The MFA Acting curriculum proceeds from a deep exploration of the text. Working primarily in laboratory situations, this exploration takes many forms, drawing upon traditions as varied as Japanese Noh, commedia dell’arte, the theories of Gordon Craig, and the techniques of Stanislavski, among many others. It demands rigorous training of the voice, physical dexterity, a keen analytical mind, and a willingness to take new approaches to the stage. But ultimately it is the text that is paramount, and all acting training is focused on illuminating the great works of dramatic literature. Although all periods and styles of drama are examined, special attention is given to the classics including Greek tragedy, Shakespeare, Molière, and Chekhov. Students and faculty engage in practical, historical, and theoretical research, trying out ideas and experimenting in a context removed from the demanding presence of public performance. The study of the past is intended to provide a foundation for a re-examination of the present, and as a starting point for creating a theatre of the future. The program seeks to provide a range of resources and a variety of techniques for students to use in their own ways. Ensemble work and collaboration are fundamental to the training, while constant individual attention is integral to each student’s progress. The training provided here, while focused on classic and modern theatre, provides graduates with the tools to succeed in the contemporary American theatre, in television, and in film.
(Course requirements are subject to change at the discretion of the faculty.)
Acting I-IV; Acting Techniques I and II; Acting Studio I-IV; The Art of Acting; Viewpoints; Voice and Text I and II; Voice and Shakespeare I and II; Collaboration; Dance; Scene Study I and II; Stage Combat; History and Theory of Performance; Acting for Camera; Clown.
The thesis year is made up of four major components:
Acting Thesis Project : This full-scale production is presented by the third-year MFA acting class and is directed by a faculty member or guest director. Recent directors have included Diane Paulus, Andrei Serban, Karin Coonrod and Yuriy Kordonskiy. There is no written thesis required to supplement this project.
Industry Showcases: In the spring of the third year, industry showcases are held in New York and Los Angeles for agents, managers, and casting directors. Students work throughout the third year on material selection and scene preparation.
Professional Development Workshops: Throughout the third year, students participate in professional development workshops to prepare to enter the profession. Recent workshops have been held by such professionals as Anson Mount, Marci Phillips, Todd Thaler, and Chandra Thomas.
Classic Stage Company Young Company: Third year MFA acting students and recent graduates audition for Classic Stage Company’s Young Company, which is entirely made up of Columbia-trained actors. This company, which is Classic Stage’s Education and Outreach program, performs Shakespeare productions for NYC schoolchildren and participates in teacher-training workshops. Click here for a video on the recent CSC Young Company production of Twelfth Night.