The Theatre School’s Master of Fine Arts (MFA) Acting program is highly truthful, expressive, and physical. Informed by our Chicago roots, we prepare actors to work on stage and screen all over the world.
Students learn from a distinguished faculty of working professionals who possess a wide variety of backgrounds and expertise. Our faculty has spent many years developing successful, personal, and powerful curricula that mine a diversity of ideas from Stanislavski, Spolin, Grotowski, Shurtleff, Lessac, Linklater, Yoga, Tai Chi, Feldenkrais® Method, Laban, mask work, and more. Students are inspired through unique points-of-view within a comprehensive three-year progression of acting, movement, and voice and speech curricula.
Equally important to the training students receive in the classroom is the opportunity they have to synthesize that learning in the production process, with each student completing seven production assignments during their three years in the program.
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The first year experience is about expanding the size and specificity of the actor’s skill, imagination, and drive. Courses are designed to increase and refine actors’ access to their imagination, help actors explore their bodies and expand their range of movement, and to better understand and refine the voice. Self-generated ensemble work is presented in winter and spring quarters. Production work begins in the spring quarter with a first-year ensemble Studio production directed by a guest artist.
The second year training takes a two-level journey in classic and modern technique and scene study of texts from the Greeks to Shakespeare to plays currently in production nationwide. Movement and voice and speech work continue to refine actors' technique but also focuses on period style and dialect work. Second year actors enter the Acting Company and are cast each quarter in our production season.
The third year puts the work in the context of the profession and connects the student to artistic and industry leaders. The actor’s entrepreneurial spirit is further refined through company created works and independent cinema experience. Courses integrate the work of the first two years into practical professional application and introduce the business aspects of the profession: investigating self-promotion, the acting business, making industry contacts, theatre company creation, as well as producing theatrical work.
Graduating MFA Production
The final casting assignment (in Spring of the Third Year), is a production written and developed for the graduating MFA Acting class. This world-premiere production is commissioned from an exciting playwright and directed by a guest artist from the Chicago theatre community. It is presented as the final production of The Theatre School Showcase Series.
At the end of each year, The Theatre School hosts a series of events to showcase the work of our graduating actors. Under the guidance of the faculty, graduating actors prepare a showcase production - usually a series of scenes and monologues - which is presented in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles for casting directors, talent agents, producers and directors from theatre, film and television. The Graduate Showcase includes a series of alumni networking events in each city to introduce and connect our graduates to our large alumni network.
Every student receives quarterly evaluation and feedback from the faculty each year. Students’ evaluations are based on discipline, collaboration, professional potential, and progress in the program. The acting program is divided into two phases—the Probationary Phase (first year) and Production Phase (second and third years). First year acting students receive an Invitation to Return into the Production Phase of the program. The first year of the acting program has a capacity of 10 students with no predetermined limit of students invited into the Production Phase.