Musical Theatre

Scene from Theatre Central's production of Cabaret

The Future Is Centerstage

The show starts at Central — and musical theatre majors are the stars of the show!

Musical theatre is a collaborative process — both on stage and behind the curtain. The Central College musical theatre program exposes students to artistic development through a broad and comprehensive curriculum, including courses in acting, dance, directing, history, literature, music, theatre management, stagecraft, design and technical production. Musical theatre majors combine a rich, liberal arts experience with a variety of research, performance and technical opportunities while working alongside talented professors. Independent study is encouraged, and students can hone their craft in close mentorship with faculty and staff.

The college produces three to four main-stage productions every year in addition to numerous student-directed productions. Students also have a chance to attend performance conferences like the United States Institute for Theatre Technology and the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival to see the latest performance technologies and make connections with professional theatre practitioners for internships or advanced study.

No matter their career path, when the curtain goes up, students must be ready. A musical theatre degree at Central ensures proper preparation.

main-stage productions every year at Central
Unlimited black box performance options for students who don’t want to sing and dance
musical courses needed to get a musical theatre degree

The Central Difference

Take the Stage

Grow as an artist in Central’s musical theatre program. In addition to rigorous academic courses, Central students have the opportunity to showcase their talents and experience musical theatre in multiple high-quality productions every academic year. In addition to acting, students have the chance to direct, design, choreograph and more.

The college is known for producing award-winning shows. For example, the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival has recognized these recent Central productions:

  • Anon(ymous) for Ensemble Performance, Musical Integration, Direction and Scenic Design
  • Blithe Spirit for Costume Design, Sound Design, Scenic Design and Sharp Cues, Quick Scene Shifts and Paranormal Mayhem
  • Merry Christmas Strega Nona for Costume Design and Scenic Design

Leading the Charge for Change

Nearly 20 years after graduating from Central College, Sarah Fosdick Turnbull ’00 fights for change — locally and nationally.


The Kruidenier Center houses two flexible theatres with up-to-date computer-controlled lighting and sound systems. The main-stage theatre seats approximately 200 audience members and has a full rigging system. The Mr. B studio theatre, which seats 50, is an experimental stage used for both productions and acting classes. The adjustable main classroom space is equipped with a projection system and drafting tables to accommodate most theatre courses. A smaller seminar room provides a cozy space for discussion classes. Large, well-equipped costume and scene shops, dressing rooms, recording studio, a green room and a makeup alley complete the support facilities.

A 10-station computer lab with 24/7 access is located in the Roe Center. This lab is shared with the art department and music department and is equipped with industry standard programs used in theatre including VectorWorks and Adobe Creative Suite.

Off-Campus Experiences

Central students can study off-campus — both internationally or domestically in the United States. These opportunities give students the chance to prepare to be global citizens, equipped to compete in the global job market. Students can check out experiences led by Central faculty or attend select academic programs across the world that provide opportunities for study, service, internships and other types of experiential learning. Options include experiences in Chicago, Washington, D.C., Central America, Ghana, England, the Scottish Highlands and more.

Beyond Central

Putting the “Hire” in Higher Education

Central College theatre majors are employed in many fields — from teachers, arts administrators and lawyers to finance, publishing and health care.

  • Kyran Moss Chavez ’19, Stage Manager, Coal Creek Theatre, Louisville, Colorado
  • Alexis Lotspeich ’18, Costume Designer, Spotlight Theatre, Moline, Illinois
  • Griffin Hammel ’14, Theatre Professor, Tarrant County College District, Fort Worth, Texas
  • Emily Hutchinson ’14, Assistant Drama Director, Waukee Community Schools, Waukee, Iowa
  • Shawn Jensen ’08, Technology and Exhibition Manager, Science Center of Iowa, Des Moines, Iowa
  • Minnihan Heerema ’04, Costume Shop Manager, Sacramento Theatre Company, Sacramento, California
  • Rob Lindley ’95, Actor, The Phantom of the Opera National Tour, Chicago, Illinois

Central College Faculty Receive Recognition

Central College recognized eight faculty members this spring for their outstanding leadership in teaching, service and scholarship.


Students are encouraged to find internships or employment in theatre through sources such as ArtSearch. The theatre department also partners with the Union Street Players in Pella to provide summer experience in acting, directing and stagecraft.

  • Maine State Musical Theatre, Brunswick, Maine
  • PRG Worldwide Entertainment Technology Solutions
  • Stagecraft Institute of Las Vegas, George Daly Theater
  • Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp, Twin Lake, Michigan
  • Des Moines Civic Center
  • Des Moines Playhouse
  • Little Angel Theatre, London, U.K.
  • Gate Theatre, London, U.K.
  • Polka Dot Theatre, London, U.K.
  • The Golden Hinde Trust, Living History Museum, London, U.K.
  • The Rose Theatre, London, U.K.
  • Iowa Science Museum
  • Union Street Players
  • Des Moines Metro Opera
  • Walt Disney World Resort
  • Pella Opera House

Graduate Placement

  • Middlesex University, London, England
  • Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Western Illinois University, Macomb, Illinois
  • University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, Colorado
  • Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Illinois
  • University of Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland
  • New York Film Academy, New York City, New York
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, Illinois
  • University of Houston, Houston, Texas
  • Drake University Law School, Des Moines, Iowa

Other Opportunities

No matter what your interests are, Central has a student group for you!

  • Alpha Psi Omega – The Largest National Honorary Theatrics Society in the World

Courses & Faculty

Theatre students study acting, directing, design, stagecraft and theatre history/literature, any of which can become the starting place for further exploration and study. Students also have the opportunity to earn practicum credit through acting or design/technology and pursue independent study projects in any of the areas of study. Participation in co-curricular theatre programs is expected of students seeking a major or minor in musical theatre.

Learn more about this discipline in the course catalog.

Meet the Faculty

  • C.D. Adamson, B.F.A., M.A., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Theatre
  • Mat Kelly, B.A., M.F.A., Associate Professor of Art
  • Kate Smith, B.S., M.F.A., Assistant Professor of Theatre

Sample Coursework

First Year

  • Acting I
  • Intro to Theatrical Design
  • Stagecraft

Sophomore Year

  • Directing I
  • Theatre History – Ancient to Medieval
  • Theatrical Makeup Design
  • Stage Management
  • Theatre History – Renaissance to Modern
  • Core Courses

Junior Year

  • Theatre Practicum
  • Script Analysis
  • Acting II
  • Directing II
  • Scenic or Lighting Design
  • Core Courses

Senior Year

  • Theatre Practicum
  • Senior Seminar
  • Major Electives
  • Core Courses


Learn More

Want to find out more about Musical Theatre at Central? Contact us to learn more about this discipline and our other strong academic programs.

Visit campus to observe classes and experience The Central Difference firsthand.

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