Acting (M.F.A. and Certificate)

Tamilla Woodard, Chair

The Acting program admits talented and committed individuals from a wide range of backgrounds who possess a lively intelligence, a strong imagination, a collaborative ethos, and a physical and vocal instrument capable of development and transformation, and prepares them for work as professional actors. The program of study combines in-depth classroom training with interdisciplinary production opportunities. At the same time, the state of our nation and our field calls all theater makers to prioritize anti-racist practices and pedagogies in order to create a more just and joyful profession. At the conclusion of their training, graduates will be prepared to work on a wide range of material in multiple genres and venues.

The first year is a highly disciplined period of training, with a concentration on the basic principles of craft that lead to extraordinary acting. Models of realism are explored through work on a variety of scenes by contemporary and modern playwrights, as actors identify practical tools for mining the printed text for given circumstances, character, objective, and action. The second year begins with a focus on verse drama and creating embodied performances of Shakespeare. In the second term of the second year, the emphasis on developing an expansive sense of truth through heightened and extended language continues with work on diverse texts from world literature. The third year includes work on the plays of Bertolt Brecht, Suzan-Lori Parks, and other challenging writers, as well as the development of original self-scripted solo projects. Students also have multiple courses in learning to work on camera and in front of a microphone, transferring their techniques to the mediums of film and audio recording.

School production opportunities include work in a wide-ranging season of directors’ thesis productions, Shakespeare Repertory Projects, new plays by student playwrights, and program projects led by faculty or a professional director. All casting is assigned by the chair of the Acting program (pending approval by the dean) based on the needs of the project as articulated by its director, the developmental needs of each student, and the desire to achieve a balance of collaborative opportunity. Actors should take note of the casting policy, described under Program Assignments. During the academic year, acting in projects outside the School is strongly discouraged, and permission to do so is rarely given.

Yale Repertory Theatre serves as an advanced training center for the program. All Acting students work at Yale Rep as understudies, observing and working alongside professional actors and directors. Students may be cast in Yale Rep productions during the season, depending upon their appropriateness to the roles available. Through work at Yale Repertory Theatre, those students who are not members of Actors’ Equity will attain membership upon graduation.

Yale Cabaret provides an additional, although strictly extracurricular, outlet for the exploration of a wide range of material, including self-scripted pieces, company-devised original work, adaptations, and musicals. The program’s chair works directly with the Yale Cabaret artistic directors regarding approval of Cabaret participation by actors. Actors who are double cast may not participate in Yale Cabaret productions.

As adult learners in training for a demanding profession, students are expected to attend all classes in their curriculum.

During the 2021–2022 academic year, Wellness Practice sessions will be offered on weekdays from 9 to 9:40 a.m. (exact dates to be announced). The sessions, led by faculty members from the Acting program, are open to all members of the School and Yale Rep community and will be offered in person with live participation, with the possibility of virtual sessions as needed. For full details, see Self-Care and Wellness in the chapter Training at David Geffen School of Drama.

The Acting program will also continue to offer the School and Yale Rep community a Conference Hour from 12:40 to 2 p.m. on Friday afternoons several times throughout the academic year, in person or live online. The Conference Hour invites students, faculty, and staff to be in conversation with theater practitioners and other creatives whose art-making centers justice, equity, and anti-oppression. Inspired by Toni Cade Bambara’s quote “The role of the artist is to make the revolution irresistible,” the goal of the Conference Hour is to provide access to extraordinary thinkers and doers in the field who are shaping culture and whose many different perspectives, experiences, and methodologies may encourage and influence our own acts of radical imagination toward a more inclusive, just, and sustainable world.

