B.F.A. in Theatre, Acting Emphasis
A Specialized Degree
The Bachelor of Fine Arts, Acting program is designed for students who are serious about specialization in acting, with an eye toward professional acting or further study at the graduate level. For those students who choose the B.F.A. acting program, the course is set for an exciting and demanding road.
A Focused Curriculum
Acting classes are diverse and offer a variety of specialized subjects for study. The faculty are Stanislavski-based but use a range of methods, including Meisner, Hagen, Cohen, and Shurtleff. Many courses also include some "alternative" selections as well. Classes in acting at Southern Miss go far beyond the usual beginning, intermediate and advanced standards. Fundamentals of acting and intermediate acting cover the essential dual foundation of freeing the actor's creativity and technique. Improvisation further frees the actor and sharpens impulses and timing, along with sensitivity to a partner. Advanced scene study (Intermediate II) challenges the actor to focus on individual needs and fine-tuning of craft. The art is further explored in Period Acting Styles I and II. These courses explore the particular research tools and special decorum, voice, and movement required in period pieces. The finishing touches are found in a course devoted to audition process, which is the link between the educational training and the "real world" of professional acting in theatre, film, television and related fields. Here, time and attention are given to head-shots, resumés, agents, and other aspects of the business of acting.
Voicework at Southern Miss offers regular courses that focus on Lessac training in order to develop a healthy vocal life for a relaxed and vital instrument. Course offerings include Voice for the Actor, Stage Dialects, Introduction to the Musical Theatre Performer, Advanced Voice for the Actor, and The Advanced Musical Theatre Performer. Scansion and Linklater-based verse vocal work are covered in Graduate Labs and Period Acting Style classes. The study of the International Phonetic Alphabet is covered in Dialects class.Private voice lessons from the Southern Miss School of Music (accompanist fee may apply), are also available.
Movement classes for Southern Miss actors are taught in a two-semester sequence, covering a wide range of specialized techniques current in the field and necessary to the vocabulary and adaptability of actors. Stage movement and advanced movement/combat give a glimpse into the freeing creativity and commanding possibilities found in movement training. Subjects covered may include a selection from the following: Corporal Mime, Alexander Technique, August and Lyric Clowning, Unarmed and Armed Stage Combat, T'ai Chi, Mask Work, Laban, etc. Students learn useful tools for creating the physical life, rhythms, and alignments for character. Dance classes are encouraged in modern, ballet, jazz, tap, and dance improv. Yoga, weightlifting and other such classes are also available in the Payne Center, the ironically named, state-of-the-art wellness center at Southern Miss.
A Look into Directing
To best communicate with actors, designers, crews, producers and house staff, a director should have a firm understanding of each. For this reason, the Bachelor of Arts in general theatre may be the ideal undergraduate degree plan for future directors. However, since artists in all aspects of modern theatre (especially actors) collaborate with the director, undergraduates in all Southern Miss programs take the beginning directing class. The class provides a balance between theory and practice, along with a strong background in analysis. For those who wish to pursue these studies, advanced directing challenges the director in more advanced techniques. Approximately 32 showcase slots are available each year for student-directed projects.
Travel and exposure to the broader world of theatre are critical to the development of actors. Southern Miss is an active participant in our ten-state region in both the Southeastern Theatre Conference and the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. The university's Department of International Studies' travel abroad programs rank among the best in the country, and its five-week British Studies program features internationally renowned guest artists in musical theatre, Shakespeare and contemporary drama. Two-week programs in London Theatre and in the Performing Arts at the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland have been offered as well. All of these credit programs are eligible for financial aid. Noncredit travel is also available: the New York Theatre Tour and the London Theatre Tour delight students and community members during spring break. Southern Miss theatre students who take advantage of these extraordinary learning opportunities may be better prepared to enter the professional world.
A Team Spirit
No undergraduate theatre experience is complete without a few late nights (and many afternoons) rehearsing a scene, hanging lights or painting scenery. At Southern Miss, student artists in the B.F.A. programs are expected to work with all other students, faculty and staff in the team effort to produce our exciting and demanding season. This is due to the conviction that everyone must collaborate and learn as many areas of the theatre as possible. This attitude builds our sense of community. It creates actors who are empathetic to the crews and designers they work with and designers and technicians who are sensitive to the actors' needs. It develops theatre artists who exhibit a clear work ethic and who create reputations for being team players. These are the people who get hired a second and third time by professional companies. By the time a student graduates, he or she will have gained marketable skills in several aspects of the theatre. "Hands-on" work will include learning in a proscenium space, a thrust theatre and a convertible black box theatre.