MFA Specializing in Acting - NIU - School of Theatre and Dance

MFA Specialization in Acting


The focus is the cultivation of the student's fuller understanding of themselves and of human behavior to enable them to work within a framework of truth onstage. Actors achieve this ability through developing their imagination, their sense of conversational reality, their responsiveness and spontaneity, and their capacity for a full emotional life which can be expressed with meaning and clarity. The individual components of voice, movement, and technique work are taught concurrently as disciplines within themselves but sharing an essential interrelationship that supports the overall development of the performance training.

An important element of this approach is that an ensemble of graduate acting students is created that trains, works and performs as a cohesive unit for the entire tenure of the degree program. Students are not added to the program until the current group of students graduates, then a new ensemble is created. Consequently, applications to the program are accepted every three years. The next class will be formed for the Fall 2016 semester. Consequently applications to the program will not be accepted until the Fall of 2015.


  • have a well rounded performance technique
  • can live truthfully within imaginary circumstances
  • capable of a full involvement in the reality of doing
  • have a keen awareness that truth is established by a shared interconnectedness between actors onstage
  • have developed a strong, vivid, and compelling imagination
  • work with clarity and full inner life
  • have cultivated a work ethic which will support the collaborative nature of theatrical production
  • have an awareness of their emotional, physical, vocal, and intellectual capabilities and a knowledge of how to work within them
  • can clearly identify their character type and its potential range within the casting conventions of the theatrical community
  • are knowledgeable of a variety of types of dramatic literature and the challenges presented by each
  • are vocally and physically free and efficient
  • have a sense of how to begin to establish a career in acting
  • possess self-confidence and trust in their own work
  • perceive artistic growth as a lifelong proposition, and welcome rather than resist, new learning opportunities
  • will continue to develop their own approach to creating a performance throughout their careers
  • respect the art of theatre and the theatre in themselves, especially as both serve to illuminate the human condition


Candidates for the specialization in acting are required to audition in person. Every candidate must choose and present two memorized audition pieces, a classical selection in verse, and a contemporary piece. One selection must be in the comedic mode and one dramatic. The total time of presentation should not exceed four minutes. The acting candidate is also asked to supply the audition committee with at least one current photograph and a resume. An option of a DVD or digital file of the audition pieces may be accepted if the candidate lives 500 miles or more from DeKalb and is unable to appear in person. For more information, or to set up an audition, please email

Course Work

Students enrolled in the acting specialization will take a wide variety of courses including the following:

  • Stage Combat Acting Studio: On-Camera
  • Theatre History
  • The Business of Theatre
  • Topics in Theatrical Performance
  • Research Techniques in Theatre Arts
  • Period Style for Actors: Text Analysis
  • Period Style for Actors: Physicality
  • Acting Techniques
  • Advanced Voice and Diction: Freeing the Voice
  • Advanced Voice and Diction: Building the Voice
  • Advanced Voice and Diction: Voice Characterization
  • Advanced Voice and Diction: Stage Speech
  • Advanced Acting: The Actor's Inner Life
  • Advanced Acting: Clarity and Character
  • Advanced Movement: Relaxation and Response
  • Advanced Movement: Expression and the Body
  • Advanced Movement: Specificity
  • Verse Drama