Plan of Study: Acting

Class of 2024

Required Sequence

Year two (2021–2022)
Course Subject
DRAM 50a The Theatrical Event
DRAM 51b New Play Lab
DRAM 103a/b Acting I
DRAM 113a/b Voice I
DRAM 123a/b First-Year Accents and Dialects
DRAM 133a/b The Body as Source
DRAM 143a/b Alexander Technique I
DRAM 153a Play
DRAM 163b Text Analysis I
DRAM 180a Rehearsal Practicum: Meeting the Play
DRAM 403a/b Introduction to Combat and Intimacy for the Stage
DRAM 563a Activated Analysis II
DRAM 863a Authentic Collaboration
Year three (2022–2023)
Course Subject
DRAM 163a Text Analysis II
DRAM 203b Acting II: Plays of Extended and Heightened Language
DRAM 213a/b Voice II
DRAM 223a/b Second-Year Accents and Dialects
DRAM 243a/b Alexander Technique II Tutorials
DRAM 263a/b Clown
DRAM 273a Character Analysis and Movement
DRAM 283a Shakespeare Embodied
DRAM 405a Advanced Principles of Stage Combat
DRAM 413a/b Singing II Tutorials
Year four (2023–2024)
Course Subject
DRAM 207b Carlotta Tutorial
DRAM 233a The Body on Set
DRAM 253a Commedia
DRAM 303a Acting III
DRAM 303b Actor Showcase
DRAM 313a Voice III Tutorials
DRAM 323a/b Third-Year Accent and Dialect Tutorials
DRAM 343a/b Alexander Technique III Tutorials
DRAM 363a Creating Actor-Generated Works
DRAM 423a/b Singing III Tutorials
DRAM 463a On-Camera Acting Technique
DRAM 463b Taming the Cyclops: How to Do Your Best Work in an On-Camera Audition

Class of 2023

Required Sequence

Year three (2021–2022)
Course Subject
DRAM 203b Acting II: Plays of Extended and Heightened Language
DRAM 213a/b Voice II
DRAM 223a/b Second-Year Accents and Dialects
DRAM 243a/b Alexander Technique II Tutorials
DRAM 263a/b Clown
DRAM 273a Character Analysis and Movement
DRAM 283a Shakespeare Embodied
DRAM 405a Advanced Principles of Stage Combat
DRAM 413a/b Singing II Tutorials
DRAM 863a Authentic Collaboration
Year four (2022–2023)
Course Subject
DRAM 207b Carlotta Tutorial
DRAM 233a The Body on Set
DRAM 253a Commedia
DRAM 303a Acting III
DRAM 303b Actor Showcase
DRAM 313a Voice III Tutorials
DRAM 323a/b Third-Year Accent and Dialect Tutorials
DRAM 343a/b Alexander Technique III Tutorials
DRAM 363a Creating Actor-Generated Works
DRAM 423a/b Singing III Tutorials
DRAM 463a On-Camera Acting Technique
DRAM 463b Taming the Cyclops: How to Do Your Best Work in an On-Camera Audition

Class of 2022

Required Sequence

Year four (2021–2022)
Course Subject
DRAM 233a The Body on Set
DRAM 253a Commedia
DRAM 303a Acting III
DRAM 303b Actor Showcase
DRAM 313a Voice III Tutorials
DRAM 323a/b Third-Year Accent and Dialect Tutorials
DRAM 343a/b Alexander Technique III Tutorials
DRAM 353b Play and Story
DRAM 363a Creating Actor-Generated Works
DRAM 423a/b Singing III Tutorials
DRAM 463a On-Camera Acting Technique
DRAM 463b Taming the Cyclops: How to Do Your Best Work in an On-Camera Audition
DRAM 723a Voices for Animation
DRAM 743b Audition Workshop
DRAM 753b On-Camera Workshop
DRAM 863a Authentic Collaboration

Courses of Instruction

DRAM 3a/b, Toward Anti-Racist Theater Practice This course meets both within individual programs and across disciplines, with students and faculty members as fellow learners, using readings, viewings, and discussions in pursuit of these goals: to identify the roots and branches of racism and white supremacy in the structures and practices of theater making in the United States, including at the School and Yale Repertory Theatre; to interrogate where the practices do harm and hinder; and to invest in the future by inviting students and faculty to imagine and uplift systems and cultures that do not depend upon or promote supremacy, to build a more just and equitable field.

