Directors begin with a class emphasizing text analysis. They work on a few small directing projects to enable the assessment of their strengths and weaknesses. They also take an acting, movement, or voice and speech class, enhancing their work as directors and becoming part of the community of actors. In total, four elective classes are required in acting, movement, and voice and speech.
We encourage directors to serve as an assistant director for one of our mainstage productions. Assuming this responsibility early in their training helps directors observe not only how a particular director creates a production but also how to assimilate to the production culture and creative environment in which work takes place. A class on research methods, followed by a seminar on teaching, completes the Fall Semester.
Two directing classes are taken in the second semester: an introduction to directing contemporary plays of style (such as those by Coward and Wilde), and a class devoted to realism.
The latter class provides the context for the first year project: a full-length contemporary realistic play with a small cast and simple setting, chosen by the director and approved by the faculty. This play becomes the main work of the class and leads to a specific production.
While working on the production, the director and faculty are engaged in further assessing and improving the basic skills of directing: staging, actor communication, and text analysis.
Work on the full-length play focuses on the development of a dramatic and theatrical point of view. The goals of the project include the articulation of the theme of the play, its motivating force, and its value for artists and audience. The director creates a detailed rehearsal schedule and works with actors on specific behavior scene by scene. He or she collaborates with designers on a simple yet evocative design.
The faculty member teaching the class guides the director through the process of page to stage, observes rehearsals, and fosters rehearsal methods suitable to the play. There is a public presentation of three performances and all performance faculty attend the production. Feedback and evaluation are provided in a formal meeting with the director.
A class in history/theory/literature and another acting, movement, or voice and speech class is also taken in the spring semester.
The teaching of basic acting begins in the spring semester. The Director is assigned one class to teach while receiving regular guidance from a faculty member.
In the second year of training, directors usually serve as an assistant stage manager for one of our major productions. We encourage them to work on a style of play that is not familiar to them but in which they have an interest. While they enhance their appreciation for the role of stage management, they also witness a play of particular interest to them as it is interpreted, rehearsed, and presented in production.
Class work in the first semester involves further training in style—either Shakespeare or non-realism. Directors take additional classes, as in the first year, from the remaining electives in acting, movement, and voice and speech.
In the second semester, another class in history/theory/literature is taken in addition to two other classes—usually acting and/or movement, or voice and speech. Directors are encouraged to take a class in a department such as English, Film Studies, or Telecommunications. If they are directing in the first semester of their third year, they are also encouraged to create an Independent Study project related to their thesis.
The second-year creative project is a fully produced play in our theatrical season with eight performances. The M.F.A. director knows what play he/she will be directing early in the second semester of their first year. An assigned faculty advisor meets with the director to help set artistic goals, while guiding the process of interpreting the play and articulating a production. The advisor attends production conferences and rehearsals, advises on casting, and offers overall feedback and guidance for artistic growth and the accomplishment of the director’s goals.
The director teaches two sections of basic acting and/or the second level of acting. Guidance from a faculty member continues to be part of the teaching process.
In the third year of training the director takes the remaining styles class, either Shakespeare or non-realism. Coursework includes thesis hours (if directing their thesis production) or an independent study related to their thesis production (if directing in the second semester).
An off-campus assistant directing position at a professional theatre, for which credit is given, is usually arranged for the director.
In the last semester of training the director takes the last class in history/theory/literature. Other work includes thesis hours (if directing their thesis production), and one or two other elective classes not limited to those in the department.
The third-year creative project is again a fully produced play. It is the thesis production for the director.
The thesis committee is comprised of three faculty members chosen by the director. Two are from the acting/directing faculty, and the third is from outside the area, either from within or outside of department. Ideally, all members should have specific perspectives and complement each other in the work of guiding and advising the director. One main advisor oversees the entire process.
Teaching continues in the third year, with the director teaching two classes per semester at the introductory and/or secondary level of acting.