“The program is constantly putting you in a position of challenging yourself, of forcing you to the edge. The fruits of it are endless. You peel off layers till you get to the core. The peeling may hurt, but it's a good hurt — that's what you're here for! This is your chance to get your hands dirty, to be totally unsafe, to engage in something difficult and emotional and beautiful.” — Oscar Isaac, Group 34
Nurturing the whole artist
The Acting program at Juilliard addresses the whole artist: You will learn to bring your voice, body, mind, and emotions together to become any character from any tradition, classical to contemporary. You will have a diversity of experience, exploring plays that span the classic texts of Shakespeare and Chekhov to recent and brand new works.
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Jo Mei, Actor | Life After Juilliard
Theater is a uniquely collaborative art. You come to drama school and work on yourself to become as skilled, as imaginative, and as expressive as you can be. You do this not as an end in itself, or merely for yourself, but in order to be able to be part of an ensemble that tells other peoples’ stories and serves the broader community.
One singular aspect of the Drama Division is unique among all actor training programs. Since its founding, the Drama Division has engaged undergraduate and post-undergraduate students side by side. We have found that what makes a young artist ready for training—talent, dedication, generosity, curiosity, and the willingness and ability to grow—cannot be predicted by age or experience. Maturity, perspective, even rich, complex life experience is defined by how an individual intersects and meets a particular challenge. What counts here is courage, playfulness, self- discipline, and the willingness not to know. It is these qualities that span our full community and inspire a diversity of experience which promotes a much broader spectrum of growth. We contend that our diverse population is one of our richest assets and is one of the defining aspects of our community and creates a vibrant, productive, dynamic environment for every student.
The Actor Experience
In the four-year actor conservatory at Juilliard you will develop your skill, craft, artistry and humanity. We believe in nurturing the whole instrument—body, mind, and imagination. We are deeply committed to your growth as a person as well as an actor. Indeed we believe you cannot grow as an artist without becoming more fully alive and aware as an individual. We are dedicated to helping you cultivate an awareness of the tradition to which you aspire to belong, to develop your own artistic and personal point of view, and a sense of responsibility to our art and community. While we offer you below a brief summary of the actor experience, we believe you are on a life-long journey, one that started before drama school and continues long after graduation.
We often refer to the first year as the Discovery Year; a year to discover your blocks and your possibilities. In every discipline—voice, movement, improvisation, scene study—you begin to acquire tools and practice techniques that can strengthen and deepen the instincts you already have and open up new practices of awareness, expression, and imagination. Your self-consciousness starts to diminish and your powers of concentration, relaxation, and observation begin to grow. With your partners in exercises and scene study, along with your entire group in a series of rehearsal projects, you will discover how it is possible to make and reveal things together that you could never imagine or do on your own.
In the second year you begin to apply the skills you are learning in the various disciplines. You will start to experience the individual classes not as something separate from each other but as different aspects of the same thing—the craft of acting. You will find that technique serves the imagination and imaginative choices begin to demand greater skills. Through a series of four rehearsal projects, including work on American drama, Shakespeare, and Chekhov, among others, you will find that as you grow as an individual your ability to integrate with an ensemble also deepens. Paradoxically, the cohesion of the ensemble grows stronger as each of you finds what makes you unique as an actor.
The third year you start to integrate all you have learned. We believe that Shakespeare is the ideal author for this enterprise; his work calls on all your craft, artistry, and imagination. Therefore, a large portion of the year is devoted to his work resulting in an end of year presentation of two fully staged productions of Shakespeare plays performed in repertory on a modern version of the Globe Theater. Another significant element of the year is singing class–like Shakespeare, singing demands you embrace specific technical demands and scope with absolute personal revelation. As the year progresses you will be introduced to a series of Master Classes with guest artists expanding your vocabulary and your ideas of what might be possible. Production elements are introduced to your performance opportunities which are now open to the public. A naturalistic play, a piece with heightened physicality, Cabaret, and the Shakespeare Rep are all part of a year designed to be a crucible for the integration of your work and the beginning of your transformation from student to artist.
The fourth year marks a radical shift in the journey of our artists. This year serves as a bridge to the profession. You are rehearsing and performing in workshops, readings, and main stage productions. You are learning and practicing audition techniques for stage, film and television and participating in mock auditions with New York casting directors, agents, managers, and other theater professionals. The nature of the class work changes and is geared more to you as an individual as you work on specific roles in the season. You will have to manage the joys and burdens of free time. In short, you will begin to get a taste for the life of a working actor. Two important events mark the end of your experience here. Immediately following the closing performance of the season, the 4th year actors go together on a three-day silent retreat. This is a time for reflection and renewal of purpose as an artist and as a citizen before you move out in the professional world. After coming back to yourself and the ensemble you present your work to the industry in New York and Los Angeles in an evening of scenes that have been selected and worked on not merely as a showcase but as a reflection of your unique talents and spirits. This “bridge to the profession” year is designed to make your transition from graduation feel not like an end but rather a beginning as you stand ready to embrace a life of continued learning as a generous, skilled, and deeply committed artist.
Working with Playwrights
Under the direction of Marsha Norman and David Lindsay-Abaire, the Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program is woven together with our acting programs through Play Labs, staged readings, and workshop productions, providing an essential experience for our promising theater artists. Through these dynamic opportunities actors and writers collide together in their respective roles in the creation of vibrant new work. The Drama Division has served as an incubator for this work and many of these collaborations continue to flourish for years long after graduation.