DRAM 50a, The Theatrical Event See description under Directing.

DRAM 51b, New Play Lab See description under Playwriting.

DRAM 103a/b, Acting I The first year of scene study focuses on the plays of major twentieth- and twenty-first-century American playwrights in the first term and on the plays of Chekhov and Ibsen in the second term. The class is an all-encompassing exploration of the principles and craft that lead to exceptional acting. Actors engage in a rigorous investigation of text, personalization, character development, and character-specific listening in order to lift language off the page and translate it into the dynamic exchange of energy that stems from human need. Gregory Wallace

DRAM 113a/b, Voice I The first year of voice training is structured as a progression of exercises/experiences designed to liberate the individual’s natural voice from habitual psychophysical tensions; to connect image, intention, and emotion to breath and sound; to develop the voice’s potential for expression and awaken the actor’s appetite for language; and to promote vocal ease, clarity, power, stamina, range, and sensitivity to impulse. Midori Nakamura, Walton Wilson

DRAM 123a/b, First-Year Accents and Dialects Speech training seeks to broaden the actor’s range of imaginative vocal expression and to deepen the actor’s sensory relationship to language. Actors conduct a rigorous examination of their own speech habits, idiolects, and linguistic identity through exploration of vocal physiology. To encourage speech that flows freely from impulse and breath, the approach uses exercises that are actively rooted in the whole body rather than being limited to the surfaces of the mouth. The exploration of phonetics through the study of fundamental phonemes for the dialects of American English encourages flexibility, specificity, and transformation while lifting the actors’ speech from habitual patterns to mindful, embodied choices. In the second term, the actors broaden the boundaries of their language use through the study of dialects in connection with dramatic text. Cynthia Santos DeCure

DRAM 133a/b, The Body as Source This course focuses on the relationship between physical precision and spontaneity. Students are encouraged to temporarily shed the “social body” in order to access and embody the farther reaches of the imagination, to deepen the body/emotion connection, and to strengthen their abilities to commit more fully, directly, and immediately to physical impulses and acting choices. The class utilizes various training exercises and includes some application to character creation, the playing of actions, and use of text. Erica Fae

DRAM 143a/b, Alexander Technique I Offered in all three years through class work and private tutorials, this work develops the actor’s kinesthetic awareness, fosters balance and alignment, and, through breath work, promotes the connection between voice and body. Fabio Tavares, Jessica Wolf

DRAM 153a, Play This course explores the actor’s playful spirit and the notion of the theatrical event as “game.” Through a series of games and improvisation and composition exercises, students develop complicity with fellow actors/the audience and discover qualities of openness, spontaneity, generosity, and attack as they are encouraged to take risks, access their imagination, and play fully with their voice and body. Exercises explore status, focus, scale, presence, flow, and impulse while delving into the mysterious nature of “le jeu,” the actor’s pleasure in playing. Justine Williams

[DRAM 163a, Text Analysis II Not offered in 2021–2022]

DRAM 163b, Text Analysis I This course seeks to provide students with tools to mine the printed text for given circumstances, character, objective, and action, noting the opportunities and limitations that the printed play script presents, and promoting the freedom and responsibility of the actor as an interpretive artist. James Bundy

DRAM 180a, Rehearsal Practicum: Meeting the Play See description under Directing.

