The Best Acting Schools NYC has to Offer

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Hollywood may be situated all over on the West Coast within the city of angels, but aspiring actors have a reason to consider New York as a base for their career – simply put, Broadway. Even if you’re not considering any theatrical activity, the sheer quality of acting schools in New York is heightened by its closeness to the world’s greatest theatrical stage – and of course, loads of high profile agents and recruiters are stalking NYC grounds because of it.

It’s because of this that choosing an acting school in New York can get quite tricky, due to the vast catalog of offers. However, you must also show some degree of mastery in the basics of acting – as many of the most acclaimed classes have few spots reserved for those that show real promise (and can also afford to pay a hefty contribution). We are going to present you some of the most acclaimed acting schools throughout NYC, so hopefully by the end of this article you will be able to construct a clearer image on how your acting career might evolve should you choose to pursue education there.

entrance to the Union Square Theater
The Union Square Theater

The American Academy of Dramatic Arts

We’ll start off with something which isn’t exclusive to New York; the AADA also functions within Los Angeles. It is the oldest acting conservatory out there, activating since 1884, and of course a great deal of tradition and respect comes with this. However, it does have a quite unusual program: it consists of two years at the end of which you graduate and have to option to follow an additional third year of more advanced instruction which also counts as working experience within the Academy itself.

The tuition fee is $29,900, but further expenses with books, library fees and so forth will have you looking at somewhere around $31,000. This is a moderate amount for high-profile acting schools – not saying it is cheap, of course, but when other schools are charging $50,000 on tuition alone, it seems like a more reasonable sum. Part of this sum can be offset by scholarships worth either $6,000 (need and financial aid) or $8,000 (merit).

New York Film Academy

Now even though it is called a film academy, the NYFA has taken on a much broader range in recent years: photography, news broadcasting, video game design or musical theater are some of the programs available within it. However, the bases of the NYFA have remained its Master of Fine Arts and Bachelor of Fine Arts programs.

It has nowhere near the tradition of the AADA, activating for less over a decade right now. Despite this, it garners a great amount of respect due to the names associated with it – Steven Spielberg, Al Pacino, Sir Ben Kingsley or Kevin Spacey are just some of the NYFA guest speakers. The NYFA holds two-year MFA programs in Acting for Film, Cinematography, Producing, Screenwriting and Film-making, and also three-year BFA programs in the same areas.

NYC acting school
Scenes from inside a New York acting school

The Juilliard School

One of the most renowned art schools out there, The Juilliard School has four year MFA and BFA programs for actors and playwrights, besides also offering a lot of programs for upcoming musicians. Probably the staple of this institution is the fact that it breaks boundaries by having students from different programs and even undergraduates and graduates working together in certain projects.

As far as acting goes, The Juilliard School’s acting degree offers an all-around package of instruction starting from the most basic stuff to the different and complex techniques out there, and it prides itself on testing all of them plus the student’s capacity to use his imagination and improvisation during the last year of its two programs.

However, it all comes at quite a hefty price. Tuition itself is $38,190 per year, but if you choose to live at the school’s campus, with all expenses calculated, it can get you up to almost $60,000 if you choose a single room within the campus, or $56,000 if you choose a double room, according to the institution’s website. It’s up to you whether you’ve got that kind of money or not; the school itself is very respected and its drama program has attended over the years by the likes of Academy Award winner Kevin Kline, Zero Dark Thirty lead Jessica Chastain and Saturn Award winner Jennifer Carpenter.

The New School

Greenwich Village-based The New School has hosted a drama program between 1995-2005 in collaboration with the Actors Studio (one of the biggest actor organizations in the industry currently run by the trio of Al Pacino, Ellen Burstyn and Harvey Keitel) called the Actors Studio Drama School. When the contract between the two ran out in 2005, the Actors Studio decided to relocate its school’s activities to Pace University, and The New School decided to capitalize on that experience by starting drama programs of its own, developing one of the best acting schools NYC has ever seen.

The New School has a bachelor’s program for drama and has also recently started three year master degree programs in directing, acting and play-writing, with the first generation expected to graduate in 2017. The programs are intertwined between them at certain points, so that for example aspiring directors will have to work with future actors. Acting training goes into a wide array of acting techniques ranging from the Alexander Technique to the Stanislavsky method. Tuition used to be calculated per term but now stands at little over $41.000.

There are other great acting acting schools NYC and universities which offer acting programs in the city, such as the Meisner technique-patenting Maggie Flanigan Studio or the American Musical and Dramatic Academy. You’re surely not lacking choices when it comes to NYC acting schools; what you might be lacking though is either sufficient mastery of the basics – all of the above examples select their students based on auditions – or the funds which would allow you to undergo them. At the end of the day, acting should be viewed as an investment should you choose to pursue more renowned acting schools – you’re paying upfront to essentially kick-start your career on the most eventually successful paths.

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