One Extraordinary Year.

At the ACA, our twelve-month graduate program offers both artistic and practical advantages that set it apart from other MFA acting programs. Many actors desire additional classical training but cannot devote three years to a conventional MFA program. Such programs take them out of the field for a very long time and, most significantly, only focus marginally on classical acting.

The ACA’s highly physical, rigorous training is part of a true immersion program, with an exceptional number of contact hours between students and a professional faculty. Our curriculum consists of six full days of classes and rehearsals for twelve consecutive months, including performances of fully-staged ACA repertory productions. Beginning in late August and finishing in mid-July, the training involves roughly 44 weeks of instruction, with classes usually beginning at 8 a.m. and ending at 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 10am-3:00pm on Saturdays. This 59-credit degree is divided into three terms: Fall, Spring, and Summer.

In the Fall and Spring semesters, Academy actors will rehearse and perform one-hour devised Shakespeare productions, directed and staged by artists from the Shakespeare Theatre Company and the D.C. area. Rehearsals take place in the evenings after classes, and on Saturdays. During the Summer term, actors are cast in two full-length classical plays, which rehearse on an Equity schedule Monday through Saturday.

Curriculum

STC Academy MFA Course of Study

Acting training at the Academy combines the emotional, physical, and imaginative life of a role with the technical skills needed to express that character to its fullest. This is achieved through rigorous foundation work and applying the basic tenets of acting to the acting of plays in verse; making strong choices that are grounded in the text, establishing a connection to the scene partner, listening, and responding to what is happening in the scene.

A thorough and detailed process is established in order to bring the language to life through thoughtful text analysis, attention to the intricacies of meter and punctuation, clarity of changes in action (shifts or beat changes) and freeing up the imagination to create a wider variety of available choices. Using scenes and monologues, the students work closely with the instructors to bring their physical and vocal instruments to meet the demands of the material, and integrate the work done in other classes.

Work with Shakespeare’s text is central to classes at the Academy, whether it is a voice, acting, movement, or academic seminar. Additional focused text classes provide the foundation and tools for that work. Scansion begins as a technical skill supporting clarity and ease with the verse, but becomes a resource for character and situation as well. In preparation for the spring, we return to scansion and meter, exploring both the evolution of Shakespeare’s verse in the late plays and the verse and prose tactics of other classic playwrights.

In Shakespeare, rhetoric is a mode of thought, not simply decorative language. Mastering rhetoric enables us to articulate complex thoughts with clarity and to experience the way Shakespeare’s characters think.

We approach the work through both brain and body: balancing analytical and physical techniques for understanding and harnessing the dynamics of Shakespeare’s language.

Voice training at the Academy aims to develop clarity, ease, and nuance, and help the actor have strong breath support and the capacity to unleash the power of the poetry.

Because no one vocal technique provides all answers for all people, Academy vocal work entails a variety of approaches to developing the actor’s voice. Breath work is primary, as freedom of  breath helps deepen the actor’s access to emotion. We work with the actor to develop vocal support, resonance, capacity, range, spontaneity and flexibility.

The Academy’s speech work is integrated thoroughly into the acting process. The speech professor attends classes to give notes, identifying ways in which the student might communicate more meaningfully and effectively, and works with directors when the students are working in the repertory plays in the last term. As with all other classes at the Academy, speech classes are fully participatory and interactive.

Core strength, freedom of breath, and ease are critical for an actor’s craft. The Academy movement curriculum focuses intensely on centering, breathing and precision. With the Alexander Technique, actors can learn to free their breath at will, release into strong emotion, support themselves with less effort and choose from a far larger palette of acting choices and match the clarity of their acting intentions with a clarity of execution.

Stage Combat at the Academy explores the art of violence in classical acting. During the program, the participant will explore in-depth the principles of Hand-to-Hand Combat, Broadsword, Rapier, and Rapier and Dagger. Special emphasis is given to acting the fight, bringing meaning and intent to the physical actions and how to develop a fight to serve the play. The actor will develop a personal understanding of how the body moves and listens, and freely expresses itself safely in the dynamics of stage violence. Each actor will have the opportunity to earn their Actor Combatant Certifications in the Society of American Fight Direc­tors.

For the classical actor, mask work is about generating energy, size and presence. The mask has a very practical use and a profound purpose: to make the body the primary instrument of expression rather than the face, and to develop the physical presence needed to inhabit a role. Mask work guides us to eliminate inhibiting habitual patterns, encourages clarity of movement and fosters a greater command of stillness. In distilling action down to essential rhythms, we comprehend the space and force of gesture. The actor discovers greater depths of expressiveness, how to move with power and presence and deeper understandings of spatial dynamics.

This academic curriculum covers the theories and topics of theatre history, dramatic literature and criticism. Using primary sources — plays and writings from the Elizabethan, Restoration, and Jacobean eras — students will examine the historical world in which the plays were written as well as the imaginary worlds created in the plays themselves. With partners, students also do research and create class presentations. Students will be asked to prepare short writing assignments that will serve as a basis for the final written component of the program, in which the student focuses on a particular character or play.

In the second trimester, students will examine the history of black actors in American Shakespeare, along with the history of racism and theatre in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Faculty

Your instructors for the year