Professor Cecil O’Neal, Division
Professors: Rhonda Blair, Kevin Paul Hofeditz, William Lengfelder, Cecil O’Neal, Stan Wojewodski. Associate Professors: Michael Connolly, Charles Helfert, Russell Parkman, Sara Romersberger, Gretchen Smith, Claudia Stephens, Steve Woods. Assistant Professors: Leslie Brott, James Crawford, Jonathan Greenman, Ashley Smith. Adjunct Professors: Linda Blase, Stephen Leary, Melinda Robinson, Giva Taylor, Kathy Windrow. Lecturer in Stage Management: Brad Cassil.
The Division of Theatre offers three-year specialized professional training programs in acting and stage design leading to the Master of Fine Arts degree. The graduate training programs are committed to professionalism in attitude and practice. Only students with a serious interest in the theatre as an art — committed to self-development and prepared to work responsibly and collaboratively in their discipline — should expect to enter and continue in graduate study.
The Division of Theatre is part of the Meadows School of the Arts, housed in the well-equipped facilities of the Owen Arts Center. These include the Bob Hope Theatre (a 400-seat proscenium theatre), the Margo Jones Theatre (a 125-seat “black box” theatre), the Greer Garson Theatre (a 380-seat theatre with a classical thrust stage), the Ruth Collins Sharp Drama Building and the Jake and Nancy Hamon Arts Library.
The Division of Theatre presents an annual subscription season of full-scale public productions chosen for their suitability for training, timeliness and public appeal. All theatre students are considered members of the Division of Theatre, and practical experience is considered a vital part of the theatre training program.
The Division of Theatre observes a highly selective admissions policy in its graduate programs. Classes in acting and stage design (approximately eight students in each program) are admitted in alternating years. Prospective students in all areas are strongly encouraged to visit the campus to gain a keener appreciation of our training, the environment and the University.
The acting faculty auditions applicants for graduate study in acting. Applicants can choose to audition in Dallas, at the University/Resident Theatre Association’s three venues or at a number of our own national sites. Appointments for on-campus auditions can be made by contacting the Meadows Student Affairs Office. On-campus auditions require the preparation of two (2) monologues: one taken from a classical play and one from a modern or contemporary play for a total of four (4) minutes or less. Students may sing but are not required to do so.
The design faculty interviews applicants for graduate study in scenery, costume and lighting design. Applicants can choose to interview in Dallas, at the University/Resident Theatre Association’s three venues or at a number of our own national sites. Appointments for on-campus interviews can be made by contacting the Division of Theatre.
The M.F.A. Acting program balances the development of the actor’s unique skills with the acquisition of technique. The program seeks to train actors of integrity, capable of artistic excellence in a variety of venues. The acting studios form the program’s spine. First-year studio focuses on the actor’s self, identifying habitual performance behaviors and reshaping the instrument to respond more organically and efficiently to psychophysical stimuli. Second-year studio emphasizes the development of classical technique through immersion in Shakespeare and other classical authors. The third year addresses the remaining and unique needs of each class and augments students’ skills with classes in professional development. Comprehensive training in movement, voice, speech and textual analysis augments and enriches every term of the studio process.
Third-year students participate in showcases in New York and Los Angeles. Additional professional outreach is provided by annual professional auditions, in which casting directors, agents and artistic directors from regional and summer theatres audition students in the graduate program. Internships, both formal and informal, with professional theatres in Dallas provide students with significant opportunities for professional growth.
The M.F.A. Stage Design program is committed to the philosophy of supporting the development of artists who will passionately embrace the interpretation of words into visual imagery. A Master of Fine Arts from SMU will emphasize the process of artistic collaboration, especially with directors; the pursuit of artistic skills including drawing, painting and drafting, necessary for communication; the development of critical thought and the ability to articulate ideas; and the acquisition of professional standards that prepare the student for a meaningful and productive life in the theatre.
