Three student actors performing a scene from the play Hay Fever.
A scene from Hay Fever.

Case Western Reserve University/Cleveland Play House Master of Fine Arts ranked 12th in The Hollywood Reporter’s top 25 graduate acting programs internationally

For the second straight year, the Case Western Reserve University/Cleveland Play House Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program made The Hollywood Reporter‘s list of top 25 graduate acting programs in the world, ranking 12th—up six slots from the previous year.

The Hollywood Reporter, which bases its annual rankings on insight from academics, influencers and alumni, released the 2019 rankings in its June 10 issue.

In touting the Case Western Reserve/Cleveland Play House program, The Hollywood Reporter wrote: “Alum Rich Sommer (GLOW) swung back to his alma mater to teach a master class in on-camera acting. Eight students, out of 900 hopefuls, get a full ride plus a living stipend and—thanks to an affiliation with the Tony-winning Cleveland Play House—the guarantee of an Actors’ Equity card before graduation.”

The program dates back to 1996, when Case Western Reserve, with one of the oldest academic theater programs in the country, and Cleveland Play House, the nation’s first regional theater, joined forces to create a three-year MFA in acting.

Photo of Jerrold Scott
Jerrold Scott

“The program’s re-imagining has been around for a little over 20 years now, and I think we’re just starting to get noticed on a national level,” said Jerrold Scott, the Katharine Bakeless Nason Professor of Theater and chair and artistic director of the Department of Theater. “Each class brings new insights and opportunities, and we look forward to continuing to develop this program, and the actors we train, long into the future.”

“We are thrilled by the news and proud of this remarkable program,” said Timothy Beal, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and the Florence Harkness Professor of Religion. “Its success speaks not only to our fabulous students but also and especially to the collaborative leadership of Jerrold (Scott) and his outstanding team of faculty and staff.”

Six student actors performing a scene from the play Little Foxes.
From a scene from Little Foxes.

The highly selective program accepts just eight students every other year, resulting in an intimate, hands-on academic experience. Students begin with the Play House in their first semester, and their level of involvement increases until, by the third year, they become professional interns at the Play House.

Along with Sommer, best known for his role as Harry Crane in Mad Men, notable alums of the MFA program include Tom Degnan, who starred on the soap opera One Life to Live and still makes frequent television appearances, AJ Cedeno, who has acted in theater and film and is now Nissan’s national spokesman in the automaker’s television commercials, and Tony Award-nominated stage actress Elizabeth Davis.

Yale University was ranked first, followed by the Juilliard School and the University of California at San Diego. The Case Western Reserve/Cleveland Play House program ranked above such  institutions as the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London, the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco and both UCLA and the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

“I am confident,” said Cleveland Play House Artistic Director Laura Kepley, “that through the excellent training in the CWRU/CPH studios and by working side-by-side with top professionals in Cleveland Play House mainstage productions, these talented young theater-makers will be prepared to make a significant impact on the future of American theater.” 

View the full rankings on The Hollywood Reporter‘s website.

For more information, contact Bill Lubinger at