An Academic Program with Conservatory Rigor
“Our students are very curious and many of them have interests outside of theatre, and I truly think that they are better actors and artists at the end of the day because they will be more well-rounded,” says Joe Price in his last semester as the program director of the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater BFA Actor Training Program. “We're looking for actors who want to say something with their work, who are thinking artists, and I think having a liberal arts education is crucial not just for an artist but for life.”
Price became director of the UMN/Guthrie BFA program after its founder, the legendary teacher and mentor Kenneth Washington, retired in 2012. Price had visited the program as a guest director the previous year and was impressed with its astonishing cohort of students. He could clearly see the strong foundation Washington had created for teaching young artists how to express themselves through their craft. “These students have great tools, but they also have their own minds and they’re not afraid to challenge and think critically,” Price notes. “We’re not a cookie-cutter program. We’re not sending robot actors into the world. We’re sending out people, each person with different talents and characteristics to be brought out.”
Students in the program gain invaluable professional experience by earning Guthrie credits as young actors, and Price emphasizes that both students and educators in the program never stop learning and adapting. “The beautiful thing about this program is that we self-examine regularly... We constantly look at ourselves as a program and ask ourselves hard questions. Our changing world requires that we adapt, so I don’t feel that were ever stagnant.” Price recognizes that actor training is far different than it was when he was in school, as both the work and the artform changes alongside our cultural reality.
“We emphasize conservatory rigor through our training, but we’re an academic program that has access to one of the best theatres in the country, so it makes us really unique,” Price says. The students are drawn to the studio-training curriculum but are still interested in academics and want to keep that part of their lives in play, and in turn, present an added level of versatility to their craft with their other interests. “We consistently hear that our BFA students are as well-trained as most of the MFA students artistic and casting directors see for classical work,” says Price. “Our goal is to provide the foundation that inspires our students to begin life-long journeys of learning and artistic expression.”
This story was written by an undergraduate student account executive in CLAgency. Meet the team.