Sunday, February 19, 2012

On "Top MFA Programs"

I get a lot of traffic on this site due to a couple posts that Dennis Baker links to in his 2008 post "Rutgers MFA Acting Program". Today, there was a comment I'd like to give more circulation to, because it raises some pretty pointed questions. While I don't necessarily agree with everything, I agree with enough of it to repost. And I would say "ditto" in reference to BFA programs. Here it is:

Author: SayItLoud
1. This idea of ‘top MFA’ programs makes absolutely no sense, if you stop and think about it. If you add up the so called top 10 programs, they get less than 200 students per year in total. Now, if they are so good, why do they limit that to 15-20, sometimes 7-8 students per year? Is it because there is no need for top actors out there? – now, that is a ridiculous notion. Clearly, there is demand coming from the industry. Is it because there is no demand coming from people wanting to attend? That we know not to be true. Or is it because there is a shortage of real talent out there that could be educated into becoming top actors. That’s against the main definition of acting school.
2. Now, are these really ‘top schools’? A top school must be a leader in the industry, a trend setter, a visionary. Are they? Over 90% of the films made lose money, even though they are made for ‘commercial’ reasons and not for art.. over 90% of the plays (including on Broadway) lose money and over 90% of the actors cannot find work (including actors coming out of these ‘top schools’). If these schools are ‘the industry leaders’ they look like terrible leaders, don’t they.. There isn’t another industry that can claim leaders that show such sub-mediocrity in influencing the industry positevely..
3. Most of the ‘top MFA programs’ should be banned. I simply do not understand how they get away with calling their programs ‘graduate’ programs when in fact they are nothing more than ‘vocational’ schools. One recent example is Juilliard’s MFA program – they made it 4 years and actors training is exactly the same as undergraduates or people who get a certificate.
4. Most of the ‘top MFA’ programs entrance selection is based 100% on a 2-4 minute audition – with total disregard of people’s records – that is the most obvious proof that these programs are ‘vocational’ schools and not graduate schools. For a vocational school it may make sense to admit students on what you can see as talent, because they have no record to base the decisions on. For graduate school, disregarding ones record is total BS. These ‘gods’ pretend that they can look into someone’s eyes for 2-3 minutes, or often times not look at all or not listening at all, and tell with 100% precision what his/her future is going to be. So, who needs to look at an existing record, right? Totally, against any notion of a true ‘graduate’ program.
5. Quite a lot of the heads of the top MFA acting programs do not hold any level of graduate studies. For some of them, their educations clearly come from vocational acting schools.
6. Are these schools really in the 21st century? Most of them are relics of a century long gone, it’s just that the school leadership is too impotent to adapt.. or worse, it’s too ‘convenient’ not to adapt.. One example is the example that Yale is using by pointing to Meryl Streep. Think about it, Meryl went to Yale 40 years ago and she probably followed a program designed decades prior. Does anyone truly believe that a student going to Yale in 2012 will be able to function the same way Meryl does today, 40 years from now? In the era of iPad I really do not think that anyone is that na├»ve.. so, why then, these ‘top MFA programs’ continue to do what they did mid last century?
7. If all of these things were happening in a 3rd world country, I do not believe that anyone would call them ‘top MFA programs’.. rather would think of ‘corruption’ and ‘crooked’ first.. that’s what these ‘top MFA programs’ seem to be. A disgusting charade.. or better yet, a scam that keeps perpetuating out there only because people are too afraid to take them to court to force them to disclose what the ‘real’ deal is. False, deceptive or misleading advertising is illegal and they should stop it.
8. Everyone should demand that all MFA acting programs change their admittance procedure as well as programs to adjust for true ‘graduate studies’ rather than ‘vocational studies’ as they are now.
9. Everyone should demand that all MFA acting programs post their records that they have internally, or force them to collect those records to indicate what graduates do 1-2-3 years after graduation.
10. Everyone should demand that all MFA acting programs clearly spell out their admittance criteria. If you look at the ‘profiles’ of people who graduate out of these programs there is a strong indication that they select mostly blue/green eyes/blond red hair/ white skin for anyone to really believe that in the 21st century only those people are talented or ‘pretty’.

Think Again: Funding and Budgets in the Arts

Every once in a while, I think I'll post a link or two to posts written earlier in the life of Theatre Ideas that seem worth revisiting ...