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Introduction to Graduate Programs


Six Great Reasons to Study in the Case/Cleveland Play House MFA Acting Program:

    • A three-year Master of Fine Arts program housed at Cleveland Play House (CPH), which includes mainstage and understudy experience and ensemble performances in the Helen Rosenfeld Lewis Bialosky Lab Theatre housed in PlayhouseSquare (The Helen).
    • Two years of rigorous conservatory training including Acting, Voice, Speech, Movement, Period Styles, and Stage Combat taught by members of the CWRU theater faculty, resident artists of Cleveland Play House and exciting guest artists.
    • A third-year residency at CPH understudying and performing in the mainstage season. Classes continue in Acting for the Camera, Audition Technique, and Professional Development.
    • A New York City Showcase before an audience of agents and producers directed by New York Casting Agent Paul Fouquet, of Elissa Myers Casting.
    • Membership in Actors’ Equity Association upon successful completion of the program.
    • An excellent financial package which includes a full tuition waiver and a competitive stipend for all three years.


Helen Rosenfeld Lewis Bialosky Lab Theatre

Helen Rosenfeld Lewis Bialosky Lab Theatre

The collaborative MFA Professional Actor Training Program between Cleveland Play House and Case Western Reserve University is a three-year program which is housed in the Play House complex. This intimate program is designed to train a theater artist capable of performing skillfully in a variety of roles from contemporary to classical genres, and to provide both technical skills and an aesthetic sensibility for a successful career in the professional theater.

Throughout the three years of training, the acting, voice, speech, and movement teachers work in concert to assess the individual student’s progress, and integrate the various disciplines in ways that will create maximum flexibility, freedom of expression, and dynamic range, all geared toward instilling the skills, discipline and an aesthetic of craft which will produce a distinctive and effective actor able to encompass the full range of professional demands.

These objectives are pursued in an environment that integrates the educational, artistic and professional resources of one of the oldest academic theater programs in the United States (Case Western Reserve University) and the nation’s first regional theater (Cleveland Play House).

The program accepts a class of eight actors every other year. These students will spend each year of their study in classes at the Cleveland Play House. The small class size, and the fact that students are accepted only every two years, allows the program the flexibility to tailor curriculum and performance experiences to suit the specific training needs of each class and individual student.


Course of Study

In the first year of study, students are immersed in intense and rigorous classes in Acting (Contemporary Techniques), Movement, Voice, Speech (Skinner/IPA), and Text Analysis culminating in an end of year performance in the Helen Theatre at CPH.   The apprenticeship with CPH begins this year with classes/workshops with resident and visiting artists, introductions to all incoming casts, directors and designers, and Company status at all CPH functions.

Program graduate Elizabeth talk with Ron Wilson and current students about performing in "Once" and life in New York.

Program graduate Elizabeth talk with Ron Wilson and current students about performing in “Once” and life in New York.

The second year students continue their intensive training and perform in two fully mounted productions in the Helen Theatre.  Coursework continues in Acting (Chekhov & Ibsen – The Modernists, and Shakespeare/Heightened Language Texts), Voice, Speech (Dialects & Classical Text), and Movement (Period Styles & Commedia). At this time their involvement with CPH expands with possible performance or understudy assignments on the mainstage to participation in CPH’s New Ground Theatre Festival.

The third year MFA students perform in their fourth production at the Helen, and appear as cast in the season at CPH. Depending on the extent of mainstage opportunities, other performances are developed, such as workshop productions and/or fully staged repertory presentations. At the end of the third year of the program, MFA candidates present a showcase audition for producers, agents and casting directors in New York City.

Upon successful completion of the program, the student is awarded a Master of Fine Arts degree in Acting, along with the opportunity to join Actors’ Equity Association, either through accumulation of weeks through the Equity Membership Candidate program, or through assignment of an AEA contracted role.


The Academic Structure

  • A minimum of 60 semester hours of graduate work beyond the bachelor’s degree
  • A cumulative grade point average of 3.0 for all course work on the graduate level
  • Performance in the graduate ensemble productions and Cleveland Play House season as assigned
  • Departmental assessment of student progress on a semester-to-semester basis


Thesis Portfolios

  • The Portfolio will consist of detailed, articulate account of the actor’s rehearsal process and related preparation for the performance of at least three roles created during their MFA course of study.
  • Content of the portfolio will include a narrative outlining the synthesis of craft and class work with research directly relevant to the creation and performance of the role, and how this synthesis affected the actor’s choices in rehearsal and performance. The portfolio will include a minimum of three roles, two of which must be “major” roles.
  • Each year, once roles in the theater’s production season have been assigned, MFA acting students will meet with their advisors to determine roles which might be included in the thesis portfolio.
  • In the final semester of the third year, the Thesis Portfolio is turned in to the students’ Faculty Advisor in a timely manner. Satisfactory completion of the portfolio and the third-year internship are among the requirements for the awarding of the MFA degree.