CFA News

New Theatre MFA Program Aims to Teach Actors, Writers, Directors, How to be Teachers

Loyola Marymount University’s Katharine Noon, associate professor of theatre arts, can recall feeling challenged in her early days of teaching at the university level.

“I remember the first time I walked into a class, I had a syllabus, and I had a number of scenes, and the first question I got was: ‘What’s a scene?’” said Noon, a director and writer who has taught for 15 years in LMU’s College of Communication and Fine Arts. “And I thought, ‘OK, I have to rethink everything.’”

That classroom experience came into focus as Noon and Kevin Wetmore, chair of LMU’s Department of Theatre Arts, prepare to launch a new master’s of fine arts program in performance pedagogy, which will offer a chance for students to achieve an advanced degree with a focus on the method and practice of teaching acting at the secondary and university levels.

Designed for professional performers who are looking to expand their career options, the program is the first of its kind in the United States west of the Mississippi, Wetmore said. Classes will start in fall 2019 with a cohort of roughly 15 students. Noon is the program director.

“It’s really sort of tailored to the individual’s career goals,” Wetmore said. “If you want to teach at the university level, great. If you want to open your own acting studio, great. If you want to become a high school acting teacher, great. What you’re interested in, we’ll help you get there.”

LMU’s Los Angeles location will be an attractive option for professional actors, writers and directors who want to continue to work while also pursuing an advanced degree, Wetmore said.

“The new MFA in Performance Pedagogy at LMU will be one of the most unique programs in the nation, and will respond to questions of what to teach, when, where, how, and why,” said Bryant Keith Alexander, Ph.D., dean of LMU’s College of Communication and Fine Arts. “We designed the program specifically for individuals with experience as professional performers looking to expand their career options; the program will provide practical and theoretical training in both performance pedagogy and the pedagogies of performance.”

Classes, which will be taught by LMU’s 12 full-time and 23 part-time theatre faculty members, will be held in the late afternoons and early evenings, and possibly on Saturdays. Full-time students will complete their studies within three years; students enrolled part-time should be able to finish in five years if they take one course per term as well as summer classes.

“The idea is to not cause someone to pause their acting career,” Wetmore said. “Now, we’re going to teach you how to teach acting … that’s a different skills set.”

Added Noon: “It’s one thing to know how to do what you do. It’s another thing to know how to communicate that to others … That for me was a steep learning curve when I started.”

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More information about the program at cfa.lmu.edu/mfapp