Students work on scenes of increasing length and difficulty in order to learn the steps of analysis and develop their stagecraft. Emphasis is placed on finding clear, compelling objectives, playing those objectives truthfully and learning how to stage scenes effectively. Great attention is paid to developing professionalism, maturity and ensemble spirit in the class groups. Students also attend professional productions in order to observe and comment on the skills learned in studio.
Ultimately, students take on a Throughline project in which they analyze the leading role of an entire play. Scenes from the plays are brought in for multiple rounds. In each round, the scenes lengthen and the students learn to deepen their interpretation of the scene and the play. For their final presentations, students address the design aspects of their plays, using their ingenuity to stage the scenes as fully as possible.
The goal of the first year is to provide students with a set of physical habits that complement those learned in Script Analysis. The actors learn how to implement an analysis through improvisation-based exercises and scene work. The focus is on how to simplify acting and find the parallels between behavior in real life and behavior on the stage.
By the end of the first year, students will have identified a specific and repeatable set of skills, which can be used to approach any scene work they perform. The various skills of Script Analysis, Voice, Speech and Movement work are integrated.
Based on the work of Sanford Meisner, students learn a variation of the Repetition Exercise. This exercise helps the student overcome self-consciousness and teaches how to be active from moment to moment in a spontaneous and truthful way. The students perform a Private Life, which is a structured improvisation that they research and perform. Advanced exercises are introduced to address beat changes and externals.
The first semester focuses on creating a strong, flexible instrument to support active choices. Various exercises strengthen and tone the muscles involved in making sound, release excess tension and focus concentration. The class also addresses issues regarding vocal health and the care and maintenance of the professional voice.
Students finish the first semester with a dependable warm-up. In the second semester, exploration of the warm-up exercises continues, while various assignments put the voice into action using a wide range of material.
The first year includes an introduction to the International Phonetic Alphabet (I.P.A.) with an intense concentration on ‘good speech’ as per the teachings of Edith Skinner. Students’ speech patterns are dealt with through diagnostic recordings. The importance of I.P.A. fluency is stressed as a practical tool for ‘scoring’ classical text and dialect challenges. During the second semester, poetry and Shakespearean sonnets are introduced as application opportunities for the disciplines already developed.
The Laban/Bartenieff principles are used to explore, describe and analyze movement to promote physical clarity and specificity. The class is designed to develop body awareness, strength, flexibility, and to coach actors toward becoming more physically centered for ease and efficiency in movement. By the year’s end, movement exercises are applied to and explored in scenework.
The goal is to develop a heightened awareness of the available stimuli, both within the body and without. The result is an instrument that is alive, spontaneous, focused and ready to create. The students learn how to make physical choices to create character, as well as a spontaneous, exciting and unpredictable performance.
ADVANCED SCRIPT ANALYSIS
Students continue building the analysis skills developed in the first year through scene work and begin to face the demands of more emotionally complex and challenging characters. Students are required to perform scenes from a variety of sources including: classical Greek drama, Shakespeare and 19th century classics.
Students learn how to navigate the advanced challenges to the actor by performing multiple character scenes, meeting a heightened emotional requirement, playing a physical “external” and using rarified language.
ADVANCED PERFORMANCE TECHNIQUE
This class broadens the students’ stagecraft, encouraging them to stretch their range and sense of theatricality. Students use their core rehearsal techniques developed in the first year in conjunction with the challenges specific to various acting styles: Rhyming Verse, Classic Screwball Comedy, Film Noir, and Physical Comedy.
Specific to performing various acting styles, movement and vocal work accompanies each component of the course. At the end of the year, the students investigate the plays of Clifford Odets.
Students bring materials into class that are meaningful to them for an Advanced Forum for Vocal Integration, where emphasis is on making interdisciplinary connections between voice work and other acting disciplines. Students are also assigned specific texts and work within a Field Rehearsal Format (a ‘vocal coach’ visits their rehearsals).
The goal is for the students to be able to leave the conservatory and continue to grow through self-coaching, while still remaining connected and expressive with a full vocal range.
The students apply the skills of good speech to Shakespearean text. Using the Chorus speeches from Henry V, actors integrate the work with other disciplines being studied. Attention is given to the music of text, phrasing, inflection, rhythms, alliteration, assonance and consonance. Emphasis is on flexibility, knowing the demand of the text and remaining true to one’s emotional life. In the second semester, the knowledge of I.P.A. and basic good speech is applied to learning a variety of English dialects in common theatrical use.
The Suzuki Method is a rigorous physical and vocal discipline for actors created by Tadashi Suzuki and his company. Drawing on a unique combination of traditional and innovative forms, the training strives to restore the wholeness of the body as a tool for theatrical expression.
FILM SCENE STUDY
Students learn to deepen their understanding of specificity with on-camera study. Students perform scenes in front of the camera and then watch the work with their peers. This class helps the student understand the technical aspects of filmmaking and develop the skills required when working in front of a camera.
Students learn to use acting and directing skills specifically in order to perform monologues fully and spontaneously. Great attention is paid to making the whole audition as professional, positive and effective as possible, including entering the room, making introductions, interacting with auditors and exiting.
Students also learn how to evaluate their auditions effectively so that they can learn from every audition.
Professional Casting Directors examine how on-camera acting differs from acting for the stage. Students are videotaped as they work on prepared material. They explore on- and off- camera auditions, including: Monologues, Cold Readings, Audition Sides, Callbacks and the Interview Process. Students gain confidence and experience in front of the camera, as well as the necessary skills to aid them in winning the role.
A technical approach to Shakespeare immerses students in the nature and practice of poetry. Students learn to revolutionize the imagination and to investigate the experience of passion.
This course is geared toward freeing the actor from the judging mind and intellect in order to become fully aware of the stimuli both inside and outside of the body. This technique eliminates the blocks that inhibit the actors’ ability to act spontaneously on their impulses while increasing their physical vocabulary and range.
SKETCH COMEDY & PLAYWRITING LAB
Students are encouraged to take the initiate and discover what it’s like to create their own work. Playwriting fundamentals are dissected and writers/ First Principles are discussed. Students write, act and direct their own sketches, and then put together an evening of their best work at the end of each semester.