We seek curious and courageous individuals who are socially conscious, personally disciplined, and hungry for knowledge, with a passion for challenging assumptions and breaking through boundaries. Most importantly, we seek individuals who value self-exploration, possess lively imaginations, and a thirst for play.

The Master of Fine Arts in acting at the University of Iowa combines rigorous professional training with a highly innovative curriculum. The training immerses students in a variety of acting techniques, extensive movement and voice training, theatrical analysis, and digital media to produce an unusually responsive, emotionally available, and hyper-present artist, equipped to meet the creative and technical demands of the twenty-first century.

MFA acting program's three major components

Course work

A Plan of Study totaling 72 semester hours forms the academic core of the program.

Practical experience

MFA actors are required to audition for all mainstage productions presented by the department and to perform as cast. Every student is required to perform a minimum of one role each semester.

Teaching or administrative work

Actors also teach courses in Basic Acting, Acting for Success, Drama in the Classroom, Rhetoric, or work in an administrative capacity, depending upon their skills. For this service they receive a salary, full tuition waiver, and health benefits.

Note: Our next class of actors will be admitted in the fall of 2024. The application deadline is Jan. 15, 2024. Applicants that are attending U/RTAs must adhere to U/RTA deadlines.

Degree requirements

First year fall

  • Acting: Foundations
  • Movement: Foundations
  • Voice: Linklater I
  • Digital Media: Producing and Directing Digital Video
  • Orientation to Graduate Studies (including developing and strengthening online presence)

First year spring

  • Acting: Foundations II
  • Movement: Foundations II
  • Voice: Linklater II
  • Theatrical Analysis: Classical to Romantic
  • Graphic Design and Identity: Online Presence

Second year fall

  • Acting: Psycho-Physical: Grotowski
  • Movement: Stage Combat
  • Voice and Speech: Shakespeare and Other Heightened, Poetic Texts
  • Film: Acting for the Camera

Second year spring

  • Acting: Poetic Drama: Shakespeare
  • Movement: Mask (Larval, Expressive, Half)
  • Voice and Speech: Accents and Dialects
  • Theatrical Analysis: Modern
  • Career Preparation

Third year fall

  • Acting: Period Styles
  • Movement: Clown
  • Digital Media: Performing with Digital Media on Stage
  • Career Preparation: Reels/Website/Headshots

Third year spring

  • Theatrical Analysis: Post-Modern
  • Voiceovers: Commercial, Animation, Video Games, and Establishing Home Studios
  • Thesis
Note: The sequence of classes may vary.

You are required to audition for all Mainstage productions presented by the department and to perform as cast. All graduate actors are required to perform a minimum of one role each semester.

The thesis has two components, the first is a written analysis of the actor’s personal creative process, and an annotated resume of roles performed at Iowa. The second is the actor’s professional online presence that is developed, strengthened, and maintained during their tenure at Iowa.

Create your academic path

You'll find degree overviews, requirements, course lists, academic plans, and more to help you plan your education and explore your possibilities.

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Current course list

The MyUI Schedule displays registered courses for a particular session and is available to enrolled students. The list view includes course instructors, time and location, and features to drop courses or change sections.

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Acting alumni

Valeria Avina

MFA ‘15

Valeria is an instructor of Vocal Technique at Fordham University and has performed in more than fifteen shows throughout New York City. She is the co-producer of the Mexican web series, Meanwhile. She is a board member of the production company BBR Production, Inc. Her short film, My Relationship with the Moon, won best short in the Hispanic International Film Festival of New Jersey.

Aneisa Hicks

MFA ‘15

Aneisa has been working in theatre, TV, and film in Chicago since 2015. Theatres include Victory Gardens Theatre, Griffin Theatre, Black Ensemble Theatre, Raven Theatre, and the Goodman Theatre. Her TV credits include EmpireExorcist, and Chicago Justice. She has also appeared in numerous industrials.

Sasha Hildebrand

MFA ‘15

Sasha is currently the Assistant Director of Theatre and the Artistic Director at Sterling College. Prior to that she worked in Chicago at the Drury Lane Theatre and Remy Bummpo Theatre Company. She has also performed for the past three seasons at the Texas Shakespeare Festival.

Learn more about acting at Iowa

The acting element of the studio training sequence is divided into three-semester components, first emphasizing technique and then application. The first component, semesters one through three, is designed to take the actor from a solid grounding in action-based technique to a higher level of emotional presence, responsiveness, and freedom. The second component, semesters four through six, emphasizes scene study and application.

