Based on the work of Sanford Meisner, one of the most influential American acting teachers of the last century, this class focuses on strengthening the actor's emotional honesty and imagination. At the beginning of the program, the class focuses on listening, following impulses, trusting your instincts, working from moment to moment and working off of an acting partner. Through the course of the summer, the class completes a rigorous series of improvisational exercises designed to flex the actor's imagination and practice commitment to high stakes circumstances. Toward the end of the program, the technique is applied to two-person scene work.
In this class we do not play games as comic improvisers might for the purpose of learning how to be funny or to create sketch material but to develop spontaneity and truth in text-based performance. The improvisation class uses improv games and exercises to help the students become more aware of what's going on between them and to help them develop skills common to text work: inner and outer wants, subtext, obstacles, and physicalizing character. Towards this end, much of the class is devoted to playing games that increase understanding of what the other players are playing in the moment.
Based on the work of Steppenwolf ensemble member Tina Landau, this class encourages students to explore the physical and vocal possibilities of time and space. Central to forming a working, fluid ensemble, Viewpoints begins on day one and continues through the entire summer. Coursework covers the nine Viewpoints and their application to composition and scene work. This training helps students become more physically present, emotionally open, and free. Viewpoints has proven to be a profoundly important tool for developing ensemble skills.
Many actors have physical habits that affect their work in ways they may not be aware of. This class gently encourages you to be aware of, gain control and expand upon your physical self. Taught in two methods, group classes and individual sessions, Feldenkrais encourages you to find "Awareness Through Movement" (or ATM). Your body will re-align and reconnect, resulting in more emotional openness and physical grounding. During the one-on-one sessions (Functional Integration or FI) the instructor is able to guide you out of your habitual patterns of movement, towards a freer form of movement.
During the first trimester of the program, students work without text. We have learned that this releases you from the natural inclination to simply repeat what you already know about how you perform. Text work is slowly introduced into the curriculum in a careful and progressive approach. This second Trimester course encourages students to expand their critical thinking and investigation skills, vocabulary, and familiarity with new types of plays. Classes often start with discussion, leading to incorporation of the actor's first staging instincts, progressing from the table to up on your feet. Texts used in this class range from Shakespeare to commercial copy. This is truly text analysis for the actor, focused on mining a text for active choices and emotional inspiration.
Voice is one of the actor's primary expressive tools. Exploration of breathing, alignment, resonance, vocal variety and range, and clear articulation help the students create honest, free sound while connecting to the meaning of the text and expressing that meaning to the audience. Emphasis is also placed on training extended voice use, projection, and vocal extremes in a way that will keep the voice safe and healthy. Through large group, small group, and individual coaching students learn to integrate and apply the techniques to scenes, monologues, and text from other classes.
This third semester course will cover acting techniques specific to on-camera auditioning situations for film, television, and commercials. In addition to valuable on-camera experience and instruction from a leading Chicago casting director, this class will cover students' questions regarding the business, audition "do's and don'ts," audition etiquette, and the audition "interview."
Every actor working in theatre needs a repertoire of monologues that they can perform with skill and confidence. This course helps students find monologues that work; pieces that show off their strongest qualities, in an honest and grounded way. Even more importantly, this class gives students a chance to work on their monologues as they would any other text or monologue within a play, searching for active choices that connect the actor emotionally to an imaginary "partner."
A working actor must be trained to develop professional skills, as well as artistic ones. In a casual discussion setting, this third trimester course introduces students to industry professionals, casting directors, agents, and Steppenwolf ensemble members. By asking questions from other actors and industry professionals, we hope these seminars serve to de-mystify the audition and casting processes, and help our students embrace their careers as professional actors - both practically and financially.