American Academy Of Dramatic Arts

Manhattan, NY: With the Empire State Building as a backdrop, the American Academy of Dramatic Arts is centrally located in midtown Manhattan on Madison Avenue. (Another school is located in Pasadena, CA.) Its brick facade and classical lines are reminiscent of buildings seen at many colleges in New England. Although the AADA has no traditional campus or housing for its students, its proximity to theaters, parks, museums, and shops in one of the world’s most exciting cities makes it a desirable choice for aspiring actors to hone their skills.

The Academy, founded in 1884, is the oldest professional school which trains actors in the English-speaking world and has produced more successful actors than any other institution. Actors are trained for stage, film, and television through its structured, professionally oriented program that stresses self-discipline, self-discovery, and individuality. Entrance to this prestigious school includes audition/interview based on talent and qualifications.

The school offers a six-week summer program which I attended. This program is designed for those who would like to begin their study of acting in a professional environment. I found the curriculum challenging, exciting, and inspirational. The courses consisted of Acting, Voice and Speech, Vocal Production, and Movement. Electives of Fencing, Mime, Musical Theater, and Make-up are also offered. At the conclusion of the six-week program, each student appears in a presentation of scenes. The regular program consists of a two-year Professional Training Program and a third-year Performance Program.

A library, dance/music rooms, three theaters, a costume prop department, and a make-up room add to the physical components of the school. The faculty is composed of professionals currently involved in some form of the performing arts. Their primary purpose is “to provide a broad and practical education to those desiring to make acting a profession.” This is accomplished by involving the students intellectually, physically, emotionally, and also by fostering artistic individuality. Classes are small and personalized.

Director of Admissions, Jean Gosselin, was informative and straightforward about the school, its alumni, and prospects for its future graduates. She indicated that the student population of the summer program was very diverse with students enrolled from almost every state, as well as Canada, Brazil, Germany, Australia, and England. These students came from private, public, and performing art schools.

Outside the Academy, the city is an education in itself, whether learning to deal with the people and the subway system, taking advantage of theater performances (the school provides many discount coupons), discovering the numerous museums or exploring the varied tapestry of neighborhoods which make up New York City.

For anyone interested in pursuing a career in acting, the American Academy of Dramatic Arts offers a top-notch curriculum and faculty, matched with the intrigue and glamour of one of the most exciting cities in the world. f

Reviewed in 1996