Thirty years ago, the American Repertory Theater welcomed its first class of students to the A.R.T. Institute for Advanced Theater Training at Harvard University. Launched in 1987 by A.R.T. Founding Director Robert Brustein, this two-year, graduate-level training program was created with an understanding that students can best prepare for a life in the performing arts by immersing themselves in the work of a professional theater, and by studying with faculty who are practicing theater artists.
This May, the Institute will graduate its twenty-eighth class. At the end of their training, the twenty-two acting, dramaturgy, and voice students will have completed a rigorous program that combines coursework with practical, hands-on experience in the rehearsal room and on stage. They will have worked alongside renowned performers, directors, designers, and writers who come from around the world to develop work at the A.R.T. And they will have traveled to Krakow, Poland and Moscow, Russia for residencies at two of Europe’s most prestigious theaters.
Over the past three decades, graduates of the Institute have become leaders in the arts. Graduates of the acting program have performed on Broadway, in productions Off- Broadway, and at theaters around the country while also appearing in feature films and as series regulars on numerous television shows. Dramaturgs serve as literary managers and artistic directors in this country and abroad. Graduates of the voice pedagogy program teach at top American universities.
In 1998, the Institute formed a historic partnership with the Moscow Art Theater School. Best known as the birthplace of the Stanislavsky System and as the artistic home of the playwright Anton Chekhov, the Moscow Art Theater is one of Europe’s leading companies. During their semester-long residency in Moscow, Institute students train with Russian actors, directors, choreographers, historians, and critics. The experience immerses students in one of Europe’s most dynamic and vibrant theater capitals. In addition to seeing plays, operas, and ballets at the hundreds of theaters in Moscow, students also perform to sold-out houses at the American Studio of the Moscow Art Theater School—the only English-language theater in Moscow.
Over the past three years, the Institute has expanded the European component of its training through a new partnership with the Adam Mickiewicz Institute of Poland. En route to Moscow, recent Institute classes have spent a week in Krakow, taking workshops at the National Academy for the Dramatic Arts and seeing work staged by some of Poland’s most celebrated directors at the famed Stary Theater.
The Institute’s international focus attracts students from around the world. Over the past ten years alone, acting, dramaturgy and voice students from Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom have trained at the A.R.T.
The recent launch of the new Theater, Dance & Media concentration at Harvard has given Institute and undergraduate students unprecedented opportunities to study and create new work together. Last year, four Theater, Dance & Media undergraduate concentrators spent their spring break in Russia, experiencing an intensive, condensed version of the Institute students’ semester- long residency at the Moscow Art Theater School. This fall, Institute and undergraduate students performed together in Daniel Kramer’s production of A Dream Play at Farkas Hall.
Since its inception, the Institute has shared and embodied the A.R.T.’s mission to “expand the boundaries of theater.” Institute students are encouraged to push themselves emotionally, physically, and intellectually in classes and in the rehearsal room, and to carry their curiosity and spirit of exploration into their professional work. The Institute challenges students to imagine and create the theater of the future, a goal best expressed by writer, performer, and activist Eve Ensler in her graduation address to the Institute Class of 2016: “Your work is to blow our minds open, to rip our hearts into caring, to dance us back into our bodies... I realize you must be the special ones; the ones who are capable of finding the vision, the force, to awaken us. You will be the ones to dance us back from the edge or to teach us how to fall. You will be risk takers, the likes of whom we have never known and you will tell the stories we have never heard, because we were afraid to hear them. And you will tell them in a way that opens portals to the possibility of how we will live in the new way.”
PHOTO (L-R): Tenelle Kadogan ('01), Tim Kang ('01), Jodi Lin ('01) Jonno Roberts ('01), Trey Burvant ('01), Scott Draper ('01), and Marguerite Stimpson ('01) in The Goldoni Project (dir. François Rochaix, 2000).
This article appeared in the A.R.T. Guide, published by the American Repertory Theater.