What are the good Acting MFA programs currently?
April 12, 2010 7:07 PM   Subscribe

Any current or recent Acting MFA students out there? What are the good programs right now?

Mrs. starvingartist is looking for a theater MFA program. She graduated with her BA in Acting in 2005 but has been working as a semi-professional actor and general theater artist in the Cleveland area for 10 years. She is an excellent teacher and her desired goal is to teach theater on a college level. As far as we're aware, most college theater programs won't hire you without an MFA. These are the criteria she's looking for:
  • A program that is well-balanced between the classics and contemporary works
  • A program that places a strong emphasis on stage combat - we are both fighters and choreographers
  • A program that accepts a well-rounded group of students, not just young Hollywood or New York-bound ingenues and studs
  • A program that doesn't mind accepting older students - think early 30s
  • A program that waives tuition for MFA students and/or offers a fellowship for teaching low-level undergrad classes like Theater 101
We will of course be doing our own research, but it would be nice to get some current firsthand opinions. Thanks!
posted by starvingartist to Education (2 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I am not an Acting student, nor an MFA, but there's a really interesting program at Mary Baldwin College in Virginia, the MFA in Shakespeare Studies, that is kind of an acting bolstered by academics program. I think it probably fulfills points 3 & 4, possibly 5 and 2, but probably not 1 so much. Here's the website.
posted by Saxon Kane at 7:30 PM on April 12, 2010

I am not in the acting program, but as a Dramaturgy MFA student at Columbia, I've worked with the actors a lot (in fact, my thesis was dramaturging the Actors' Thesis production). I've found the actors to be smart and well-rounded, from a bunch of different backgrounds. They work with all the divisions (directors, playwrights etc); we have a Collaboration class, and then there are separate projects. The program has a decidedly international bent, and I definitely was one of the youngest going in right after undergrad; early 30s would not be strange.

Currently the actors take stage combat with Qui Nguyen, founder of an awesome stage-combat-heavy (think action/adventure, comic book "geek theatre" aesthetic) stage company called Vampire Cowboys. Of course the program is in NYC but not everyone stays there. The actors do their share of academics with what time they have (it's a really rigorous program), work with a bunch of neat folk like Olympia Dukakis and Kristin Linklater, and we get special awesome guests in all the time because, hey, they're close by and the professors are pretty darn well-connected. The other perk is free tickets, free tickets, did I mention free tickets? To shows from off-off-off-Broadway to Broadway. It's a great cultural education.

The only negative is that it's pricey and there's not much in the way of scholarships. There are some teaching opportunities in the summer, some writing classes during the year, and many of the actors do a half-tuition-cut fellowship in their second year, doing marketing or taking care of a rehearsal space or assisting a professor, like I did. To be honest, I'm not sure if the actors had that much time to do any teaching work. The third year, there are no classes, just a thesis and showcase. There's also a partnership with Classic Stage Company, doing Shakespeare. The actors go from Euripides (yay my thesis) to work that was written yesterday at the drop of a hat.

You can take a look at the website the actors in my year made for themselves here and if you are particularly interested, I could always put you in touch with someone. Best of luck!
posted by ilana at 10:21 PM on April 12, 2010

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