Training in design is based on a balance of classroom work and fully-realized productions. The first year of study includes extensive classroom projects and the development of foundational artistic and collaborative skills, culminating in the design of the playwrights’ festival, New Visions, New Voices. All students acquire comprehensive skills in scenery, costume and lighting design. The second year will focus the student as a theater designer, drawing upon prestigious programs of excellence in the Meadows School of the Arts and including designing in the Theatre Division season. During the third and master year, the student prepares for the professional world with opportunities to exercise collaborative, artistic and management skills not only in the Theatre Division, but at professional venues that include, but are not limited to, the Dallas Theater Center and the Shakespeare Festival of Dallas.
The Theatre Division normally expects graduate students to be in residence for six terms during the regular academic year. Since the program of study includes both classroom and production activities, graduate students must obtain permission through the Division Chair before engaging in any other study, production work or outside employment. The M.F.A degree requires a minimum of 66 credit hours.
At the end of each term, the faculty of the division evaluates the development of each graduate student. All aspects of the student’s work come under scrutiny. The heads of the respective programs oversee and coordinate the review process, collating faculty evaluations into a review document.
The review process culminates in an assessment of the student’s overall progress toward degree completion. Students who receive unsatisfactory reviews will be placed on probation. Failure to address the concerns raised in the review within the following term will result in the probationary student’s dismissal from the program.
At the end of the first year, a faculty evaluation of the progress and potentiality of each student determines whether that student should continue into the second year.
The faculty reserves the privilege of recommending candidates for the M.F.A. degree only when it has been satisfied that students have demonstrated unquestionable professional competencies in the area of study.
5101, 5201, 5301. Directed Studies in Theatre.
5398, 5399. Production Research and Development. Script analysis, background research and performance design for actors, designers and directors.
6101, 6201, 6301. Directed Studies in Theatre.
6216. Theories of Modern Theatre Practice. An examination of the role theory has played in the development of modern and postmodern theatre practice. Significant attention will be devoted to theorist/practitioners working prior to 1960: Wagner, Appia, Craig, Stanislavski, Brecht, Artaud, the Prague School and Grotowski. After 1960, readings and viewings will foreground myriad issues, among them the formative impact of theories of textuality, semiotics, colonialism, race and gender on contemporary theatre constructs.
6217. Text Analysis II. Development of analytical skills in verse drama from Aeschylus to Derrick Walcott. Focus will rest on the text as a blueprint for action.
6315. Text Analysis I. An interdisciplinary and integrated approach to the analysis of modern and postmodern dramatic literature for acting, design and directing students. Students will acquire the skills necessary to use texts as the blueprints for interpretation and/or departure. Reading, discussion and written analyses of selected texts will form the basis of class interaction, but secondary critical literature will be used selectively to foreground key issues. Texts will range from Dumas fils (c. 1850) to contemporary dramatists.
6338. Shakespeare in Contemporary Performance. A course that makes the Shakespearean text accessible to the contemporary actor, student and audience through performance. Political, social and humanistic aspects of Shakespearean drama are examined as they relate to contemporary society. Intense scene study workshops culminate in public performance.
5114. Stage Makeup. Instruction in basic stage makeup, wig and hair styling and beard building.
5205, 5206. Movement I-II. Exploration of the actor’s self through immersion in physical skills for the theatre, including T’ai Chi Ch’uan, corporal mime, improvisation, juggling, hatha yoga, unarmed stage combat, animal-style wu-shu and foil fencing.
5207, 5208. Voice for the Stage I-II. A series of progressive exercises/experiences designed to introduce basic principles of physical, vocal and imaginative freedom, encouraging the removal of psychophysical barriers to sound production and developing the voice’s sensitivity to impulse, power, flexibility and range. Organic exploration of sounds of speech, using IPA pillows and sound and movement improvisations. Text work includes development of self-scripted solo pieces, exploration of poetry and song and the application of voice work to modern dramatic texts.
