today MSU is a full fledged university located on 252 acres in Essex County, New Jersey, 14 miles west of New York City.  Those miles may be traversed aboard New Jersey Transit directly into New York Penn Station.  The original architects balked at the ivy-clad traditions of other northeastern colleges and opted in favor of whitewashed, Spanish Mission-style buildings.  Some newer buildings, including University Hall and the Student Recreation Center, mimic the older architecture, and even the imposing Alexander Kasser Theater, host to many concerts and performances by world-class artists, attempts to meld the Mission motifs with its modern design elements.

Although traditional pedagogical training is still prominent within the university, there are undergraduate colleges of Humanities and Social Sciences, Science and Mathematics, Business, the Arts, and Education and Human Services.  MSU is in the process of remodeling several dormitories and constructing a new residence hall.  The main campus is small and students can easily walk around.  There are many dining options, including a traditional-style diner with 24-hour service during the school year.  Tuition and fees for New Jersey residents in 2011-2012 is $10,646 with room rates ranging from $6,802 for a triple in the irresistibly-named Frank Sinatra Hall, to $10,140 for a single.  Meal plan options range from several hundred dollars to about $4,000.

Monkey Mama and Son had arranged for a personal meeting with a representative of the theater department following our campus tour.  She showed us the main theater, “black box,” and rehearsal spaces, and shared some insights regarding the audition and application process.  MSU’s overall acceptance rate is about 50%, with roughly one-third of its accepted students enrolling.  The average composite SAT score for admitted students is 1500 out of 2400, and the average unweighted G.P.A. was listed as 3.2.

The acting B.F.A. program, on the other hand, only accepts 14 to 16 students each year, and is considered highly desirable.  MSU holds some auditions on campus and also participates in the regional Unified Auditions.  The Unified Auditions give the university an opportunity to view a wider pool of the most talented candidates but as a state-funded college, it is not able to offer generous financial aid packages to out-of-state applicants, thus giving an advantage to private conservatories.


Fordham University at Lincoln Center

22 Oct

Fordham University labels itself as “The Jesuit University of New York” to highlight its Catholic pedagogical tradition but the satellite campus at Lincoln Center on West 61st Street has a decidedly secular and ecumenical atmosphere.  The campus incorporates some graduate divisions, including the well-respected law school, as well as an undergraduate college.  With 1,700 undergraduates enrolled, Fordham College at Lincoln Center has approximately half as many students than the main Bronx-Rose Hill campus and is heavily focused on the performing arts.  It is a newer facility, built in 1968 on eight acres adjacent to the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

All students must fulfill requirements in a broad-based liberal arts curriculum, and so there are course offerings in all the standard departments, albeit somewhat abridged.  Our tour guide, Sophie, had auditioned for the theater performance major, but was only accepted as a liberal arts B.A. candidate.  She is a classical civilizations major, and apparently loves Fordham’s humanities curriculum (classics and humanities are traditionally strong at Jesuit colleges).  The college has extensive opportunities for foreign travel and study for those who would like to branch out beyond Manhattan.

One of Fordham College-Lincoln Center’s greatest magnets is the dance conservatory program, offered in conjunction with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.  This program not only attracts many dancers, but it contributes to the already highly diverse makeup of the student body.  We noticed many attractive young women at our open house and Monkey Mama chose to withdraw slightly after one spectacularly beautiful student initiated a conversation about various theater programs and Fordham College-Lincoln Center’s advantages among them.  She preferred the smaller class sizes at Fordham-Lincoln Center to those at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts (more about which will be forthcoming).  Monkey Son listened attentively and nodded sagely at that.

The theater department stages a variety of performances annually and we were impressed with the facilities.  Potential majors must audition but they must also be accepted academically.  Fordham’s acceptance rate is approximately 50% but only 14% of accepted students actually enroll.  The admissions representative hinted that highly talented applicants might be forgiven some academic shortcomings but they still need to have achieved certain benchmarks and requirements.  Monkey Mama inferred that the theater department might be able to prevail over other skeptics on the admissions committee but are probably somewhat less influential than the head basketball coach (Fordham’s Division I team plays in the Atlantic 10 Conference).

Fordham-Lincoln Center’s vertical campus is expanding horizontally to include sorely needed student housing.  Like other Manhattan student accommodations, the dormitory facilities are comfortable but without frills.  Room and board can exceed $16K for a single, bringing the total cost of attendance to more than $55K.  Although the campus chapel includes worship spaces for Moslems and Jews (the main building is named for its prime benefactor, Mr. Leon Lowenstein), the dormitories do observe nominal parietal regulations, banning overnight guests of the opposite sex.  Despite that, Monkey Son declared Fordham College at Lincoln Center his favorite among those visited thus far.

Monkey Mama Takes the Stage

8 Sep

I am delighted to introduce my friend, Ann Thurlow, as a guest blogger.  She has been busy taking her son to visit various colleges for theater and performing arts programs and she will be blogging about them.  It is an area that is not often covered in college guidebooks so I hope you will enjoy reading about their experiences.


My friend has magnanimously invited me to provide an occasional byline in this blog.  Our children are the same age, but our experiences and perspectives are radically different.  Although she would probably prefer to be called something other than Tiger Mother, I feel she deserves a feline moniker nevertheless, an ocelot or a puma, perhaps.  If the exacting parent of a high achieving student is a Tiger Mom, I am an unapologetic – well, slightly apologetic – Monkey Mama.

I was born in the year of the monkey and prefer chattering, arguing, and leaping from one attraction to the next to focusing on discrete tasks.  Where my hostess has carefully planned and organized her daughter’s college search for more than a year, I have blithely hoped that every day I postpone initiating the dreadful enterprise, might yield an additional day of wisdom and maturity for my cherished firstborn son.  Today might just be the day where he arrives to class on time, homework assignment in hand, and equipped with all necessary materials.

The hospital sent the right baby home in 1994 and he will – God willing and the creek don’t rise – graduate high school next year.  The one subject where he has consistently excelled at and exerted himself is theater, and he wants to be an actor.

A theater major might not be as practical as engineering or accounting, but this boy is never going to be an engineer or accountant.  Monkey Mama (and her silent partner) acknowledge this, and realize that the alternatives like art history, creative writing, or anthropology, offer no more promising long term career prospects than a degree in the performing arts.  So Monkey Mama is now a stage mother for Number One Monkey Son (aka Monkey Son).

Perhaps I should not have checked the statistics, just as I should not have peeked at the long term prognosis for stage III lung cancer when my husband was first diagnosed.  I might have been a calmer helpmate had I not seen that he had, at best, a 15% to 20% likelihood of ever being as healthy as he is now.  I apologize to all who think an analogy between cancer and college is unseemly, but the latter threatens to consume the next year of Monkey Mama’s fragmentary attention as much as the former claimed 2009.

I knew that an aspiring actor’s prospects for steady, remunerative employment were dismal, but I didn’t realize how low the odds were for admission to the undergraduate programs which will train my future Starbucks barista.  The big picture for theater applicants is that they will all almost certainly be accepted into an acting program somewhere, but the process is exhausting and heartbreaking for students and parents alike.  Nevertheless, Monkey Mama will seize the vine and swing up that learning curve quickly.

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