Neighborhood Playhouse

The First Year Professional Acting Program

The first year is devoted to developing the actor’s instrument through both improvisational and text-based work. Students take courses in Meisner Technique fundamentals, vocal work, and movement, as well as an academic course in contemporary theater history and coursework in technical theater skills. Over the first year, technique is emphasized as misconceptions and habits are shed. The actor emerges a more honest human being, ready to act truthfully.

“Acting is the ability to live truthfully under imaginary circumstances.”
~ Sanford Meisner

First Year Courses:

Curriculum: First Year
Total Length: 35 Weeks | Full-Time (approximately 30hrs/week) | 1000 clock hours

Meisner Acting Techniques I (32 weeks | 12hrs/week | 384 hours)


Students are taught through a system of exercises developed by Sanford Meisner here at The Neighborhood Playhouse including: improvisation, repetition, independent activity, and scene work. The work is designed to develop the actor’s concentration and strengthen the actor’s instrument to be both responsive and expressive within the imaginary circumstances. The technique creates a more specific, skilled, and authentic actor with an organic, spontaneous, and disciplined instrument.

Acting Lab (Drills): (32 weeks | 3.5hrs/week | 112 hours)

Second year teachers and senior faculty work with students weekly to oversee each individual students progression throughout the year.

History of Cinema (5 weeks | 1.5 hrs/week | 7.5 hours)

This once a week, five week, 90 minute class presents an introduction to film history with a focus on American Cinema from the silent films of the 1920s through to the Golden Age of Hollywood. Students will examine cinematic traditions within narrative film and acquire an aesthetic vocabulary in the medium. We will survey how meaning in film is created by the use of camera, editing, lighting, sound and acting, while also exploring the impact of technological developments on film production throughout the history of cinema. This class aims to give a selective slice of the classics to better equip the actor with a brief knowledge of what came before.

Library I / 20th Century Theatre History (32 weeks | .5hrs/week | 15 hours)


An overview of important developments in American Theatre which impacted modern American acting through the reading and viewing of plays. Emphasis is placed on works authored between 1900 and the present. Our Irene Lewisohn Library contains an extensive collection of dramatic works, anthologies, and theatre history books, which are an important resource for our actors in training.

Modern Dance I (32 weeks | 3hrs/week | 96 hours)

Legendary Martha Graham’s work at The Neighborhood Playhouse continues as a vital component of the curriculum today. Unique to The Neighborhood Playhouse, this movement art form provides training in contemporary movement to prepare the body as a dramatic instrument, with emphasis on focus and the awareness of the body’s center.

Music I / Singing Technique I (32 weeks | 3hrs/week | 96 hours)


The study of singing technique with specific concern for the special requirements of the actor, including relaxation, preparation, musical voice production and introduction to interpretation of songs.

Physical Theatre I Technique (32 weeks | 3.0 hrs/week | 96 hours)


Investigation of the actor’s body in space through mime and other physical theatre techniques. This course uses mime and specific relaxation exercises, developing an ability to adapt physical movement to any character requirement. Goals are to achieve an understanding of underlying relationships of carriage, gesture and spatial relationships, and to develop strength, endurance, limberness and articulation of the spine.

Production Techniques (2-4 weeks | 5-10hrs/week | 20 hours minimum)


Students learn the ins and outs of production elements through observing and assisting with set production; lighting, sound, and costume design, and front and back of house management. Student gain important knowledge of professional performance terminology and etiquette as they participate in crew and technical assignments for the second year productions of the Musical and Final Plays, in the Rita Morganthau Theatre, and Industry Showcase at the Signature Theatre.

Shakespeare I (32 weeks | 1hr/week & 16 weeks | 1.5hrs/week | 40 hours)

Studying a range of plays, students learn to close read early modern text and analyze the distinctive qualities of Shakespeare’s language and demands of performance. The nature of Elizabethan and early Jacobean stages, style as well as historical productions and key figures in Shakespeare and the classical tradition are studied, leading to a knowledge of the history of Shakespeare in performance and how he has been interpreted on stage and screen through succeeding generations.

Stage Combat I (32 weeks | 2hrs/week | 64 hours)


Techniques for unarmed combat in physical acting class. Stage Combat equips the actor with the techniques required to safely and artfully create the illusion of violence. The emphasis in the fist semester is on hand-to-hand combat (falls, rolls, chokes, etc.) and in the second term weapons are introduced. The technique enables the actor to execute fight choreography with a strong theatrical reality applicable to both stage and film.

Voice and Speech I (32 weeks | 4.5 hrs/week | 144 hours) 


This class focuses on developing an expressive, flexible, and resonant voice with stamina and range. Students are instructed in the phonetic alphabet and diction with the goal of mastering Standard American Speech and eliminating any regional or foreign accent. The goal is for each student to develop a neutral, organic voice for theatre, film, and television.