Statement of Philosophy

We believe that the actor is a special and unique artist who seeks to communicate a view that may provoke, entertain, instruct or emotionally move audiences. Actors are the one indispensable element of a theatrical production because they are the primary vessel of communication. Additionally, actors have the courage to reveal and share strong feelings with an audience while remaining open to public discussion of their work. They are committed to an art form in which mastery of technique may take years of patient work. With this in mind, we take the training of the actor/artist very seriously and seek to instill in the student a knowledge of and respect for the art of acting.

The B.F.A. Acting Specialization at USD seeks to help the actor develop a flexible instrument, a voice, body and sensory apparatus which permits the actor to work with the psychological realism found in modern drama, film, and television, and with the specialized style demands of the classics. Specific systems of role and text analysis (adapted from Robert Cohen, Uta Hagen and Francis Hodge) are integrated with this work on the instrument to develop within the actor a process for creating a role.

Actor training at USD is eclectic and embraces different yet complementary approaches to the teaching of the acting process. Included in the training is exercise work in the American method, a derivative of Stanislavski's work. The method pursues a two-pronged approach to actor training. The first is the actor's work on the self; the second is the actor's work on creating a role. The work on the self includes:

  • Releasing tension
  • Developing concentration
  • Training the actor's sensory instrument

Work on the self is integrated into the process of creating a role. Both character biography and text analysis are applied to this process in the classroom performance. For this, scenes from plays representing a cross section of dramatic literature are used.

Voice and movement instruction also serves as an important function in the actor's training. The voice training seeks to develop effective breathing, projection, resonance, articulation and use of the voice as a communication tool. To further that goal, instruction in the Lessac voice system with supplementary work from Cicely Berry's vocal technique is used. Additionally, a class in dialects is offered to train the student in acquisition of the 3-5 most common dialects used in professional theatre: British RP, West Coast Irish, Cockney, Queens/Long Island and American Southern. The movement training seeks to improve movement skills and expressivity through focused work on centering, releasing and developing new tools for characterization. Included in this work are exercises from The Alexander Technique, Rudolph Laban, Michael Chekhov's psycho?physical technique, improvisation and mask. Two semesters of stage combat are also offered to supplement the actor's training in movement.

The actor also receives instruction and guidance in the professional aspects of launching a theatre/film career. Auditioning techniques, acting for the camera, work-finding strategies and survival tactics are a few of the areas covered. Finally, actor training at USD is process?oriented. Training is systematic but not formulaic. The actor is encouraged to continue the study and practice of acting throughout his or her life.

Program Objectives

  • Prepare the student for a career in theatre;
  • Foster personal and creative growth;
  • Provide the student with a process for analyzing and preparing a role for performance;
  • Prepare the student to utilize his or her vocal, physical, and sensory instrument effectively in performance;
  • Foster within the actor a proactive approach to finding employment in the theatre;
  • Foster within the student a sense of responsibility for one's own artistic exploration and performance;
  • Foster respect for acting.

Specific Outcomes

Upon completion of the B.F.A. Acting Specialization, the student will possess a general knowledge of dramatic literature, theatre history, and technical theatre production. In addition, the student will have a comprehensive knowledge of the acting process and will, specifically, be able to:

  • Release tension;
  • Facilitate concentration;
  • Use his or her sensory instrument in the creation of a role;
  • Analyze plays representing different historical periods and theatrical genres;
  • Create a character through a system of analysis which includes a character biography and text analysis;
  • Meet the specific demands of acting in plays representing different historical periods and theatrical genres;
  • Demonstrate clear, articulate, and expressive speech with absence of regionalism;
  • Utilize the body effectively as a tool for characterization;
  • Demonstrate a knowledge of effective audition technique and the actor's work-finding process;
  • Be able to adapt to different directing styles and work situations.