DRAM 203b, Acting II: Plays of Extended and Heightened Language Language in plays written prior to the twenty-first century comes in all shapes and sizes: poetic, heightened, extended, and more. This course explores the challenges of these plays and gives actors the opportunity to employ a variety of tools that are being developed during their second year of training. Actors work on material chosen specifically to expand their emotional commitment to character, imagination, and language. By deepening their experience with these plays and characters, actors gain the confidence necessary to approach these roles in the professional arena. Mary Lou Rosato

[DRAM 207b, Carlotta Tutorial Not offered in 2021–2022]

DRAM 213a/b, Voice II In the second year of voice training, students focus on meeting the demands of heightened text with rigorous clarity, emotional depth, and generosity of scale. Continued release work on the body, coupled with a larger array of vocal skills and increased imaginative capacity, gives actors access to their most expansive selves in order to serve the characters in classical plays. Walton Wilson, Grace Zandarski

DRAM 223a/b, Second-Year Accents and Dialects The second year of speech training continues to expand the actor’s range of vocal and imaginative expression and deepen sensory relationship to language as applied to dramatic texts. Intensive study of dialects and the fundamental phonemes for the dialects of American English provide multiple opportunities for the experience of character transformation and creating idiolect. Beth McGuire, Joshua David Robinson

DRAM 233a, The Body on Set This course deepens the training of the energetic body and explores how the body can be a fertile resource for the actor’s work for film, television, and new media. This approach to psychophysical work helps the actor create specific characterizations, supports the actor through multiple takes, and can guide the actor in everything from scaling performance for various lens sizes to managing a typically limited rehearsal process. Erica Fae

DRAM 243a/b, Alexander Technique II Tutorials This work develops the actor’s kinesthetic awareness; fosters balance and alignment; and, through breath work, promotes the connection between voice and body. Bill Connington

DRAM 253a, Commedia This course explores the classical archetypes of the commedia dell’arte. It makes use of mask, physical articulation, sound, and rhythm to develop the transformational power of the actors. When the mask is alive and impulses begin to travel with abandon through the physical psychology of the body, the student begins to understand the actor/audience relationship in all its ferocious beauty. The work is primarily improvisational with the actor/creator at the center of the theatrical conversation. Christopher Bayes

DRAM 263a/b, Clown This course focuses on the discovery of the playful self through exercises in rhythm, balance, generosity, and abandon. The blocks and filters that prevent the actor from following impulses fully are removed. It allows the actor to listen with the body and begin to give more value to the pleasure of performance. Once actors learn to play without worry, they begin to discover the personal clown that lives in the center of the comic world. Christopher Bayes

DRAM 273a, Character Analysis and Movement This class explores some anatomical fundamentals of movement through a rigorous daily warm-up. Movement phrases are embodied investigating weight, intention, direction, and freedom. Original movement creations, musical theater styles, contact improvisation, and some vernacular dance forms are also done in class, culminating in combinations of text and movement where creative freedom in the physical realm is emphasized. Warm-up clothes are worn. Jennifer Archibald

DRAM 283a, Shakespeare Embodied An examination of the clues embedded in Shakespeare’s language as keys to character and action, guiding actors to passionate, imaginative, embodied relationships with Shakespeare, his people, and his world. A collective exploration of the interface between the actor’s identity and Shakespeare’s characters, and how we play Shakespeare in 2021. Monologues chosen by the actors, in consultation with the instructor. Daniela Varon, Walton Wilson

DRAM 303a, Acting III The first term of the final year of training begins by engaging works of theater that explore performance beyond naturalism and psychological realism. Starting with the works of Bertolt Brecht and proceeding with the adventurous text of other playwrights of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, including Eugène Ionesco, María Irene Fornés, and Aleshea Harris, actors work on scenes that stretch their imaginative capacities and call on them to combine various strategies and tools gathered in their training to test the boundaries of truthful and authentic expression beyond realism, while also opening up their awareness of the political and social dimensions of these writers’ work. Running through the term is work on individual interview projects in which students embody and give voice to the verbatim text of persons they have interviewed, employing the fundamental tools of performance: deep and profound listening, while bringing to bear a synthesis of their vocal and physical training to date. Tamilla Woodard

DRAM 303b, Actor Showcase In their final term, students choose and rehearse scenes, which are presented to agents, managers, casting directors, and other members of the industry in New York and Los Angeles. Gregory Wallace assists in the scene selection process, with input from Ellen Novack, Daniel Swee, Tamilla Woodard, and others. Paul Mullins directs the Showcase.

