The Acting Concentration
Seeking the bold, the curious, the fearless…the actor of indomitable spirit.
The Columbia MFA Acting program provides a comprehensive 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 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 open 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, students investigate contemporary playwrights through scene study and modern acting technique. The 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 tools necessary to succeed in classical and 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, including Greek tragedy and comedy, Shakespeare, Molière, Chekhov, Beckett and Ionesco, in addition to the great writers of the twentieth century. 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 Improv and On-Camera Technique in addition to the ongoing classical and contemporary training.
The third year is the culmination of a student’s time at Columbia. Students focus on what it means to be a professional actor, both onstage and off, through the following components:
A year-long Professional Practice class which strives to prepare the actor for the 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 casting directors at major Off-Broadway theatres, including Playwrights Horizons and New York Theatre Workshop, and New York- and Los Angeles-based agents, managers, and actors.
The Acting Thesis Performance, directed by a Columbia directing alumnus/a, is a fully-realized and produced performance with material selected to best showcase the strengths and talents of the graduating Acting class. The third year also provides the time and opportunity 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 Act Young: Theater for Young Audiences. This company performs Shakespearean 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 pre-performance workshops in the schools. Through a special arrangement with Actors’ Equity Association, the actors who participate in Classic Stage Company’s Act Young: Theater for Young Audiences will be eligible to join the union.
In the spring of the third year, industry showcases 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, Columbia students are invited to participate in a four-day-long teacher training institute at the Roundabout Theatre Company as part of the Columbia@Roundabout collaboration.