MFA Specialization in Acting


The Northern Illinois University Master of Fine Arts in Theatre Arts degree with an Emphasis in Acting provides individualized, challenging, and disciplined training in performance. Areas of concentration are acting techniques, voice and speech, movement, text analysis, period styles, on-camera work, auditioning, and professional development.  The MFA Acting Program provides a strong foundation for working in the performing arts industry and prepares actors for sustainability in the industry by not only developing acting talents but also creating space for the innovation, resiliency, and entrepreneurship required to make a life in art.

The focus of the Program is to cultivate the student actor’s understanding of themselves and human behavior to more fully enable them to work authentically and truthfully on stage, screen, and new media. To achieve this, the student actor develops their dramatic imagination, responsiveness and spontaneity, a sense of conversational reality, and a capacity for a full emotional life that can be expressed with meaning and clarity.

The Program consists of a progression of coursework and exercises based on the actor training methods of Sanford Meisner and Konstantin Stanislavski, reexamined through an anti-racist lens. The Movement pedagogies include the physical training of Loyd Williamson, the teachings of Michael Chekhov, Laban Efforts, Alexander Technique, Yoga, Period Style work, and complementary mind/body techniques. The Voice and Speech training is based in Fitzmaurice Voicework with excursions into the pedagogies of Kristin Linklater, Patsy Rodenberg, Paul Meier, and the Knight/Thompson Speechwork.

The Program expands beyond conventional graduate actor training to include courses in entrepreneurship, international theater, social justice, and content creation to prepare student actors for the challenges of the industry, as artists and as global citizens. While a majority of MFA courses will focus on Acting, students will also have the opportunity to take classes and masterclasses across various fields of expertise; allowing them to enter the field as well-rounded artists and creators. These additional components may include, and are not limited to: masterclasses in business, workshops in podcast and other digital media creation; various on-camera classes and projects; and courses in performance across cultures and international theater-making.

We as a faculty are committed to the work of anti-racism to create an equitable, inclusive, and diverse academic community. We seek to highlight BIPoC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) playwrights, plays, and guest artists in our production season and in our classrooms. We engage culturally competent perspectives in our curriculum and identity-conscious practices in our casting.

Our vision of the art of acting is predicated on the concept that we are here to cultivate each actor’s artistic sensibilities in a collaborative training environment. As a School, we adhere to the highest standards of artistic integrity and rigor. Thus, we seek to develop the skills that go beyond application in the rehearsal room – communication, collaboration, interpersonal skills, social responsibility and awareness, emotional acumen, critical thinking, and creativity – to expand each actor’s understanding of the role of performance in community, society, and the world.

MFA in Acting 2022 Auditions

NIU will be recruiting a new class of MFA in acting graduates in the spring of 2022 for acceptance into the program for the fall of 2022.

Candidates for the specialization in acting are required to audition in person or via Zoom. Every candidate must choose and present two memorized audition pieces, a classical selection in verse and a contemporary piece. The total time of presentation should not exceed four minutes. The acting candidate is also asked to supply the audition committee with two current headshots and resumes.

NIU recruits on campus, via Zoom, and at URTA Unified Auditions.

Please email to schedule a Zoom or in person audition.

NIU also hosts three, on campus, callback weekends. Callback auditions are by invitation only. Further information on callback weekends will be available in late 2021 or early 2022.

Students interested in pursuing an MFA in Acting at NIU should contact Professor Alexander Gelman, Head of MFA Acting at or 815-753-8253.