5209. Applied Movement I. Body work as it pertains to economy of movement, alignment, proper use, kinesthetic awareness, strength, flexibility and freeing the physical instrument. This course includes acrobatics, the Lecoq 20 movements and Neutral Mask, as well as physicalization of text, improvisation and ensemble projects employing the physical work investigated throughout the term.
5210. Applied Movement II. Continuation of body work as it pertains to economy of movement, alignment, proper use, kinesthetic awareness, strength, flexibility and freeing the physical instrument. This course includes acrobatics, the Lecoq 20 movements and Neutral Mask, as well as physicalization of text, improvisation and ensemble projects employing the physical work investigated throughout the term.
5298, 5299. Production Research and Development. Script analysis, background research and performance design for the actors and designers.
5303. Acting I. Studio focuses on defining a fundamental acting process. Stress is placed on the identification of behavioral blocks, channeling impulses into uncluttered and organic psychophysical connections and using the text as a blueprint for action. A mix of exercise, improvisation and scene study with materials drawn from modern American realism as well as the early modernist plays of Ibsen, Strindberg and Chekhov.
5304. Acting II. Studio focuses on defining a fundamental acting process. Stress is placed on the identification of behavioral blocks, channeling impulses into uncluttered and organic psychophysical connections and using the text as a blueprint for action. A mix of exercise, improvisation and scene study with materials drawn from modern American realism as well as the early modernist plays of Ibsen, Strindberg and Chekhov.
6107. Voice for the Stage V. A continuation of the voice and speech curriculum to further enhance the actor’s technique, reinforce good vocal usage and address any outstanding habits or issues in the actor’s process.
6108. Voice for the Stage VI. A culmination of the voice training with forays into other media. Cold readings and the use of a microphone for commercial and radio work will be addressed to prepare the actor for entry into the profession.
6111. Applied Voice I. The application and acquisition of speech sounds and the International Phonetic Alphabet to expand the actors’ technique, flexibility and range. Ideas of standardization and the identification of habits and regionalisms are addressed.
6114. Improvisation. Graduate-level exercise of actor spontaneity and intuition through theatre games and improvisation.
6205. Movement III. The extension of energy and physical listening skills. Skills taught include quarterstaff, rapier and dagger, court sword and broad sword.
6206. Movement IV. An opportunity for the student to process personal experience into the movement and sound of a character. Skills taught include clowning, LeCoq figures and neutral mask.
6207. Voice for the Stage III. Continued exploration and reinforcement of basic physical, vocal and imaginative freeing processes through the classic Linklater voice progression. Introduction to structural analysis of Shakespearean text. Application of voice work to speaking of Shakespeare and other period texts: scenes, monologues and sonnets.
6208. Voice for the Stage IV. Further deepening of the voice foundation work set out in previous terms and expanding the breath connection, range and resonance using a variety of challenging texts. Shakespeare, Shaw and Milton are examples of texts used to enlarge the actor’s palette as well as explore how to use the voice in different venues, spaces and media.
6209. Applied Movement III. Continuation of body work, improvisation and ensemble projects as they apply to acting. This course offers additional Lecoq-based work using character mask; physical inquiry into the young, old and animals; and their relationship to creation of a physical characterization and connectedness (word to action).
6210. Applied Movement IV. Continuation of body work as it pertains to economy of movement, alignment, proper use, kinesthetic awareness, strength and flexibility. This course uses character mask, physicalization of text and the Lecoq work with the elements to connect the work to the acting process.
6212. Applied Voice II. An extension from speech sounds and IPA into the research and application of dialects and accents.
6214. Acting for the Camera. An intensive approach to acting for film and television. Students will work with actual scripts and copy.
6303, 6304. Acting III-IV. Focus placed on the actor in the classics. Scene study work begins with the Greeks, moves to Shakespeare and culminates with work in Molière, Restoration drama and Shaw.
