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Curriculum at NCDA

First Year | Second Year | Advanced Program

The curriculum at the Conservatory teaches the student the job of an actor and the way to become a working actor. This is accomplished through a course of study that takes as its model the fundamental responsibility of a professional actor, the rehearsal process. The student/artist develops into a performer through the mastery of technique, interpretation, expression, and professoinal orientation.

Through the Dramatic Interpretation segment of the course study, the student learns how a professional actor approaches a script from research and analysis through rehearsal and performance. Students work through two plays each semester with new aspects of the rehearsal process, techniques and play styles, being introduced and explored.

In the Dramatic Technique portion of the curriculum, students learn to understand and utilize the body and voice as instruments of the actor. Four semesters of progressive study and practice in movement, dance and voice allows the student to explore his or her ranges and acquire the techniques neccessary for performance.

Throughout the course of study, the student is instructed in the various professional requirements of the working actor. Specifically the student learns all aspects of the professional audition process; preparation, protocol, motivation, goal setting, and career planning.


First Year Curriculum

Semester One

111 Dramatic Interpretation: Acting; Discovering the Play

The course begins as does the rehearsal process with script analysis, play disocovery, and silent acting. The student actor learns how to explore a script in order to expand the imagination and to foster an awareness and control of ones inner resources. Through work on two plays of the expressionistic style the actor learns how to research the play, discover the throughline of the play, the style of the play, and the character spine. The plays are then rehearsed with basic blocking techniques allowing the student actor to begin to discover their acting/interpretive skills. Required Texts: two plays selected by the instructor for rehearsal projects; Acting: The First Six Lessons, Richard Boleslavsky.

121 Dramatic Technique: Voice

Devoted to the examination and practice of of the basic principles of breathing, resonance, placement and dictation. This work continues throughout the training with a view to developing vocal stamina, projections, range and flexibility, which can then be fused with the student actor's imaginative, creative process. Work also concentrates on the formation of the individual sounds spoken in English and the development of an ear for speech sounds. The emphasis is upon the vocal interpretation as it relates to telling the story - communicating the thoughts. Specifics of inflection, intonation, stress, and choral reading are practiced.


Through this training the student begins to understand that the human body is the instrument of the actor. Through repeated exercises the student acquires the skill to use the entire body within the actor's space. Through stretching, strengthening and isolation exercises the student develops kinetic knowledge of the body, strength, flexibility and range of motion. The student learns proper placement, alignment and form through training which concentrates on the positions and movements of classical ballet.


Semester Two

112 Dramatic Interpretation: Acting; Finding the Objectives

Continuing the rehearsal process, the study of the play is broken down into scenes, actions, and beats allowing the student actor to discover more specifically the character intent. In doing so the student's powers of concentration and imagination are enhanced, providing the student a multitude of choices and the confidence to use his/her instinctive self. It is at this point that student actors are expected to have more clearly defined character objectives and intentions and commit these, as well as their lines to memory. Rehearsal projects for this semester are of the romantic and neo-romantic periods. Required Texts: two plays selected by the instructor for rehearsal projects; Acting the First Six Lessons, Richard Boleslavsky; The Practical Handbook for the Actor, Bruder, et al.

122 Dramatic Technique: Voice

Using the technical exercises learned in semester one the student interprets selected pieces of poetry and text, focusing specifically on the instrument of the voice. Also, the student applies vocal techniques to the specific rehearsal projects in Dramatic Interpretation 112.


The student learns to become comforatble with the work space and develop through improvisation, confidence in the movement required for various characters and themes. Training increases awareness of musical rhythms and the dynamics of music to develop more focused interpretive skills.



Second Year Curriculum

Semester Three

211 Dramatic Interpretation: Finding the Character

In the third semester, the rehearsal process challenges the student actor to further build and refine a character. With the introduction of minimal costumes and props the actor discovers specific character traits, rhythms in language and movement, and the character's history and feelings towards others in the play. The rehearsal projects are in the Greek and Commedia del Arte styles.This semester includes an in depth study of the origins, purposes, and stylistic periods of the Theatre. Required Texts: to plays selected by the instructor for rehearsal projects; The Essentials of Theatre, Oscar Brockett, Building a Character, Konstantin Stanislavski.

221 Dramatic Technique: Voice & Movement (combined class)

This class combines both the vocal and physical self to the interpretive process. Selections of song and dance, poetry, and choral readings are studied and interpreted using the total physical self, the body and the voice. Students learn technical dance vocabulary and basic movement for all disciplines including ballet, tap, jazz, character, and gymnastics and learn to use characteristics form each discipline in production pieces. Focus is on refining performance skills through learned choreographed production pieces which incorporate various characterizations , themes and music.


Semester Four

221 Dramatic Interpretation: Acting in an Ensemble

In the final semester rehearsal projects the actor combines the interpretive and technical work into an ensemble effort. Student actors individually and as an ensemble fine tune and polish timing, rhythem and transitions in order to accomplish a pre-determined play direction. Focus is on learning to work in ensemble with director, actors, and production and technical staff toward the goal of the performance. The rehearsal projects are of the realistic and absurdist styles and are presented n repertoire for an invited audience.

Rehearsal Projects are exercises for exploring an actor's process and are not aimed toward performance results. Casting is determined by the needs to the training rather than the demands of the play. Projects are preseneted each semester in studio to the student body and to the full faculty for evaluation. In the fourth semester Rehearsal Projects are presented to an invited audience.

222 Dramatic Technique: Auditioning, Singing, Professoinal Orientation


This course offers students techniques and advice on the selection and preparation of audition material. Students learn all apsects of the professional auditioning process and gain experience through audition workshops with faculty and professioonal guest directors.


The actor is introduced to solo and ensemble singing allowing further employment of voice and body to achieve an intent.

Professional Orientation

The course revolves on different aspects of organizing the actor to face the challenges of being a working actor. Specifically work cneters on motivation, goal setting and following through on a career plan. Students are also instructed in the current standards of headshot selection and resumé preparation.



Advanced Program Curriculum

Semester Five

311 Dramatic Interpretation

Actor's Repertory Theatre Production

321 Dramatic Technique


This course is designed to help the student understand theatre from the perspective of the director. it also gives the student insight into the interpretive dynamic which exists getween the actor and director. Each student will select and direct a one-act or oher short play. Performances are open to an invited public.

Stage Management

This course will give the student and over all understanding of the organizational and technical aspects of theatre. The roles of the persons who make up a theatre company are covered, with emphasis on the relationships and responsibilities the actor has to each.

Stage Combat (unarmed)

Techniques for creating the illusion of dangerous and painful fighting without weapons while maintaing full control to insure the safety of the actor.


Semester Six

312 Dramatic Interpretation

Two Actor's Reporatory Theatre Productions

322 Dramatic Technique

Physical Comedy

Training in spcial skills, pratfalls, tumbling, counter-balance, levers lifts, mounts, and partner activities, along with object manipulation, stunts on and around chairs, tables etc.


Student learns basic make-up, corrective make-up and character make-up, including the use of wigs, as well as prosthetics. This class includes the assembling of personal make-up kits suited to individual needs.