The Actors Studio Drama School MFA Program
Guided by the methodology that has its roots in the “system” set forth by Constantin Stanislavski in his three groundbreaking books, An Actor Prepares, Building a Character and Creating a Role, the Actors Studio Drama School involves three years of intensive study in the dramatic arts.
Continuously evolving, the “system” informs the curriculum of this unique dramatic arts degree program. Whether an aspiring actor, director or playwright, you will begin your three-year exploration by studying the actor’s craft and developing a shared language. In the first year you will be consumed with learning the methodology and language, as well as training in your craft. In the second year, you and your fellow MFA candidates will immerse yourselves in unique and specialized training. Working together as an ensemble—actors, directors and playwrights—in your third year, you will apply your knowledge and skills in a Repertory Season.
Year 1: An Actor Prepares
In the first week of their first semester, the Orientation Week, the students are introduced to the communal world of the theater as students and teachers spend their first week in an informal introduction to the program's philosophy process and intentions. In these first classes, the students encounter another unique feature of the program: they are setting out on a side-by-side journey―as actors, directors and playwrights together―learning the common language that will enable them to collaborate productively, harmoniously and seamlessly. It is during this Orientation Week that the ensemble nature of the Actors Studio process will emerge, and, more important, the teachers and students will begin to know each other.
Year 2: Building a Character
Armed with the technical fundamentals they will use for the rest of their educational and professional careers, the students move now from the preparation of their instrument (themselves) to the preparation of the role. Now a mysterious stranger enters the student's life―a “character,” with his or her own needs and desires and life, and way of proceeding through it. Creating that character is the task of the second year. Stanislavski deliberately chose a verb more readily associated with the artisan than the artist. “Building a Character,” with its sense of bricks and mortar and its clear implication of methodical, craftsman-like construction is the mandate of the Second Year.
Year 3: Creating a Role
The focus of this year is the formation of all the students into a repertory group. While they continue their common and specialized courses, the students develop and collaborate on the dramatic material, which will be presented in their Third-Year Repertory Season, a weekly series of scenes, one-act plays and, if possible, full-length plays, some of them written by our playwrights, and all of them directed by our directors and acted by our actors.
Tracks and Opportunities
During the three-year Acting program our acting students experience an intense training, consisting of deep and detailed personal work on what we call the actor’s instrument. The students have the opportunity to develop their craft not only in their classes but also in a variety of public performing events.
- Our acting training is based on the Stanislavski “System” and its American development through the Group Theater and the Actors Studio.
- The three-year Acting program is focused on sensitizing and opening the actor’s instrument, thereby freeing the actor’s individual and unique talent. This work allows the actors to express themselves in the deepest and most personal way in a variety of roles both in class and in performance.
- The three-year Movement program is especially designed to develop the stamina, fluidity, grace and power of the actor’s physical instrument. The work offers a series of exercises, improvisations and stages of movement inspired by the experiments and teachings of innovative masters of the theater.
- A second aspect of our Movement program consists of dance classes held at the studios of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and taught by their faculty.
- The three-year Voice program is based on Kristin Linklater’s approach, which we consider the finest vocal training for actors.
- Throughout the three years actors, directors and playwrights learn to collaborate with each other in classes in which the actors act, the directors direct and the playwrights write. Collaboration among these three tracks is the heart of the MFA program and the Repertory Season at the end of the third year.
- In addition to their work in the acting classes, acting students also participate in the projects of the directing classes and in the projects of the Playwrights and Directors Unit that consist of original plays written by the student playwrights.
- Throughout the three years the best work of these classes is presented for the public in what we call the end-of-semester “Festivals.”
- During the Third-Year Repertory Season, acting students appear in a series of professionally produced plays for the general public and the theater profession.
During the three-year Directing program, our directing students are trained according to the principles of the Stanislavski-Actors Studio directing process, which addresses all the elements of stage directing, from the first reading to opening night.
- Through theory and practice, directing students study the relationships of the director to the play, the playwright, the actor, the designers and the audience.
- They learn to tell the story, to create the events, to develop moment-to-moment behavior in order to convince the theatergoer of what takes place on the stage.
- They are trained to solve acting problems, to conduct improvisations and to make the most creative use of their rehearsals.
- Through a deep and intense process, directing students learn how to work with the actors in order to bring the characters to life in a profoundly personal way.
- To support their understanding of the actor’s art and the acting process, all directing students study acting throughout their three years. In addition, the voice and movement training of our program is available to the directing students as electives.
- Through the Design program, directing students learn to develop their ideas with the designers, to prepare production designs, to run technical rehearsals and to direct in a variety of theater spaces.
- Through a two-semester course in the History of Directing, students will examine the central issues in the development of the principal innovative theater directors of the modern period.
- Through many directing projects, directing students learn to lead and collaborate with actors, playwrights and designers.
- During the three years of their training, directing students experience many directing opportunities. In their directing classes they work on established dramatic material and in the Playwrights and Directors Unit they work on original work by their fellow playwrights.
- Their best work in their directing classes and in the Playwrights and Directors Unit is presented to the public in end-of-semester “Festivals.”
- During the Third-Year Repertory Season, directing students direct a series of professionally produced plays for the general public and the theater profession.
During our three-year Playwriting program, our playwriting students learn to work and collaborate with directors, actors and designers in a safe and creative professional environment deeply committed to the Actors Studio philosophy, process and tradition.
- The playwriting students learn to create meaningful personal stories and transform them into dramatic events and characters with deeply human and intense moment-to-moment life.
- Playwriting students learn to write and develop one-act and full-length plays, along with the fundamentals of screenwriting.
- To support their playwriting skills, all playwriting students study acting throughout their three years.
- Their work is staged by their colleagues in Directing and Acting, in class and for the public.
- In the third year, their best work is presented in a professionally produced Repertory Season for the general public and the theater profession.
- In the last month of their training, their full-length play is professionally presented as a staged reading open to the public.