Young person sitting on trunk of car in Studio Theatre production

What to expect-

Our professional acting training program includes a flexible model and curriculum, allowing for ensemble building, individual attention, and mentorship. Our goal is to build on strengths and broaden approaches to craft by using our classrooms, rehearsal halls, and theaters as places to risk, process and reinvent.

The tuition free three-year graduate acting program leads to a terminal professional degree in theatre performance. Graduate actors meet daily in four-hour sessions with our professionally active faculty and guest artists including acting, movement, voice and speech. Students spend three years in residence, in approximately 12 hours of class each semester. MFA actors will also have the opportunity to teach and co-teach classes at the undergraduate level, working closely with theatre faculty on pedagogy, planning,  and classroom practices. At the conclusion of each semester, faculty instructors provide comprehensive individual evaluations of each student’s progress.

MFA actors will also have opportunities to audition and form relationships with Casting Directors, Directors, Playwrights and Theatre Leaders from companies across the country. Recent audition guests have included NYC Casting Directors Rob Decina (CBS) and Pat McCorkle, and representatives from Steppenwolf, The Goodman, Chicago Shakespeare, Chautauqua Theatre Company, Milwaukee Rep, American Players Theatre, Utah Shakespeare Festival, Illinois Shakespeare Festival, Montana Shakespeare Festival, St. Louis Shakespeare, and others. Guest Artists include: Playwrights Luis Afaro, Nancy Garcìa Loza, Kristen Joy Bjorge, and José Rivera Directors Chuck Smith, Kimberly Senior, Barbara Pitts McAdams, Myeongsik Jason Jang, and Madeline Sayet and Actors Rainn Wilson, Rutina Wesley, Behzad Dabu, and Lindsay Smiling.

Auditions

Illinois Theatre will next audition nationally in Spring 2022 for our next cohort, consisting of 10 MFA Actors. Actors accepted will begin the program in August 2022.

 

ON FRIDAY, DEC. 17th 2021 U/RTA MADE THE DECISION TO MOVE ALL NEW YORK AND CHICAGO AUDITIONS TO ONLINE-ONLY EVENTS. U/RTA WILL BE UPDATING PARTICIPANTS SOON.

 

LOS ANGELES

U/RTA National Final Auditions, January 14-15

*Virtual*

NEW YORK CITY

U/RTA National Final Auditions, January 21-24

*VIRTUAL AS OF  12/17/2021*

UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS-only independent auditions, January 21-24

CHICAGO

U/RTA National Final Auditions, January 30-February 1

*VIRTUAL AS OF  12/17/2021*

UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS-only independent auditions, January 30-February 1

ON CAMPUS

UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS-only independent auditions, January-February 2022

We will also schedule individual on-campus auditions at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. Please contact David Swinford at the Department of Theatre (dswinfor@illinois.edu) to schedule an on-campus audition or University of Illinois-only independent audition in New York, Chicago, or San Francisco.

Prospective students are strongly urged to apply to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign prior to their audition.

The three-year graduate acting program leads to a terminal professional degree in theatre performance. Graduate actors meet daily in four-hour sessions including acting, movement (including stage combat), voice and speech.

Young person sitting on trunk of car in Studio Theatre production

Assistantship Information

The Department of Theatre sets aside Graduate Assistantships for MFA Acting students each year. In the current academic year, graduate assistants received a total financial package of at least $23,975 for a level 1, ¼ -time assistantship. This package includes a full tuition waiver (up to the 60 credits required) as well as the following benefits:

  • Tuition Waiver
  • Medical, Dental, and Vision insurance
  • Annual Stipend of $9,5000 – $12,500
  • Multiple Grant/Fellowship opportunities

Students recruited with assistantships may expect three years of support so long as they make satisfactory progress in their studies.

MFA Curriculum and Performances

During their time here, MFA acting students will work with texts from the full scope of dramatic literature, with an emphasis on re-centering the canon. In addition to language-rich and contemporary works, actors will also be exposed to solo performance, devised theatre, contact improvisation, clowning, and stage combat. Research and study accompany performance in order to stimulate fresh interpretations and a thorough understanding of each play, period, and style.  Electives may be taken in theatre history, dramatic literature, playwriting, and directing. Performance opportunities occur in productions of the Department of Theatre on the stages of the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts and the Armory Theatre, our student produced black box space. Graduate actors will also have the option to appear in a showcase for industry professionals at the end of their 3rd year.

MFA Acting classes meet Monday through Friday afternoons. Each semester includes physical and vocal preparation, acting scene work, skill development in voice, speech, and movement. Students immerse themselves in work on heightened language texts, contemporary plays, and stylistic challenges. Emotional connection and effective communication are central to the development of voice and speech skills. Movement training includes a layered approach exploring mask work, clowning, stage combat, and the development of effective practice for dynamic performance.

Acting Courses

MFA Acting classes meet Monday through Friday afternoons. Each semester includes physical and vocal preparation, acting scene work, skill development in voice, speech, and movement. Students immerse themselves in work on heightened language texts, contemporary plays, and stylistic challenges. Emotional connection and effective communication are central to the development of voice and speech skills. Movement training includes a layered approach exploring mask work, clowning, stage combat, and the development of effective practice for dynamic performance.

Acting students receive credit for performances in the productions of the Department of Theatre and are encouraged to seek summer acting work beyond the campus to support their classroom learning.  MFA actors have been hired to work at The Alliance Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, St. Louis Shakespeare, American Players Theatre, Utah Shakespearean Theatre, Illinois Shakespeare Festival, Montana Shakespeare Festival, Arkansas Shakespeare Festival, Theatre at Monmouth, and Chautauqua Theatre Company.

FOUNDATIONS

Exercises and scene work focus on identifying and strengthening aspects of acting practice including the building of a creative ensemble.

SOLO PERFORMANCE

Actors write and perform an original solo performance piece.

ACTING IN REALISM

Actors work on approaches to characterization drawn from realistic plays of the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries.

ACTING IN HEIGHTENED LANGUAGE AND SHAKESPEARE

Students explore the texts of Shakespeare and contemporaries from the global majority with attention to language and verse, character and action, passion and size.

ACTING FOR THE CAMERA

Techniques of acting in commercials, TV Film and modern media.

VOICE AND SPEECH

Based in the Linklater Voice method, classes focus on relaxation, breathing, resonance, range and articulation as well the integration of the voice and the imagination with the text. Students also explore phonetics, heightened texts, dialects and voice-over techniques for audiobooks and animation.

MOVEMENT

Students engage in intensive work every week to deepen their physical awareness, embodiment, and articulation. The actor’s facility is expanded, enabling inspiration and affectability. Skills and systems include the Alexander Technique, Viewpoints, and mask-work, as well as extensive training in Stage Combat leading to the certification test with the Society of American Fight Directors.

HISTORY

MFA Acting students select at least one class in Theatre History and/or Dramatic Literature.  Courses vary from semester to semester and include subjects in World Theatre, Musical Theatre and Opera, Classical Drama, Shakespeare, African-American Theatre, Latinx Dramatists, and Asian-American Theatre.

ELECTIVE COURSES

The Department of Theatre offers courses in Playwriting, Directing, Dramaturgy and Arts Management.  Many other courses are offered from departments beyond the Department of Theatre.

For more information please contact Tom Mitchell at tomitche@illinois.edu .

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