The Performance concentration of the Department of Theatre Arts builds upon the core requirements of the Theatre Arts major by offering courses in three primary areas—the investigation of disciplines (voice, movement, approaches to acting), the acquisition of skills and skill sets (such as tap dance, stage combat, period styles), and the application of process (such as scene study, rehearsal & performance).
We approach the study of acting from a liberal education perspective. All forms -- drama, comedy, musicals, improvisation, and devised theatre -- require effective acting. Beyond the core courses required of all majors within the Performance concentration, students may follow a course of study that most suits their needs, be it a focus on musical theatre, voice and speech, physical theatre, or Shakespeare. All forms have unique demands, but all require that the actor have a solid foundation in playing actions with imagination, an intellectual and emotional connection to the material and fellow players, and an expressive voice and body.
The Acting sequence of the Performance concentration is founded upon the traditions of action-based pedagogy derived from such sources as Stanislavski and Sanford Meisner. Acting is doing within the imaginary world of the play. This work is enriched by the innovations of physical, emotional, and ensemble-oriented theatre practices, characterized by such theorists/practitioners as Rudolf Von Laban, Jerzy Grotowski, Joseph Chaiken, and Viola Spolin.
Classes include Acting I, the foundation for all performance courses; Acting II, the exploration of the acting process and application of that process to text; Acting III, focusing on heightened theatrical language and Shakespeare; Scene Study, the investigation of specific genre or styles of playing such as Epic, Greek, and Restoration drama; and Acting IV, a preparatory class for entering the profession, culminating in a showcase of scenes and monologues for an audience of industry professionals.
Voice and Speech
Voice and Speech is taught through a sequence of three classes with a variety of methodologies: Fitzmaurice voice work, Lessac work, and the exercises of Cicely Berry and Patsy Rodenberg. Students gain a working knowledge of safe vocal practice and learn the fundamentals of clear speech and rich vocal expressiveness in Speech for the Stage. A Dialects course is offered, and Advanced Voice and Speech examines the intersection of voice work and acting. Students will gain a solid working knowledge of their instrument and their craft.
Movement introduces students to universal tools for the actor: grounded alignment, breath, focus, flexibility, presence, stillness, weight shifts, and ability to direct energy from their center to a partner, ensemble, and environment. Movement will be offered and layered in a sequence of three classes using methodologies that include Feldenkrais, Viewpoints, Chekhov, Yoga, Composition, and Trish Arnold work among others. A variety of physical warm-ups throughout the three classes will offer students a disciplined way to work with themselves outside of class and as they continue on after graduation.
Students interested in Music Theatre performance may select a sequence of courses that emphasize acting through singing and movement. Instruction and reinforcement in principles for the singing actor is offered through Voice for Theatre I and Voice for Theatre II. Dance Theatre includes classes in Jazz Dance, Tap Dance, and Ballet. Music Theatre Workshop synthesizes techniques learned in advanced voice and movement classes, with Acting II, for a studio environment to learn how to transition from “scene to song” in traditional and contemporary music theatre literature. An historical foundation class, American Musical Theatre, traces the development of the musical from a socio-cultural perspective, and a Music Theatre Singing Ensemble offers the opportunity for students to concertize the music theatre repertoire in a large, show-choir setting.