This fall thousands of BA Theatre majors around the country are going to be taking a wide variety of courses. And while many would say that every class in any major is important, there are some that deserve some extra effort and attention. Not just because of the workload that's involved, but the skills you learn in these classes are going to be vital to you as a theatre professional. Here they are.
Typical Description: A study of basic acting as a performance experience. Emphasis on fundamentals of performance including concentration, transitions, interaction and the structuring of action.
I cannot stress the importance of this class enough. It sets the tone for what can be expected from you as a performer for the next four years. In many cases, this class will explore not only you as an actor, but as a person as well. If you're in a smaller program, chances are this class is also being taught by the director of your productions, so it's a good way to get a sense for what this director looks for in performances. In some cases you might even be introduced to acting techniques you haven't used yet such as Stanislavsky and perhaps even Meisner (although I recommend that for higher level courses).
Typical Description: Introduces students to the skills and crafts of stage design. Students will be expected to learn about the materials, techniques, tools, and supplies for the basic execution of the environment.
One of the most attractive features of any aspiring theatrical professional is versatility. Knowing how to build sets and your way around a scene shop, will help you in many areas down the road.
Typical Description: This course concentrates on the fundamentals of corrective, old age, fantasy and special effects makeup. Students explore hands-on experience with highlights, shadows, wax sculpting and stage blood.
Again, coming back to the versatility aspect, knowing how to not only do your own makeup but also how to create various special looks will help you enormously down the road. The fact that I knew how to create a realistic scar got me two different jobs. I still actually have my original Ben Nye kit in my closet and use some of it every now and then.
Typical Description: Study of advanced acting technique through the analysis, discussion and presentation of contemporary and classical scenes. Emphasis on developing tools to improve the pursuit of an intention, partnering and moment-to-moment work.
The ability to break down a scene, study the intent, emotions and purpose behind it and communicate that with fellow actors is a priceless skill which many actors/directors struggle with. Any good BA Theatre program will have something like this a part of their curriculum.
Typical Description: A two course sequence which provides a comprehensive survey-seminar about world theatre history. Theatre History I traces theatre in the ancient world to 1650; Theatre History II covers 1650 to the present. Each course explores theatrical architecture, conventions, and literature as they interact with cultural movements. Each class requires significant dramaturgical, performance, archival, or writing projects.
Get ready, this class is going to be torture. There's no way around it. For really the first time in your theatre major, you're going to go through a class that is entirely made up of lectures, reading and lots of writing. If you're an actor, you're really going to hate it. Why else do you think most programs put this on the back end of your four years?
But this class is extremely helpful is learning about the history of theatre when it comes to time periods, culture as well as how the industry has changed.
Typical Description: Advanced study of auditioning technique for the professional theatre. Emphasis on developing appropriate theatre audition repertory. Unions, audition formats, performance opportunities, routes to a professional career, agents and managers will also be covered.
I'm going to be blunt and say that if your theatre program doesn't have a class like this or doesn't include it with another class, it's not doing all it can to prepare you to be an actor.
As I said earlier, this is not to say that the other classes you take aren't important. But if you want to be a prepared and educated theatre student, pay extra special attention during the time you’re in these classes.