The movement training is divided into three parts. The first addresses habitual physical patterning and breath. The second increases the actor’s dynamic presence; explores time, space, movement in the natural world; and the state of play. The third section applies these techniques in mask and clown, broadening the student’s physical range. Students also have a semester of stage combat, as well as training in motion capture.

The voice training is based on the Linklater Methodology where the economical use of breath and body work together to free and strengthen the voice, increase breath capacity, expand resonance and range, and clarify articulation. Students will learn the full progression of exercises and supplemental work including sound and movement, River Stories, and approach to heightened texts. Speech work is based on the IPA and analyzing one’s own idiolect, as well as the acquisition of a range of accents and dialects.

Each year the department presents 20 to 25 productions, ranging from classic to contemporary, with many new works developed and presented by student playwrights, directors, or visiting artists. There are also more than 25 readings of new plays in the Iowa Playwrights Workshop. Every spring, the Iowa New Play Festival debuts four new plays–all featuring our actors.

To meet the demands of an acting career in the digital age, the MFA at Iowa offers numerous classes in digital media and camera, voiceover, motion capture, real time tracking, and workshops in media networking and online presence. We believe it is essential for actors to entrepreneurially embrace expanding technologies and the opportunities they provide.

In response to the overcrowded showcase season in New York, and the inability to host events due to the pandemic, our program chose to equip our students with the necessary tools to begin their professional career.

In the third year, students will create a professional reel with an outside production company (currently Cut & Dry Films) and a voiceover demo. These provide our students the ability to submit professional grade work to agents, casting directors, and managers in cities across the country prior to graduation, giving them the tools they need to launch their careers immediately upon graduation.

Evaluation of performance in productions is ongoing. You are required to speak personally with the faculty member you have been assigned to shortly after completion of the performance for feedback. You are also encouraged to speak to the other graduate acting faculty and as many other faculty members as possible about your work.

Additionally, you’re required to prepare two monologues and present them at every general departmental audition. Normally there are two general auditions each academic year. Monologues may not be repeated.

Following each audition, you are required to schedule individual meetings with the Head of Acting, and your movement and voice teachers for feedback.

Guest artists are brought in each year to lead workshops and discussions with the acting candidates.

The Iowa New Play Festival brings in nationally recognized artists who respond to the productions.

The Partnership in the Arts program consists of cutting-edge artists brought in to create/develop new work. Graduate actors have the opportunity to participate in that process.

Past artists

  • Nambi E. Kelley
  • Daniel Carlton
  • Vanessa Stalling
  • The Movement Company
  • Martha Clark

The first year is a probationary period for all MFA acting students. At the end of the first year, the faculty evaluates each student’s work to determine his or her eligibility to continue in the program. This decision is based on demonstrated talent, potential, discipline, and satisfactory progress in academic and artistic learning situations.

Students who are accepted into the second year typically proceed to satisfactory completion of the degree. Nonetheless, evaluation is an ongoing process and students must continue to present work of distinction in their production assignments and maintain a grade-point average of 3.0 or better. If a student’s GPA falls below 3.0, it must be raised to that level by the end of the following semester. Failure to do so will be grounds for dismissal.


Portrait of Paul Kalina, MFA

Paul Kalina, MFA

Associate Professor
Head of Acting

Get Involved

Want to learn more about productions on campus? Visit the Theatre Arts Callboard to find audition information, production guidelines, facilities information, and more.

Acting Faculty

Portrait of Mark Bruckner, MFA, BM, BA

Mark Bruckner, MFA, BM, BA

Portrait of Caroline Clay, MFA, BFA

Caroline Clay, MFA, BFA

Assistant Professor
Portrait of Mary Beth Easley, MFA, BFA

Mary Beth Easley, MFA, BFA

Associate Professor
Chair of the Department of Theatre Arts
Head of Directing
Portrait of Fannie Hungerford, BA

Fannie Hungerford, BA

Adjunct Instructor
Portrait of Paul Kalina, MFA

Paul Kalina, MFA

Associate Professor
Head of Acting
Portrait of Johanna Kasimow, MFA, BA

Johanna Kasimow, MFA, BA

Assistant Professor
Portrait of Mary Mayo, MFA

Mary Mayo, MFA

Associate Professor of Instruction