MFA Acting Program

The MFA Professional Actor Training Program at the University of Virginia is not recruiting for the 2019-20 academic year. We look forward to inviting eight talented actors to join our program and begin a journey of concentrated, continuous study in Fall 2020. Our approach to training offers an actor a range and depth of classroom and on­stage experience aimed at establishing and maintaining a fluid, integrated acting process. We value technique and seek to work with actors who are interested in building a strong vocal/physical foundation. We believe an actor should be smart: our goal is to foster informed, articulate, and versatile artists through cultivating an advanced understanding of theater history, literature, and performance theory as tools for practical character research. We also believe an actor should be playful. Whether creating a new work, exploring a line of verse, or realizing a director’s concept—we encourage actors to be imaginative and inventive.

Our actors practice theater as a collaborative art, looking for parallels to and connections with the work of playwrights, directors, dramaturgs, and designers. Past collaborations have included workshops with actors and lighting designers (exploring light and storytelling), class sessions with costume designers (exploring movement and period styles), seminars with playwrights (contributing to script development) and partnerships with directors in the creation of devised works.

We ask our actors to consider who they are as artists–what guides an original and personal point of view in the world, and how one communicates this vision through the characters and compositions they create. We encourage an actor to produce original work vitally connected to community concerns. In addition, graduate students in the Department of Drama serve as teachers, mentors and role models to our undergraduate students. We believe this interaction with our undergraduates—especially the experience of teaching—is a profound means to examine, understand, and articulate the creative process. It not only makes for a better actor, but also well prepares an actor to participate in talk­backs and lead workshops in a professional environment. The program offers an on­going integration between academic work and professional experience. Students will participate in new play development and/or productions at Virginia Repertory Theatre in Richmond, VA (http://va-­ and/or Heritage Theatre Festival, Charlottesville, VA (

Diversity of experience is encouraged through a balanced focus in both traditional and innovative practices. Our mission is to prepare advanced students to work in today’s theatre through providing excellent training and meaningful interaction with resident faculty and guest artists and fostering creative collaboration in course work and productions. Because our work is grounded in the idea that the arts are a vital component of society, we encourage artists and audiences to look to theatre as a means to engage, question, and seek truth. For inspiration in this endeavor, we remember one of Thomas Jefferson’s founding principles for the university: “This institution will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it.”


Candidates should be available to be in continuous residence for three years. The following is a sample of curricular components:

The training will begin with a focus on foundational principles in acting. The purpose of this summer training is to create ensemble, explore and develop a common vocabulary, and prepare for teaching and assistant teaching. In addition, this time provides an opportunity to acclimate yourself to the university and explore its wealth of resources.

The first year is devoted to foundational skills and practices. Course study will be offered in areas such as: Voice, Movement, Acting, Script Analysis, Mask, and Production/Performance (Department of Drama main stage season). The emphasis is on identifying principles such as truthfulness, simplicity, and freedom as well as developing performance strengths such as breath, sound production, speech, alignment, release, equilibrium, and impulse/action. Professional experience with Heritage Theatre Festival or Virginia Repertory Theatre may also be scheduled during the first year.

The second year focuses on the demands of technical mastery and transformation, with an emphasis on precision, power, and expressiveness. Course study will continue in areas such as Voice, Movement, and Acting with additional courses in areas such as: Stage Combat, Devised Theatre, and Acting for Film.

The third year focuses on textual analysis and examination of performance forms.  Core principles will be integrated with course study in areas such as: Period Styles, Shakespeare, and/or innovations in Digital Media Performance. Your professional experience during your second and third years will continue in partnership with the Virginia Repertory Theatre in Richmond and/or Heritage Theatre Festival in Charlottesville.

The creation of an Audition Portfolio is a program requirement and is considered your thesis for the program. The Portfolio—an important component in your professional transition to the field—serves as a showcase of your work and a calling card to the profession. Guidance in navigating the business of theatre with faculty, alumni, and guest artists further support your transition to the field and strengthen a system for professional networking.


You do not need to apply to the University of Virginia at this time. Following auditions a select number of final candidates will be invited to make formal application to UVA. (Note: the GRE is not required).

Applicants must have an undergraduate degree in hand or show evidence of completing a degree prior to August 1, 2020. Our ideal candidate will have theatre credits beyond the undergraduate experience. Because our graduate students work alongside professionals at Heritage Theatre Festival and Virginia Repertory Theatre, we especially welcome applicants with professional theatre experience. Applicants should have an interest in teaching and show evidence of having the foundational skills, maturity, and confidence needed to teach (or assist teaching) an undergraduate performance course.

The first step in the process is an audition. You may audition through U/RTA or on-site at UVA. International students are welcome to contact Colleen Kelly ( to arrange a Skype audition.

U/RTA: a Department of Drama representative will attend the 2020 U/RTA National Unified Auditions in New York and Chicago (a representative will not be in San Francisco). Although we cannot guarantee you will be called back for an interview at U/RTA, please feel free to contact us by e-mail letting us know of your interest in the program and your U/RTA audition site. Send letters of interest to Colleen Kelly, Director, MFA Professional Actor Training Program at:

University of Virginia: On-site auditions will be held in Charlottesville in early February 2020. On-site Audition/interviews are private, twenty minute sessions with one or more faculty members. For the audition, please present two monologues—one classic and one contemporary. Singing is optional. Total time of your audition should be under five minutes. If asked, please be willing to “play” with these pieces. To schedule a date and time for an on-site audition contact Colleen Kelly, Director, MFA Professional Actor Training Program at: Please note your preferance of date and time.

The information contained on this website is for informational purposes only.  The Undergraduate Record and Graduate Record represent the official repository for academic program requirements. These publications may be found at