Acting (BA | BFA)

In the Acting bachelor’s degree program at Columbia College Chicago, you’ll gain hands-on experience in a diverse range of productions and develop professional skills to help you launch a career in theatre, film, or television as well as transferable skills to help you advance in alternate career paths. You’ll learn an approach to performance that asks actors to contemplate motive and fully experience the characters they play. To this approach, we add physical theatre, viewpoints, stage combat, and on-camera techniques. You’ll collaborate on new work with other theatre artists to create performances that are fresh and innovative. You’ll also take professional workshops covering topics like auditioning, working with agents, evaluating opportunities, and navigating contracts and union representation.

Columbia College Chicago Acting program performer in Dog Act

Degrees Available

Columbia College Chicago offers two undergraduate degrees in Acting: the B achelor of Arts (BA) and the B achelor of Fine Arts (BFA). The BFA is a highly structured, rigorous program requiring progressively intense training in voice, movement, and acting styles. The BA provides a foundation in acting while allowing students flexibility to explore other theatre courses, minor in another subject, or double major. BA and BFA students have equal opportunities to audition for all productions at Columbia.

If you plan to apply directly to the BFA program, you’ll need to include some additional materials.

View course requirements:

Performance Opportunities


The Theatre Department stages about 40 productions a year. You’ll have opportunities to audition for a range of plays, musicals, one-acts, staged readings, and devised works.

Explore our current and past Mainstage productions.  

The Theatre Department collaborates with Columbia College Chicago’s top-ranked cinema and television programs. Through classwork and auditions, Acting majors perform on-camera on a professional soundstage in student directed films.   

Where You'll Perform

The Getz Theatre Center

The Getz Theatre Center has four professional-quality stages, a state-of-the-art scene shop, stocked costume shop, and dedicated makeup/prosthetics and lighting labs.

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Columbia hosts two internship fairs each academic year, with attendees ranging from representatives of prominent theaters like Steppenwolf, Victory Gardens, and the Goodman to those of small storefronts. Our faculty members’ connections to the Chicago theatre scene and their work with companies throughout the city help us build internship opportunities.

We also encourage students to take advantage of opportunities to perform off campus.

Chicago: A Theatre Hub


Chicago is one of the greatest theatre cities in the world. It’s also a friendly and supportive city for young actors just starting out. You’ll see productions regularly and network with the city’s actors and theatre creators. Many television shows and movies are filmed in Chicago. It’s not unusual to see Chicago Fire or Empire being filmed right in the middle of campus.


Columbia College Chicago faculty member Stephanie Shaw

“You’re free to experiment here, you’re free to fail here, you’re free to take creative risks here.”

-Associate Professor Stephanie Shaw

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The faculty members at Columbia College Chicago have a diverse range of skills and experiences. They’ve directed work for international festivals and tours, acted in a range of productions both onstage and on-screen, and have written and performed for a long list of companies in the Chicago area.

Faculty Highlights

  • Brian Shaw is a founding member of the physical theatre company Plasticene. His work has been performed in Chicago, New York, and Edinburgh. He has performed in new productions with many theatre and dance companies and has appeared in film, television, and commercials.
  • Kathleen Perkins has appeared in several TV and theatrical films, including Judgment Night and the Coen brothers’ The Hudsucker Proxy.
  • Richard Walker has appeared in several plays, independent films, and television shows. He has worked as a corporate spokesman for such companies as Eli Lilly, Computer Associates, and Oracle. He has also performed improvised comedy with The Improvised Shakespeare Company, Comedy Sportz Chicago, and The Second City.
  • Stephanie Shaw has been a theatre critic for the Chicago Reader and a member of the Neo-Futurists theatre company. She has written and performed at many theaters, including Apple Tree, the Body Politic, Wisdom Bridge, and Stage Left.
  • John Green’s work has been staged at the Edinburgh International Festival and theatre festivals in England, Ireland, Wales, France, Germany, Slovenia, Russia, and Australia.

View all Theatre Department faculty.

Study Away

  • Semester in LA: An Actor’s Guide to Hollywood is a 10-day course. During these 10 days, you’ll spend time networking with industry professionals (including artistic directors and agents) and learning how to audition in LA. Learn more about Semester in LA.

Alumni Success

Our alumni work in all areas of theatre. They’re on stage as actors in productions of all sizes, they’re writing and producing original work, and they’re acting on television and in movies. They have won Joseph Jefferson Awards and Tonys. Check out The Green Room for the latest alumni updates.

Behzad Dabu ’08

Behzad Dabu charms audiences from Chicago stages to primetime television.

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Mariah Morris

Acting major Mariah Morris’s dance experience brings new life to the stage.

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Jackalope Theatre Compnay
Jackalope Theatre Compnay
In 2008 as part of a senior class project, three Columbia College Chicago students wrote a five-year plan for a fictional theatre company. Then they graduated and brought Jackalope Theatre Company to life.

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Check out other degrees in Theatre:

Many Acting BA students explore other interests in a minor. Popular minors include: