Head of Musical Theatre
The musical theatre program at Webster University is unique. Not only do students complete a four-year sequence in the Conservatory Acting Program, but they also complete an intensive sequence of courses in both music and dance.
The first year of Conservatory is about discovery. Classes in acting, voice and speech, movement, introduction to musical theatre, stagecraft, text analysis, and make-up are all designed to help discover what it means to be an actor and establish the basis for a personal technique. Methods include centering and aligning, vocal production and phonetics, games, exercises, improvisation, scene study, and an overview of the twenty six most prominent composers and lyricists from the 20th and 21st Century. Required courses outside of conservatory include: Music theory, Musicianship, private voice and piano, and dance (ballet or jazz). First-year students do not perform publicly but do present scene work for the Conservatory at the end of the year.
The second year of Conservatory is about exploration. Through work with highly contrasting styles of dramatic literature the basic technique established during the first year is strengthened and stretched. Basic acting technique is extended through song study in the second semester. Classes in yoga, neutral mask, and physical characterization are added to the core of acting and voice and speech. Required courses outside of conservatory include: Musicianship, private voice and piano, and dance. Second-year students join the casting pool and are now eligible to perform in the Conservatory season.
The third year of Conservatory is about application. The work in contrasting styles becomes even more ambitious. Skills acquired in the previous two years are applied to Shakespeare, Restoration, and Edwardian drama. In Musical Theatre Styles scene study these skills are applied to the various Broadway genres and to the completion of an audition book. Voice and movement classes develop even more specific skills in dialects, period movement, and stage combat. Other required courses include: History of the American Musical Theatre, Vocal Ensemble, advanced dance classes, and the continuation of private voice and piano.
The fourth year of Conservatory is about refinement and looking toward the future. Interview, audition, and cold reading skills are developed. Acting for the camera, commedia dell'arte, and clown are investigated. There is continuation of the course in specialized musical theatre acting techniques, cabaret performance, dance and private voice. Toward the end of the year, fourth-year students present themselves in a showcase in New York and Los Angeles for agents, producers, and casting directors.