Actor Training in US Higher Education

Today the profession has become even more competitive as an increasing number of actors are entering an unstable job market.

When the League of Professional Theatre Training Programs began in 1972 there were only a handful of university-sponsored acting programs, currently there are nearly 300. At the time, regional theatres contracted actors on a yearly basis thereby providing them with professional stability. This situation began to change during the middle-1970s when external sources of funding for these theatres decreased. Nevertheless, university acting programs have proliferated ever since. From Alaska and Hawaii to Florida and Maine, BFA and MFA programs have become ubiquitous at America’s colleges over the past twenty years despite the fact that the professional demand is simply not there.

Do our colleges and universities have a responsibility to prepare students for the limited employment opportunities awaiting them upon graduation?

Furthermore, most of these programs function under the auspices of a “theatre” department in which the actor training will consist of a curriculum and pedagogy designed for the stage. Given the extraordinary professional challenges confronting theatre actors, how do these programs justify a steady diet of movement and voice classes in conjunction with departmental productions of the likes of Shakespeare and Chekhov, when in reality they’ll be competing for Crest commercials and a guest spot on Law and Order in several years?

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