DRAM 313a, Voice III Tutorials The third-year curriculum continues the work of expanding vocal capacity, flexibility, endurance, and expressivity in order to prepare the actor to play any character in any space with ease. A variety of methodologies, including extended vocal techniques, are applied to resonance, range, and vocal extremes such as screaming and shouting. Gentle release work, designed to free the body from habitual muscular tension, is used to stimulate breath and sound, and enhance overall presence. This class also focuses rigorously on applying voice work to text with the implied goal of empowering actors to trust their voice, follow their imagination, and bring life to language on the stage. Walton Wilson

DRAM 323a/b, Third-Year Accent and Dialect Tutorials There is often a deep-rooted crisis of identity for the actor when engaged in transformation. This can be felt profoundly when actors shift from their own idiolect into another idiolect or accent. The shift involves technical, artistic, and spiritual elasticity, and most importantly, self-trust—a trust that the transformation will be truthful, personal, and authentic in relation to the project at hand. Speech tutorials focus on how actors individually can build their toolbox in relation to their origins and elasticity. Materials for the tutorials can be text evolving from DRAM 523 or any areas of speech and text work that the actor wishes to explore. Louis Colaianni, Beth McGuire

DRAM 343a/b, Alexander Technique III Tutorials See description under DRAM 243a/b. Fabio Tavares, Jessica Wolf

DRAM 353b, Play and Story In the last term of their final year, actors come full circle in their training, revisiting the fundamental principles and forms of play and storytelling. This course is an invitation to reconnect with essential impulses of play, to fully embody and convey story, and to enter into collaborative creation. Justine Williams, Tamilla Woodard

DRAM 363a, Creating Actor-Generated Works The goal of this course is to create actor-generated works for the theater. Students answer these questions: What are they passionate about? What are they longing to express? What are their concerns and desires? Using many techniques of discovery and exploration, the actors create theater works that spring from the answers to these questions. The resulting works celebrate the actor’s individuality and diversity, encouraging access to ethnic roots and traditions. Joan MacIntosh

DRAM 403a/b, Introduction to Combat and Intimacy for the Stage This course is designed to provide the first-year actor with an understanding of the techniques and safety measures employed in the practice of theatrical violence and intimacy. While investigating these techniques through individual, partner, and group physical exploration and exercises, we also build an understanding of collaboration, consent, organic response, and a deeper knowledge of the physical self and the group dynamic. Kelsey Rainwater, Michael Rossmy

DRAM 405a, Advanced Principles of Stage Combat Building on the techniques learned in the first year, this course is designed to provide the second-year actor with an understanding of the techniques and safety measures employed in the practice of armed theatrical violence. We deepen the understanding of proprioception and weapon awareness when working with a partner and within a group. Upon learning these techniques, we engage in a deeper exploration of dramatic situation and characterization. Kelsey Rainwater, Michael Rossmy

DRAM 413a/b, Singing II Tutorials This work explores the interplay and integration of imagination, intention, and breath, and the coordinated physical processes that result in a free and expressive singing voice. The actors gain experience in acting sung material through the active investigation of the emotional, linguistic, and musical demands in songs and musical scene work. Glenn Seven Allen

DRAM 423a/b, Singing III Tutorials See description under DRAM 413a/b. Anne Tofflemire

DRAM 453b, Independent Study: Yale Summer Cabaret Students who want to participate in the Yale Summer Cabaret may audition to be a performer or interview for positions in production, stage management, and administration. Yale Summer Cabaret offers an opportunity to participate in an ensemble company producing plays for the School, the larger Yale University community, and the city of New Haven. Through the Summer Cabaret, participating students gain hands-on, collaborative experience in all aspects of producing and performing a full summer season. Auditions and interviews are open to non-Acting students. Chantal Rodriguez

