MFA Acting Concentration

Seeking the bold, the curious, the fearless, the actor of indomitable spirit. The Columbia MFA Acting program provides a range of exciting resources and a wide variety of techniques for students to explore. It is concentrated to give each actor the individual guidance she or he specifically needs to grow and mature. Each class is hand-picked individually to create a core company of actors that will live and breathe their art together for an intense and invigorating three-year program.

The curriculum focuses both on rigorous discipline as well as free improvisation and proceeds from a deep exploration of the text. It is about freeing the actor’s voice, body and mind. Working primarily in laboratory situations, this search takes many forms, drawing upon traditions as varied as Commedia dell’Arte and the techniques of Stanislavski, Meyerhold, Brecht, Brook and Grotowski. In addition to examining the great artists of the past we focus on the exploration of modern and contemporary playwrights through scene study and modern acting technique. Our program demands rigorous training of the voice, physical dexterity, a keen analytical mind and a willingness to discover all approaches to acting. Ensemble work and collaboration are fundamental to the training, while constant attention is integral to each student’s individual progress. The training offered at Columbia provides graduates with the basic tools of acting necessary to succeed in classical or experimental theatre, as well as in television and film.

Exploration of text and methodology begins in the first year. Many periods and styles of drama are examined, with attention given to the classics including Greek tragedy and comedy, Shakespeare, Molière, Chekhov, Beckett and Ionesco, in addition to the great writers of the 20th and 21st centuries. The study of the past is intended to provide a foundation to inform the present, and as a starting point for creating a theatre of the future.

The second year continues these traditions while also providing new examinations, adding such classes as improvisation and on-camera technique in addition to the ongoing classical and contemporary training.

The third year is the great culmination of your time at Columbia. While you are not in class full-time as in previous years, it is every bit as rigorous as the first two years. It consists of the following components:

A year-long Professional Practice class which strives to prepare the actor for the career and rigors of the industry and professional world. In addition, students participate in ongoing Professional Development Workshops to prepare to enter the profession. Recent workshops have been offered by such professionals as Anson Mount ’98; Marci Phillips; KK Moggie ’07; and Chandra Thomas ’03.

The Acting Thesis Performance, directed by a Columbia directing alumnus, is a fully-realized and produced performance with material selected to best showcase the strengths and talents of the graduating acting class. Many third-year actors also choose to develop self-created performance work and/or perform in other Columbia thesis productions or Columbia student films.

Every spring, third-year Columbia MFA actors form the Classic Stage Company Young Company. This company performs Shakespeare productions for NYC high school students at CSC’s 13th Street home. Actors are paid a weekly salary and an additional stipend if they choose to teach in the schools. Through a special arrangement with Actors’ Equity Association, the actors who participate in CSC’s Young Company will be eligible to join the union.

NYC and LA 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.

In addition to the opportunity to teach through the Classic Stage Company’s Young Company, third-year Columbia students are invited to participate in a four-day-long teacher training institute run by the Roundabout Theatre Company.
2016-2017 Faculty

Andrei Șerban — Professor; Director, Oscar Hammerstein II Center for Theatre Studies; Concentration Head, Acting
Arnold Aronson — Professor
Anne Bogart — Professor  

James Calleri — Associate Professor

Susan Cameron — Adjunct Assistant Professor

Andrea Haring — Lecturer  
Kelly Maurer — Adjunct Assistant Professor
Gregory Mosher — Professor

Joseph Travers — Adjunct Assistant Professor

Ulla Wolcz — Lecturer

Required Courses
Course requirements are subject to change at the discretion of the faculty.
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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.
Thesis Year
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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 CSC Young Company production of Twelfth Night.
AEA Eligibility: All third-year MFA Acting students are eligible to join the Actors Equity Association through our partnership with Classic Stage Company.
The Oscar
Hammerstein II
Center for
Theatre Studies
601 Dodge Hall
Mail Code 1807
2960 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
Phone: (212) 854-3408

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Columbia University School of the Arts offers MFA degrees in Film, Theatre, Visual Arts, and Writing, an MA degree in Film Studies, a joint JD/MFA degree in Theatre Management & Producing, a PhD degree in Theatre History, Literature, and Theory, and an interdisciplinary program in Sound Arts.