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Degree Partnership Aims to Boost Students’ Employability - Spring 2022



By Terry Phelps

Building on the success of its new Master of Fine Arts in Screen Acting degree program, the Oklahoma City University School of Theatre will now offer two Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting tracks: BFA Acting — On-Camera and BFA Acting — Stage and Screen. Theatre students will have courses in film and theater acting, along with courses in the Film Department of the OCU Petree College of Arts & Sciences, including screenwriting and editing, producing and directing.

“The trend in the 21st century entertainment market has been toward on-camera work, and the COVID crisis has accelerated this trend,” said Lance Marsh, OCU professor of acting and head of performance. He said the new tracks will enhance employable skills for acting in front of a camera for film and television.

The Stage and Screen track will include three semesters of on-camera acting, along with extensive training in musical theater skills and Shakespeare. The On-Camera track will include seven semesters of dedicated on-camera acting classes with class work in commercials and voiceovers, along with 27 hours in the Film Department, including classes in screenwriting and editing, producing and directing.

“The students will graduate as content-creators, not just actors, and will be perfectly positioned to create their own digital material and not wait to be discovered,” Marsh said.

Because professional actors working on-camera often do commercial and voice-over work as well, a Commercial Acting and Voiceover class will work on those skills. A variety of special topics in screen acting classes will explore different on-camera genres, including sitcom and computer-generated virtual reality, as well as advanced audition techniques. Students will also learn to create and produce their own work in the field of digital media. Film courses include workshops that emphasize storytelling and technical skills.

Bryan Cardinale-Powell, chair of the OCU Film program said, “We’re looking forward to seeing what students make when they collaborate across disciplines like film and performance. We think OCU is in a great position to offer a program where students get to explore roles in front of and behind the camera. There are few places where learning about performance and filmmaking will be as closely aligned as it will be at OCU once these programs get off the ground.”

The BFA tracks will benefit from the MFA in Screen Acting program, which began in the 2021 fall semester. The Los Angeles-based MFA is an intensive two-year program preparing graduates to work in film, television and related recorded media. It has included classes led by OCU alumna and Tony-winner Kristin Chenoweth, and Academy and Emmy Award-winner Aaron Sorkin. Students have worked with actors, directors, casting directors, writers, agents and producers.

In the first year of the program, MFA students take part in courses taught by industry practitioners and Los Angeles-based OCU faculty amidst major production studios, such as Amazon Studios, Sony Pictures, TriStar Pictures and HBO Studios. In addition to actor training, on-camera work and working with industry professionals, the students generate their own digital media projects and a research project on screen history or film/TV theory.

MFA students study with OCU partner programs in London in the second year of the program, developing technical skills in voice, movement and character. This will include acting styles outside of contemporary realism, requiring physical, vocal and cultural transformation.

Unlike the MFA, the BFA tracks don’t have a built-in study abroad format, but summer experiences in Los Angeles, London, Rome and Cyprus are expected.

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