DRAM 463a, On-Camera Acting Technique This course introduces students to working on camera. Brief scenes are filmed the way films are shot: with master shots, two shots, over-the-shoulder, and close-up shots. The takes are edited into films, which are watched and critiqued. Various exercises on film are explored; and in each class, strong performances from well-known films are viewed and discussed. Ellen Novack

DRAM 463b, Taming the Cyclops: How to Do Your Best Work in an On-Camera Audition In this class, students shoot, examine, and reshoot audition scenes from all genres of film and television, helping them acquire the necessary skills to audition successfully both in the audition room and on self-tapes. The class also includes workshops and meetings with some of the leading professional casting directors, agents, managers, entertainment lawyers, and actors working in the industry. All of this provides students with the skills and information needed to make a smooth transition into the professional world. Ellen Novack

DRAM 563a, Activated Analysis II An introduction to a methodology for actors and directors developed from Stanislavski’s final experiments. Through a progression of explorative readings, students chart all known given circumstances, building a visceral connection to the world of the play. They also investigate the unanswered questions of the text—zeroing in on those that excite their imaginations and pique their artistic curiosity—and begin to personalize them through études. Taught in conjunction with DRAM 180a. Annelise Lawson

DRAM 633a/b, Anti-Racist Theater This is an acting class taught through the lens of anti-racism. The work incorporates theater exercises, social and restorative justice, cultural competency, self-care, and anti-racist theory to create an embodied experience where participants learn to utilize their sphere of power to disrupt white supremacy culture. This year, the course will host DRAM 3a/b, Toward Anti-Racist Theater Practice. Nicole Brewer

DRAM 723a, Voices for Animation This course is an introduction to creating voices for animation. Students explore a variety of speech exercises including shifting vocal tract posture, tone, placement, and tempo to develop unique character voices. Actors practice embodying their original character voices and learn tools to sustain the voices consistently in performance. Cynthia Santos DeCure

DRAM 743b, Audition Workshop This workshop addresses the complex social and artistic dynamics of theater auditions and gives students a chance to further develop their personal practice and craft in preparation for pursuing opportunities in the field. Students receive sides to prepare, work with a reader, and are asked to make adjustments in real time, as well as to observe each other closely with generosity in an effort to develop confidence in best practices and their own individuality. James Bundy

DRAM 753b, On-Camera Workshop In each class, actors practice in front of the camera in close-up and medium shots with sides from movies and television shows in a variety of genres. The focus of the class is on the individual student’s process, concentrating on each student’s distinctive artistic choices with the material, while promoting a sense of ease and confidence working in front of the camera.

DRAM 783b, Solo Performance This writing and performance course uses practicums and tutorials to guide interested actors through the powerful tradition of solo performance, storytelling, and playmaking. Geared to engage rising third-year actors in the time-honored tradition of solo performance, the aim is that students look to earlier generations of artists who utilized “what they would” in order to craft compelling, intimate, and powerful storytelling. Each student is expected to share a portion of a new or revised solo performance of the student’s own crafting. Tarell Alvin McCraney

DRAM 863a, Authentic Collaboration Artists and their organizations are often urged to “collaborate,” and indeed, many of us recognize the value of collective work. Yet, few of us are formally trained to create together. In this one-week intensive class, students explore seven collaborative principles, illuminated by their own experiences, which serve as a springboard for exploring how theoretical models can be converted to practical skills. A discussion of the five interactive strategies of effective collaborators leads to two hands-on collaborative projects, offering a visceral opportunity to actually practice collaborating in an environment free from the production pressures in which collaboration is usually encountered. Written and visual support materials are provided. Ben Krywosz

DRAM 863b, Anti-Racist Rehearsal Coordinator (ARC) Fundamentals 1 This is a course for actors who are interested in training as Anti-Racist Coordinators and rehearsal and process facilitators. Nicole Brewer