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

    • Our MFA program has been ranked as one of the best such acting programs in the world by The Hollywood Reporter for the fifth year in a row. This year, the program ranks 15th.
    • Our MFA theater program accepts eight out of about 1000 applicants each year, awarding them a full three-year tuition waiver, a generous annual living stipend and invaluable experience at Tony Award-winning Cleveland Play House.
    • We’re regularly ranked among the top 25 drama programs in the world, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
    • Our three-year Master of Fine Arts program housed at Cleveland Play House (CPH) 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 performing and understudying 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 , managers and casting directors.
    • Membership in Actors’ Equity Association upon successful completion of the program.
    • Members in Actors’ Equity Association upon successful completion of the program.
    • An excellent financial package which includes a tuition waiver and a competitive stipend for all three years.


Abdul Seidu and Elizabeth Yancy in Fifth of July, 2019

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 (Stage Speech/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.

Mariah Burks and Peter Hargrave in She Stoops to Conquer, 2017

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. At this time their involvement with CPH expands with possible 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

  • Three years of intensive conservatory and academic graduate course work beyond the bachelor’s degree
  • 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.

In 1996, Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Play House joined forces to create a new Master of Fine Arts program in acting. The students begin their involvement with the Play House in their first semester, and their level of involvement steadily increases until, in the third year, they become professional interns at the Cleveland Play House.

The MFA in acting is a terminal pre-professional degree. Candidacy for the program requires an undergraduate degree with (ideally) a major in theater, equivalent training and experience, or demonstrable potential for work at the MFA level. In addition, candidates must provide evidence of technical skill and creative ability.

At the end of each semester in residence, the student’s skill and creative ability are evaluated in light of his or her work in the department. Only students who have clearly demonstrated growth and excellence are permitted to remain in the program. The award of the MFA degree is contingent upon the student’s academic progress and upon the assessment on the part of the faculty that the candidate possesses the potential to work in the field of theater on a professional level.

Requirements for the MFA degree include:

  1. A minimum of 82 semester hours of graduate work beyond the bachelor’s degree
  2. A cumulative grade point average of 3.0 for all course work on the graduate level
  3. Completion of the requirements for the MFA Thesis Portfolio
  4. Successful completion of the Third Year Internship at The Cleveland Play House

Course requirements and credit hours for the MFA in acting are as follows:

Courses in acting, including script analysis, acting theory, characterization, modernist playwrights, camera technique, and the classical canon. 24
Courses in movement, including mask work, physical awareness, and stage combat. 12
Courses in voice, including voice production, breath control, and integration with text. 12
Courses in speech, including stage speech, dialects, and verse and lyric drama. 8
Courses in dramatic text analysis and performance history. 5
Courses in thesis preparation. 6
Courses in professional orientation, showcase preparation, and internship. 15
Specific Course Listing:
THTR 401
Graduate Movement I
THTR 402
Graduate Movement II
THTR 403
Graduate Movement III
THTR 404
Graduate Movement IV
THTR 473
Graduate Voice Technique I
THTR 474
Graduate Voice Technique II
THTR 475
Graduate Voice Technique III
THTR 476
Graduate Voice Technique IV
THTR 479
Graduate Stage Speech I: Phonetics
THTR 501
Dramatic Text Analysis
THTR 509
Performance History
THTR 512
Graduate Audition Lab
THTR 530
Ensemble Technique
THTR 531
Graduate Acting I: Performance Process
THTR 532
Graduate Acting II: Ensemble Improvisations
THTR 533
Graduate Acting III: The Modernists
THTR 534
Graduate Acting IV: Shakespeare/Heightened Language
THTR 540
Seminar: Professional Orientation
THTR 579
Graduate Stage Speech II: Articulation
THTR 580
Graduate Stage Speech III: Dialects
THTR 581
Graduate Stage Speech IV: Classical Texts
THTR 601
Special Projects
THTR 610
Professional Internship
THTR 611
Professional Showcase
THTR 630
Performance Studio
THTR 642
Thesis Portfolio I
THTR 643
Thesis Portfolio II


Audition Procedure for MFA Class Entering in the Fall of 2025 (next class accepted Fall 2025).

We begin accepting applications on September 1, 2024 for auditions in December 2024 – February of 2025. These auditions are for the class entering in the Fall of 2025.

We ask you to visit HERE in order to upload application materials.

We require:

  • Letter of intent (describing why CWRU/CPH’s program interest you) and what your objectives are in training.
  • Two letters of recommendation from former directors and/or theater teachers.
  • Headshot and resume.
  • A complete application form.

Department Contacts- For information, you can contact

Donald Carrier, Director, CWRU/CPH MFA Acting Program, Phone: 216-400-7019, E-mail:

The Audition

We ask you to prepare two contrasting pieces (one Modern, one Shakespearean Verse) with a combined time of no more than four minutes in length.

Please go to our application page HERE for all pertinent information.

— There is no audition fee —


Financial Aid

The Case Western Reserve-Cleveland Play House MFA in Acting Program provides each graduate student with complete financial support. The yearly financial package consists of a full tuition waiver and a competitive stipend (spread over the 9 months of study) for 3 years.