The MFA in acting at the University of Iowa offers a rigorous, comprehensive curriculum that expands upon traditional concepts of training, while grounding the actor in solid technique. The acting program integrates the theories of Sanford Meisner, Jerzy Grotowski, Jacques Lecoq, and Catherine Fitzmaurice with extensive training in movement, voice, theatrical analysis, and digital media to produce an unusually responsive, emotionally available artist that can meet the creative and technical demands of the twenty-first century.
We seek curious and courageous individuals who are socially conscious and disciplined, with a passion for pushing the boundaries of theatre.
Where do previous MFA Actors from Iowa go? Link to bios and headshots of recent alumni.
Theatre at Iowa
Iowa is home to one of the premiere playwriting programs in the United States, producing more than 18 new works each year. Actors work constantly with the playwrights of the future on new material that challenges social, cultural, and political norms – originating characters and contexts never before seen on stage. Iowa playwriting alumni include Tennessee Williams, Lee Blessing, Naomi Wallace, Jen Silverman, Rebecca Gilman, and MacArthur Genius Grant recipient, Sam Hunter.
The graduate acting faculty is made up of theatre professionals who have trained with some of the most prestigious names and organizations in theatre, including Grotowski, Meisner, Fitzmaurice Voicework, and Dell'Arte International School of Physical Theatre. In addition, we are privileged to work with an array of guest artists who visit our campus such as Robert Wilson, Liz Lehrman, Alice Ripley, Mary Beth Hurt, Martha Clarke, Anne Bogart, and other specialized industry professionals.
We admit students to our acting program every three years. This allows us to more fully focus our attention on the needs of each class. Students admitted to the MFA program in acting should have an undergraduate degree in theatre, or equivalent training and experience.
Our next class of actors will be admitted in the fall of 2021. The application deadline is January 15, 2021. Applicants that are attending U/RTAs must adhere to U/RTA deadlines.
If you are not attending U/RTAs but wish to be considered for admission into the Acting Program, you must:
Make sure you are aware of all of the deadlines and that you meet the minimum requirements for entry.
Submit an application and official transcript clearly indicating a final GPA of 3.00 or better to the Graduate College. The GRE exam is not required.
Once you have submitted your application, you will receive an email instructing you on how to upload your supporting documents and submit letters of recommendation. These will be uploaded from your Admissions Profile in MyUI, our online service center for applicants and students. You can only access this after you have submitted your application.
Supporting documents that will be uploaded to your Admissions Profile on MyUI:
- a resume of previous experience
- a current headshot
- three letters of recommendation
- a written statement explaining why you are seeking the MFA in acting at Iowa
Be interviewed and audition
- For the audition, students should prepare two contrasting monologues not to exceed three minutes total time.
- It is important that your selections demonstrate your range. Avoid pieces that are similar in intention, genre, period, or style.
- On-site auditions may be scheduled in Iowa City.
- Program representatives also attend the national auditions of the University/Resident Theatre Association (U/RTA) in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco.
We recommend that prospective students visit Iowa City to see the campus and discuss the acting program with our current students and us. For those students seriously considering the University of Iowa, the program will provide contact information for our alumni in the profession.
All MFA actors receive a tuition scholarship from the Graduate College, which offsets the amount of the current tuition. General fees are not included in this scholarship. Additionally, most MFA actors receive teaching assistantships, which currently pay a minimum for $9,408. Departmental scholarships of varying amounts are also awarded to some students on a year-by-year basis.
Requirements for the MFA in Acting
The requirements for the MFA in Acting are divided into three categories: formal instruction, production requirements, and a thesis.
Students pursuing the MFA in acting must complete 72 semester hours.
The 3-year curriculum consists of the following courses—
Plan of Study
- Acting: Foundations
- Movement: Foundations
- Voice: Linklater I
- Digital Media: Producing and Directing Digital Video
- Orientation to Graduate Study: Includes developing and strengthening online presence
- Acting: Meisner Technique
- Movement: Foundations II
- Voice: Linklater II
- Theatrical Analysis: Classical to Romantic
- Acting: Psycho-Physical: Grotowski
- Movement: Stage Combat
- Voice & Speech: Shakespeare and Other Heightened, Poetic Texts
- Film: Acting for the Camera
- Acting: Poetic Drama: Shakespeare
- Movement: Mask (Larval, Expressive, Half)
- Voice & Speech: Accents and Dialects
- Theatrical Analysis: Modern
- Career Preparation
- Acting: Period Styles
- Movement: Clown
- Digital Media: Performing with Digital Media on Stage
- Career Preparation: Showcase
- Theatrical Analysis: Post-Modern
- Voiceovers: Commercial, Animation, Video Games, and Establishing Home Studios
TOTAL CREDITS: 72
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.
Additionally, every graduate actor is required to earn two new play credits during their three-year residency. One credit is earned for each role performed in an original play produced for the Mainstage, Gallery, or New Play Festival season.
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.
Continuation in the Program
The first year is a probationary period for all MFA students in acting. At the end of the first year, the faculty evaluates your work to determine if you’re eligible to continue in the program. This decision is based on demonstrated talent, potential, discipline, collegiality, and satisfactory progress in academic and artistic learning situations. Students who are accepted into the second year normally 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 in their performance classes. If a student's grade point average falls below 3.0 it must be raised to that level by the end of the following semester. Failure to do so may be grounds for dismissal.
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.
Academic & Program Evaluation
At the end of every semester, you receive a formal oral evaluation of your course and production work. These discussions deal comprehensively with all aspects of your progress.
At the end of the first and second academic years you receive a written evaluation of your work, a copy of which is placed in your academic file. In conjunction with the end of the first year evaluation you must write a process paper. The purpose of the process paper is to encourage a synergistic examination of your creative process as it develops: a self-evaluation of the development of a personal approach to acting. Three weeks prior to the first year evaluation you must submit the process paper to the evaluating committee.
At the end of the second, fourth, and fifth semesters the faculty will review your website and digital platforms.
In the second year of residency the process paper is revised and serves as the your comprehensive examination.
In the final year the process paper is revised once more and, with the annotated resume, forms the written portion of the Master's Thesis. Your thesis also includes your updated website and social platforms.
Iowa Actors, Past and Present
Link to a selection of recent student bios and headshots of the Class of 2015.
Department of Theatre Arts
The University of Iowa
107 Theatre Building
Iowa City, IA 52242-1705