Boston Conservatory at Berklee’s B.F.A. in contemporary theater is unlike any other in the country. Launched in 2015 as the first program of its kind in a conservatory setting, it is designed to develop bold and inventive theater makers who will impact today’s theater scene and shape the future of the art form.
This cutting-edge program is devoted to training the 21st-century theater artist—one who is not only a powerful performer, but also an innovative theater creator. The curriculum combines the rigorous foundational acting training of a traditional conservatory program with a range of more contemporary practices, including ensemble collaboration, devising new work, and reimagining classics. This comprehensive approach prepares students to pursue artistically diverse careers not only as actors, but also as directors, playwrights, dramaturgs, entrepreneurs, and multidisciplinary theater makers and leaders.
What It Takes to Succeed
Boston Conservatory contemporary theater students are fearless performers with a passion for creating theater—whether that be by writing, directing, designing, producing, or using any combination of these skills. Our students are curious by nature, collaborative, artistically courageous, socially conscious, adaptable to new environments and social dynamics, and desire not only to be team players, but to also lead.
The Conservatory’s unique contemporary theater curriculum is composed of four fundamental pursuits—training, performing, creating, and producing—designed to provide a strong foundation on which students can explore their individual voices and build their theater-making skills:
- Training provides rigorous instruction in acting, movement, and voice and speech. Students also work together as an ensemble and are challenged to develop their individual artistic points of view while creating as a group. This gives our students an opportunity to explore collaborative theater making and master both traditional and evolving collaborative theater techniques. As a result, students emerge as highly skilled actors and ensemble theater makers.
- Performing ensures that students perform regularly throughout their four years as part of the contemporary theater curriculum. At the heart of this component is the Ensemble Performance Lab (EPL), which students participate in every semester. The EPL is a rotating ensemble of student actors who collaborate with a faculty member or guest artist to rehearse and perform a traditional piece, reimagine a classic story, or devise an entirely original work to present publicly. The EPL provides a space for students to explore and experiment not only with devising new theater works, but also with performing in non-traditional or found spaces, such as parks, subways, warehouses, and more.
In addition to EPL, contemporary theater students also have the opportunity to audition for the Theater Division’s annual New Student Orientation show, Student Government Association-sponsored performances, and various collaborations with Berklee College of Music. View an overview of performance opportunities for contemporary theater students.
- Creating is focused on teaching students the compositional elements of theatrical storytelling: idea conceptualization, narrative development, scripting, staging, design, and directing. Students continually develop these skills throughout their four years through hands-on studies in directing, playwriting, dramaturgy, and devising, which includes the EPL, collaborations with other departments across the Berklee institution, and courses in directing, group composition, visual thinking and design, site-specific performance, choreography, and more.
- Producing helps students gain firsthand experience in producing theater for a live audience, by giving them the knowledge and tools needed to present theater in innovative ways and in both traditional and non-traditional theater spaces. Therefore, courses for this component are taught by experienced faculty members and expert guest artists, and cover a wide range of subjects, such as creative entrepreneurship, community engagement, arts management, and audience development. Supplementing these classroom studies are exciting collaborations with the Berklee Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship (Berklee ICE), which vary from year to year. These studies reach a practical culmination when students create a work to take on tour. In addition, students further refine their skillsets through professional internships, apprenticeships, and a self-directed senior capstone project.
Throughout the four years of the B.F.A. program, the four components of training, performing, creating, and producing work in tandem to develop students as contemporary theater makers.
In their freshman and sophomore years, students explore the core principles and foundations of training and performing that is expected of a conservatory education, with an introduction to creating and producing.
Students continue to develop and refine their training and performing skills throughout their junior and senior years, with an increased focus on creating and producing. Students with a particular interest can explore their passion through a wide range of electives, as well as through their self-directed capstone project. In their senior year, students have access to a variety networking opportunities with industry professionals and alumni, and are encouraged to take full advantage of Berklee’s new-and-improved Career Center.
Each semester, Boston Conservatory at Berklee welcomes notable guest artists to campus to train students and collaborate on new works. The 2017–2018 Theater Division guest artist lineup includes:
- Tina Packer, founder of Shakespeare & Company
- Jacqui Parker, award-winning playwright, director, and actor
- Mauricio Salgado, cofounder of Artists Striving to End Poverty, actor, and director
- Susan Thompson, performer, deviser, director, writer, and teacher
Graduates of our contemporary theater program will be confident, courageous, and versatile artists. They will be nimble and flexible collaborators with distinct points of view. They will be risk takers and opportunity makers. They will know how to establish an audience, and will be articulate, intelligent advocates for their own work and the work of others. They will be ambassadors for creative expression, social justice, and artistic citizenship in the world. They will possess powerful tools to forge meaningful careers and play leadership roles in the evolution of contemporary theater. They will tell stories with lasting resonance and meaningful consequence. Our graduates will shape and lead the future of contemporary theater.