CWRU MFA students perform on stage in a production.

Case Western Reserve’s drama program again earns acclaim in The Hollywood Reporter’s annual rankings

Case Western Reserve University’s drama program has once again taken center stage, ranking among the 25 best drama schools in the world by The Hollywood Reporter, the leading entertainment industry magazine. 

Not only did the program place 19th in the world and 15th among U.S. theater programs—it ranked 12th in Master of Fine Arts (MFA) programs.

CWRU MFA students perform on stage in a production.
CWRU MFA students perform on stage in a production.

“This marks our sixth time on the list which remains the #1 resource for candidates seeking excellent theatre training,” said Donald Carrier, instructor and director of the CWRU/Cleveland Play House (CPH) MFA in Acting Program. “This recognition is a result of our work as a faculty, the talent of our students, the increasing visibility and success of our alumni community and of course, our partnership with Cleveland Play House, which provides experience and exposure for our students during their three years of training.”

The Hollywood Reporter bases its annual rankings on insights from academics, influencers and alumni. This year’s list, which appeared in the publication’s June 22 issue, highlighted CWRU’s tuition-free program, noting it has seen a “number of new hires in the past year, including Eliza Ladd Schwarz, who introduced a new movement curriculum, and Michael Barakiva, artistic director at Cleveland Play House.” 

According to Carrier, there have been several changes to the MFA program in addition to Schwarz and Barakiva joining their ranks: Rachel Fink was hired as CPH’s new managing director, and Jeffrey Ullom is the new chair of the Department of Theater.

“All of our instructors are still active in the profession,” he continued. “I am constantly amazed by our talented faculty that is composed of artists who either direct, perform, dramaturg or coach in professional theatres, film and TV, all while committed to the training goals of the CWRU/CPH MFA Acting Program.”

Ullom believes the latest rankings allow the MFA program to continue to attract the “best and brightest talent” to CWRU and CPH—and he hopes audiences in northeast Ohio will seize the opportunity to support “these rising stars in action.” 

“This ranking reflects the passion and dedication of the faculty who have developed this curriculum over the years into one of the most respected training programs in the country,” Ullom added. “From recruitment of these remarkable students until their debut on the national stage, the selection by The Hollywood Reporter highlights our department’s ability to attract the finest young talent and assist them to become leading artists and respected ambassadors for Case Western Reserve University around the country.”

The highly selective MFA 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.

Just eight students are accepted 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.

The program has produced several notable alumni, including Rich Sommer, best known for his role as Harry Crane in Mad Men; Tom Degnan, who starred on the soap opera One Life to Live and still makes frequent television appearances; Tony Award-nominated stage actress Elizabeth Davis, and many others. 

The Juilliard School’s program ranked No. 1, followed by Yale University’s program and the program at the University of North Carolina School of Arts. Case Western Reserve’s program came in above offerings at Northwestern University, Penn State University and Syracuse University, among others. 

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