Best Summer Theater Programs – 2023

June 5, 2023

If you’re an aspiring performing artist, you’ve probably heard (at every family barbeque and birthday party since starring in your first-grade production of Jack and the Beanstalk) that your career of choice is a long shot. It’s true–acting and singing are notoriously competitive and difficult to break into–but there’s plenty you can do to prepare. In addition to participating in school and community clubs and productions, you can also build your skills through classes and summer theater programs. The best programs enable you to build foundational technique in at least one of the many acting methods (which include the Meisner Technique, Spolin Method, and Chekhov Technique, among a host of others) and also provide valuable networking and relationship building that will be essential to your future. Ready to sing, dance, and perform your way through the summer? Scroll down for our list of the best summer theater programs.

1) Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) Rising Star Program

  • Location: Savannah, GA
  • Residential?: Residential and commuter options available
  • Program Length: 5 weeks
  • Cost: $4,370 + room & board, if living on campus ($1,445)
  • Eligibility: Rising seniors
  • Application Deadline: Rolling

At SCAD’s Rising Star Program, students spend a month and change immersing themselves in two creative courses of their choosing. Interested in pursuing a film and/or television acting career? Acting for the Camera: Fundamentals provides foundational skills in that area.

Over the course of the program, students learn and practice a number of techniques related to film and television performance. Additionally, they study characters and scene structure, the lessons from which they will channel into their own work. Moreover, the multi-genre emphasis means that all students–from those interested in drama to those interested in comedy–will find value in this program.

Rising Star students need to select more than one course, which will provide exposure to other creative disciplines. For example, students might choose to supplement their acting class with Digital Film Production, Foundations of Story, or Sound for Film and Television, among others. All courses include lectures and experiential learning. However, students should keep in mind that top course selections are not guaranteed. As such, flexibility is a must if applying to these summer theater programs.

Finally, students earn college credit after successfully completing the program. To apply, students submit official transcripts, a letter of recommendation, and an essay as well as an optional portfolio. Selection is competitive as the program is highly rigorous.

Looking for a shorter experience? Be sure to check out SCAD Summer Seminars, one-week experiences offered in both Savannah and Atlanta.

2) Summer Performing Arts With Juilliard

  • Location: Orlando, FL
  • Residential?: Residential and commuter options available
  • Program Length: 2 or 4 weeks
  • Cost: $6,350 (residential, per two-week session); $4,600 (commuter, per two-week session)
  • Eligibility: Students aged 12-18
  • Application Deadline: February

Held on the campus of Windermere Preparatory School, Summer Performing Arts with Juilliard is an excellent opportunity for students interested in the performing arts. Five majors are available: Drama, Piano, Voice, Dance, and Musical Theatre.

Each major is led by Juilliard professors and alumni. As such, students are fully immersed in Juilliard’s approach. They’ll take part in multiple workshops, private lessons, and master classes while learning both individually and in groups. For example, Musical Theatre students might dive into Acting the Song, Alexander Technique, and Broadway Dance Repertoire. Alternatively, Voice students can expect to engage in courses like Musicianship and Festival Choir. Several majors–like Piano and Voice–culminate with final performances.

Since these summer theater programs are highly selective, students must submit video auditions as part of their application.

Summer Theater Programs – Continued

3) Yale Summer Drama Program

  • Location: New Haven, CT
  • Residential?: Residential and commuter options available
  • Program Length: 5 weeks
  • Cost: $9,475 + room & board if living on campus ($3,780-3,910)
  • Eligibility: Rising juniors and above (including undergraduates and current professionals)
  • Application Deadline: April

Meryl Streep, Paul Giamatti, Lupita Nyong’o…all household names who attended Yale’s esteemed School of Drama.  Dreaming of following in their footsteps? Yale offers an intensive summer program for aspiring thespians: The Conservatory for Actors.

The Conservatory for Actors provides an intensive immersion in basic acting skills. It’s hands-on and dynamic–students can expect to spend most of their time moving and acting. Moreover, the Conservatory is rooted in the Stanislavski System, and topics include text analysis, on-camera acting, and voice and speech. Taught by Yale faculty and local theater professionals, students work in small groups of 10-12 throughout the program. In addition, come prepared for a rigorous experience—you’ll spend thirty hours in class and ten hours rehearsing per week Accordingly, college credit is available.

To apply to these summer theater programs, students must submit a resume of relevant experience and a personal statement. Two letters of recommendation are required, with one being from a theater professional or drama teacher.

Already graduated from high school, and interested in directing? Yale’s 10-Day Directing Workshop may be the experience you’re looking for.

4) Tisch Summer High School Drama Programs

  • Location: New York, NY
  • Residential?: Yes
  • Program Length: 4 weeks
  • Cost: $13,747
  • Eligibility: Rising juniors and seniors
  • Application Deadline: January

It would be impossible to create a list of summer theater programs without including those offered at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Students interested in acting and New York theater will receive amazing training and exposure during this six-credit-bearing, intensive program.

For starters, all students complete 28 hours of conservatory training per week at one of six studios. (Students select the studio that most closely aligns with their interests.) Options include the Atlantic Acting School, Experimental Theatre Wing, Meisner, New Studio Summer Music Theatre Program, Production and Design Summer Workshop, Stonestreet Acting Studio, and New York Theatre. For example, Atlantic Acting School students focus on the Atlantic Technique, which provides analytical and physical training. Alternatively, Stonestreet Screen Acting students develop knowledge and skills related to film, television, and internet acting.

In addition to their workshops, students also take Introduction to New York Theatre. Here, they’ll learn from professional actors, designers, and stage managers, among others. Moreover, they typically spend evenings and weekends rehearsing and/or attending events. Finally, the program culminates with a showcase.

The admissions process is intensive as Tisch typically receives over 800 applications. Interested students will need at least a 3.0 GPA. They’ll also need to submit a personal statement, creative resume, two recommendation letters, and a high school transcript.

5) Notre Dame Summer Scholars

  • Location: Notre Dame, IN
  • Residential?: Yes
  • Program Length: 2 weeks
  • Cost: $4,475
  • Eligibility: Rising juniors and seniors (must be at least 16 years old)
  • Application Deadline: February

Notre Dame offers two summer theater programs: Musical Theatre: Acting the Song and Performance: Acting for the Stage and Screen.

In Musical Theatre: Acting the Song, students analyze and perform musical theater hits from multiple eras. To do, so, they’ll work in small groups as well as individually in order to build their skills and confidence. Moreover, there will be a final performance, and students are encouraged to develop their own voice and style. To apply, students need to submit an acting resume, two 1-2-minute performance videos, and a 2-3-minute personal video.

Performance: Acting for the Stage and Screen students practice various acting techniques after analyzing those techniques in scenes and monologues. Accordingly, students develop foundational skills in character development, text analysis, and voice and movement. They’ll also participate in multiple exercises and performances as well as a culminating showcase. Applications must include an acting resume, 60-second monologue, and 60-second personality video.

If you’re interested in attending these selective summer theater programs, you’ll need to be on the ball early. Applications open in October and close in February.

Final Thoughts – Summer Theater Programs

By attending summer theater programs, you’ll not only gain experience in performance technique but also receive invaluable mentorship from seasoned professionals, allowing you to apply to college with a greater sense of direction and purpose. Moreover, the skills honed from acting and performing, such as public speaking, effective communication, and creative interpretation, will benefit you in just about every possible future major and career path.

Looking for summer theater programs in your area? Consider checking out the following: