DePaul’s Drama School Reinvents Its MFA Acting Program | Phantom light
Twenty years ago, the actor Cherry Jones gave an interview to industry trade In the wings, where she touched on one of the issues facing those who hope to make it their job.
“I’ll tell you the thing that frustrates me the most right now for young actors: Graduate programs now in this country seem like the best way for a young actor to get a business card in this profession. This is where agents go to find their talent, and we all know you have to have an agent in this profession. So these kids are paying $ 30,000 a year for graduate school, which means they are dating. debts, unless they’re gentry, over $ 100,000. And there’s no way you can take that loan out in the theater. So these are people who go to programs drama in schools that then makes them run to Hollywood and pray they get a sitcom. There’s something really bad and I don’t know what needs to happen to restructure that. “
DePaul University School of Theater decided to tackle this problem by reducing their MFA program in action from three to two years. But Dexter Bullard, head of the school’s MFA actor program, says it’s not just about saving money for students. It is about giving them a more relevant training both for the profession of actor and for society as a whole. And in his opinion, reducing the cost of a prestigious but expensive MFA is also part of the recognition of institutional inequity. (According to latest issues available from DePaul, the annual tuition fee for the MFA is $ 36,534.)
“I’m not apologizing for that,” Bullard says of the impetus to save money. “What we are able to do is reduce the price of a degree by a third. When you talk about someone entering the world of theater or theater or whatever they do, it is getting really critical. I’m ‘I’m not going to wait for legislation, fundraising or endowments to do it one way or another, if that’s not what happened historically, right? The theater school also guarantees scholarship support for all students accepted into the MFA program, which will expand its field of applicants from ten to 14 students per year.
Bullard notes that due to COVID, last year was the first time the drama school did not have an incoming class of MFA applicants in the acting program. “The reason was that few people would choose a year of distance education for their first year,” he says. This meant that there was a window of opportunity to reconfigure the classes that should be included in the new two-year curriculum. “We only had to delete nine routes,” he explains.
Among the changes, Bullard notes, voice and speech lessons will begin earlier, in recognition that most MFA students come with a better foundation in these skills than in the past. There will now be four acting classes on camera, instead of two. The school’s emphasis on Meisner technology will be reduced, although individual teachers may still emphasize this in their classrooms.
The biggest change is that the program will now focus even more, as Bullard puts it, on “applied theater, anti-racism, community theater.” These things are going to be huge in the program compared to what they were before. As much as we do professional preparation, we also do human preparation. [We’re looking at] artists as agents of change, and really seek to escape the dominance of one story in theater and let multiple stories come out of the unique people we bring into the program. More and more, this is what we want agents to do too. We have always been a program that is heavily invested in self-use, in the organic act of themselves, not trying to fit into the mold of another successful actor, but of your own success. And we want to encourage the casting world to understand that this is a high priority. Yes, qualified people, but bring people from all walks of life just to make the job richer, whether on stage or on film. “
Emphasis is also placed on MFA applicants as creators of their own work or collaborators in equally designed pieces. Says Bullard, “We know the only way to break the kind of limited production resources that have been put forward for non-writers of color, for young people, is that they have to be able to start telling stories. not just as an actor in a play or a movie – this is always important – but they will become stronger when they themselves understand what the writing process is and become a writer of their own content . “
Changes at Collaboraction
At the end of this month, Dr Marcus Robinson, the current managing director of Collaboration, will step down from this role to become the new co-director of Enrich Chicago (next to Nina D. Sánchez), the non-profit association dedicated to the fight against racism in Chicago’s cultural sector. Robinson’s time at Collaboraction matched the company’s transition to a theater expressly dedicated to social change and justice, and he helped promote new programs, such as the sold-out Peacebook Festival at home. of Collaboraction at Kennedy-King College, one they chose after moving out of the Flatiron Building in Wicker Park. A search is underway for his replacement. Meanwhile, the company is having a party with shows, food and drink to celebrate its 25th anniversary, Lunar sunrise, Thursday, June 24 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Rockwell on the River. Tickets cost $ 150, but less if you sign up as a “CollaborActivist” member at $ 25 per month. (COVID-19 protocols are in place.) You can also stream for virtually free by signing up as a member for just $ 1 per month on collaboration.org.
Playmakers Laboratory, formed in 1997, focuses primarily on directing the stories of Chicago Public School students through the long It’s weird, grandmother!, which continued in virtual form during the shutdown. But big kids can get in on the action by submit stories online before June 16. The tales selected with a “je ne sais quoi” will be interpreted by the troupe on Saturday June 26, as part of It’s weird, millennials!, a high-performance streaming service for the company. v