The New York based Pace University has a tradition of over 100 years in providing an academic medium for its students, with the emphasis in the last decades being put more and more on liberal arts. One of the most emphasized Pace specializations is the Actors Studio Drama School; it is quite unique among acting schools today in some ways and this article is going to explain them for aspiring actors who can’t make up the mind about them.
The Actors Drama Studio School itself isn’t that old in itself, existing since 1994 and becoming part of Pace University in 2005, distancing it from fellow NYC based New School University. The most special thing about the Actors Studio Drama School is the fact it is the only acting school worldwide which has a program supported and supervised by the famous group known as Actors Studio.
If you haven’t heard about Actors Studio, know that it is one of the most prestigious actor organizations worldwide. I think a list of actors who were or still are part of it can speak more than a thousand words: James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Leslie Nielsen, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Nicholson and many more. Really, the list would take until tomorrow to fully count the well-known actors; let’s just say that a big chunk of famous and esteemed actors are part of it.
Nowadays, the Actors Studio is led by a presidency formed out of Al Pacino, Ellen Burstyn and Harvey Keitel. The Actors Drama Studio School states on its website that the school’s curriculum is made and overseen by these three modern giants of cinematography; whether or not this is entirely true could be discussed, but it is assumed that they have at least some level of involvement with the school.
The emphasis on the Stanislavski System
What also sets it different is a characteristic drawn directly from the Actors Studio: the preference for the Stanislavski acting method, more commonly known as the Stanislavski system. Named in honor of early twentieth century Russian actor and director Konstantin Stanislavski, who came up with the whole thing, it is based around the idea of having actors portray their characters by tying into their past memories rather than playing them from a blank slate, a concept called emotional memory.
Basically, it has the actor focusing their inner self to fit into the role; when he enters the stage he is not a different person, but merely adapting their past experiences in a conscious manner to serve it. This can be the basis of extremely realistic and in-depth portrayal, but at the same time is very impulse controlled; and so a good degree of control must be established over the technique, else the actor might not be able to either control his emotions or concentrate enough on the role.
So, this is quite difficult to teach by the book; however, the Actors Studio is an organization self-declared as adept of this technique, and learning from the best might be exactly what is needed to nail it. Speaking of which, yes – you will be trained by high ranking members of the Actors Studio, be them artistic directors, moderators or even board members.
A very special craft seminar will also get you on the big screen for the first time: named „Inside the Actors Studio”, it actually takes the form of a television show broadcasted nationwide and internationally by the Bravo television network hosted by dean emeritus James Lipton. Students can appear three to six times per semester and so have access to probably their first mainstream exposure – the fact that it comes alongside renown and influential performers is just an added bonus.
Special workshops held on Fridays will teach and train students from the Actors Studio Drama School in a full array of theatre related elements, ranging from directing and script analysis to design and how to hold auditions for different types of events (films, musicals, plays or television shows). Also, if dancing isn’t your strong point, you need not worry; the school has a contract with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre – one of the most exquisite dance companies in the country – which will hold lessons at their uptown New York studios at the same quality they provide for their own members.
Great Future Opportunities
The Actors Studio Drama School also benefits from studios with the most advanced equipment possible; it does not go cheap on this, and you will be able to access a full technological range in your studies which will keep them relevant and up to par with the influence that such advancements have upon filmography and theater nowadays. You don’t have worry about accessibility also; the campus is situated in downtown New York and is situated literally minutes away from the studio.
Of course, being supervised by an association of true professionals, the degree studies have a fierce focus of practicality over theory. In that sense, the final year of studies will consist mostly of students making their work available both to professionals and the general public, in a program called the Repertory Season. During this, the work of students will be presented to the public in a theater situated in downtown Manhattan – the best possible approach for step-by-step integration of future directors and actors into the industry.
Besides this, at the end of Repertory Season another program called Industry Showcase will be kicked off. This is even more important as the work of students will be presented to many important representatives and agents from television, film and theater at the midtown Manhattan based Actors Studio headquarters itself; there’s hardly a better way of making acquaintances and starting to make a name for yourself better than this.
Also, post-graduation you are also guaranteed an audition for membership in the Actors Studio, while also being eligible to attend its weekly sessions. If you can sport the $40.000 tuition fee and are determined to delve deep into acting, theater and cinematography, the Actors Studio Drama School is one of the best choices you’ll have in the long run.