UTK Department of Theatre

College of Arts & Sciences

MFA Acting Concentration: The Arc of the Training

Year One: Foundations

In the first year of training, we establish sure foundations.  Process takes precedence over performance.  Alexander Technique is introduced and two individual tutorials per week begin.  We begin a daily regimen of practice with voice, speech, movement, and scene study. Clown, mask, and other workshops often supplement at this stage.  Much of the work is about the actor becoming freer, more personally available, more fully expressive.  Basic tools for effective approach to a script are also thoroughly practiced, mainly with modern realistic texts.  Theatre history, theory, and research skills are introduced, so that the emphasis on modern realism is understood in a broader context.  Some first year actors may be cast in CBT productions, according to production needs weighed in the balance with training needs.  Most first year actors begin to work in the CBT in A Christmas Carol.  In the spring term, steady work in productions or projects begins in earnest.

Year Two: Transformation

In the second year, foundation work continues and extends into transformation.  Basic tools are applied to more complex tasks and material.  The actor’s increasing freedom is directed into more varied forms; voice and speech work extend into use of heightened language and dialect; work upon presence of self moves into work upon character transformation; work with modern realistic material moves to work with period and style.  The leitmotif of the year is effective use of language.  Shakespeare is given prominent play.  Ibsen, Strindberg, Chekhov, Shaw, Williams, and others also provide key experience.  Actors are continuously in either Clarence Brown productions or rehearsal projects.

Year Three: Integration and Graduation

The third year is about integrating the work of the first two years, working in the CBT, and graduating into the profession.  Studio work continues, but is more about putting the craft together than breaking it down into components.  Actors are challenged to take full control of their process.  Each actor develops and realizes a Project in Lieu of Thesis that culminates with a performance component.  Production work becomes more prominent, and the faculty begins to work in more of a coaching capacity.  Actors have opportunities to teach undergraduate beginning acting classes, and/or to assist senior faculty with Directing, Play Analysis, Introduction to Theatre, Shakespearean Text, or other classes.  The Clarence Brown Theatre season is selected with a greater eye to finding featured roles for third year actors.

In the final term, actors’ focus naturally shifts to entering the marketplace.  We try to serve the actor in two ways at once: to re-emphasize the vision and practice that will sustain them in a difficult profession, and to support them with an introduction to the profession.  Basic work in voice, speech, movement, text, and acting is still done, though more independently by each actor.  We also offer workshops in acting for the camera and auditioning; guidance in professional presentation; assistance in arranging auditions and apprenticeships; and help with networking.  A fully funded showcase of scenes is presented in New York, usually in early May, in association with other prestigious programs.

For more information, proceed to the Curriculum and Showcase pages through the links above left.

Contribute to a big idea. Give to the Department of Theatre.


The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Big Orange. Big Ideas.

Knoxville, Tennessee 37996 | 865-974-1000
The flagship campus of the University of Tennessee System