Now in his second year with Theatre UCF, Stephan Rosario knows he went to the right college to pursue a career in acting, even though he said some people aren't aware UCF even has a theater program.
“I tell them I’m doing [a show] at UCF’s theater and they go ‘is there a theater? They do shows there?’” the 21-year-old acting major said. “We’re not necessarily on the map as far as other theaters.”
It can be difficult for a theater program to get on the map at a school like UCF, which is more synonymous with engineering and computer science. Despite the school’s heavy emphasis on STEM fields, Theatre UCF continues to successfully prepare students to land jobs after graduating.
“Because they get specific training in the craft here, they often … are able to get really great internship positions,” said Claudia Lynch, the coordinator of the BFA Stage Management program at UCF.
Before coming to UCF, she worked at New York City Center, where Broadway actors and producers produce short run productions.
“Through my former colleagues in New York, I’ve actually been able to have quite a number of students … get hired in New York directly after they graduate from here,” Lynch said. “Quite a number of them are succeeding very well.”
One former student, despite having graduating in 2015, has already worked on over 10 Broadway productions.
One of the strategies that Theatre UCF uses to prepare students for the real world is service learning. While some majors are mostly based in a classroom setting, the theater program works to also make sure students get real life experience.
“The way we teach theater is … we study in a classroom for certain aspects in order to then prepare us to do it on our feet,” Lynch said. “All of the students have to actually work on productions before they’re done so they have those skills to go directly into the workforce.”
While there are several productions available to work on each semester, including Romeo and Juliet, which will premiere Feb. 16, students in every branch of the program are also required to take part in at least one internship before graduating.
A careers class is also available to help students find a job.
“They really hammer into you like what you need to have to audition, how to make yourself look like a business and really just how to sell yourself,” said Jesse Ramos, who is in his final semester with Theatre UCF.
“They show you leads, they have you actually like say your dream job or your dream company … and you have to apply to them and kind of just get your name in the door.”
Getting a name in the door may be Theatre UCF’s biggest advantage over other programs. While UCF may not be known for theatre, the school’s location gives graduates a chance to land a job at Central Florida’s theme parks.
Theatre UCF has a Professional Advisory Board as well, which is made up of professionals who work in the entertainment industry in Central Florida.
“They hold seminars and meet-and-greets and interview skill development workshops for the students and then they … are the ones who are in the hiring positions at Disney and at SeaWorld and at Universal,” Lynch said. “Students often come to UCF hoping to work at one of the theme parks and will begin working there before they graduate.”
While Rosario may have a hard time explaining to people he knows that UCF has a theater program, he knows that plenty of potential employers are paying attention.
“A lot of people don’t tend to think of UCF and think theater right away or even associate UCF with theater,” he said. “If you talk to Disney and other talent scouts and things like that, they’re very aware of UCF.”
Originally published Feb. 4