6313. Business Aspects of the Professional Theatre. An introduction to business skills and self-marketing for the professional, including audition preparation: compiling résumés, photographs, cold readings, monologues and scene work for repertory, summer theatre and professional theatre casting.
6503, 6604. Acting V-VI. The expansion of the actor’s technique through extensive exposure to contemporary dramatic texts and performance demands.
5221, 5222. Scene Design I-II. An introductory course for designers focusing on the communication skills (visual and verbal) necessary for collaborating with the director and the other artists in the theatre. Included is a design seminar that explores the text relative to its literary, musical, social and historical influences.
5223, 5224. Costume Design I-II. An introductory course for designers with emphasis on the application of design principles and the use of research materials.
5225, 5226. Lighting Design I-II. Fundamentals of learning how to see, exploring the mind’s eye and painting with light. How to translate theatrical moments and music into lighting sketches, story boards and atmospheres. Developing points of view and approaches. Fundamentals of the tools of the lighting designer and assistant skills and techniques are studied.
5257, 5258. Designing with Computers. An exploration of the tools for computer image creation and their applications. Software used includes, but not limited to, AutoCad, MiniCad and Adobe Photoshop.
5351, 5352. Scene Design III-IV. A continuation of the study of scene design incorporating individual class projects with the intensive study of style and genre.
5353, 5354. Costume Design III-IV. An intermediate course with emphasis on play analysis, character relationships and techniques of presentation.
5355, 5356. Lighting Design III-IV. Continued study in the art of lighting design. Advanced atmosphere creation, professional techniques and specialized approaches are explored. Professional assistantships are assigned to selected students.
5379. Computer Assisted Design. Students will learn the fundamentals of computer-assisted design, using Vectorworks and Spotlight, in application for the theatre. 2D work will be emphasized. Some time will be spent on 3D work as well. Drafting, as such, will not be taught. It is assumed that the student has an understanding of mechanical drawing and its conventions. The course will focus on how to apply that knowledge using a computer.
6119, 6120, 6121, 6122. Drawing For Designers I-IV. Drawing and painting from life with emphasis on developing designers for the stage. Emphasis is on the exploration of various media, development of the individual artist and collaborative projects. Each student advances at her/his own pace.
6215. Text Analysis for Designers. An interdisciplinary and integrated approach to analysis of modern and postmodern dramatic literature. Students will acquire the skills necessary to use texts as blueprints for interpretation and/or departure.
6316. Portfolio. Preparation of the designer’s portfolio for entry into the profession. Presentation, layout and content are discussed, planned and executed according to each student’s primary adviser.
6317. Business Aspects for Designers. An introduction to business skills and self-marketing for the freelance-working professional designer, including information about union membership, contracts, agents, portfolio presentation, résumés, pension and health plans and taxes.
6319. History of Design: Fashion, Architecture and Interiors. An historical survey of fashion, interior design and architecture and how they relate to designing costumes and scenery for theatre, film and television.
6351, 6352. Scene Design V-VI. Master’s class in scene design. Practical study of the integration, collaboration and exploration of the design process with other theatre artists.
6353, 6354. Costume Design V-VI. Master’s class in costume design. An advanced course with emphasis on the design and execution of both theoretical and practical costume projects for the various theatrical media.
6355, 6356. Lighting Design V-VI. Master’s class in lighting design. Practical study of the integration, collaboration and exploration of the design process with other theatre artists. Professional assistantships and internships are assigned to select students.
6361. Textiles. Explores various fabrics and materials used in costume construction, millinery and crafts for theatre and film. Skills, such as dyeing, distressing and fabric painting, and various methods of fabrication will be included.
6362. Advanced Skills in Painting. The study of specific technical skills for the practical application of painting on scenery and costumes.
6373. Draping I. A study of pattern making that utilizes both the three dimensional approach of draping fabric on a dress form and drafting patterns by formula. Students will learn to drape a basic, bodice, skirt and collars. They will create a basic sleeve pattern by formula. They will manipulate these patterns to achieve a variety of shapes.