James Lipton

James Lipton discusses how the Actors Studio Master's Degree program came to be

on Apr 5, 2010

Those of you who have taken the time and trouble to visit my blog in the past (for which my sincerest thanks) know that spring is my favorite time of the year – for many reasons, one of which I’ve never shared with you before. It’s simply this: Spring marks the time of year when our Actors Studio Drama School students, who comprise the eager audience you see on Inside the Actors Studio, complete three years of intense and exhilarating study at Pace University and embark with their Master’s Degrees in Acting or Directing or Playwriting – and before they do, they present their theses on our Drama School stage in the only Repertory Season of its kind in the American university system – and for that matter on any stage in the city of New York. A large claim, but I can substantiate it.

In 1994, when I came up with the idea of creating for the first time in the then 47-year history of the famed Actors Studio a degree-granting Master of Fine Arts program, the Studio asked me to lead a committee of legendary Studio members in the structuring of the first school to bear the Studio’s name – and carry its banner to a new generation. I’ve described this chapter in the school’s history in a previous blog, so I’ll confine myself here to the point with which I began this reflection.

During the year in which we forged the school’s curriculum, the central pillar that emerged with an inexorable logic that surprised and encouraged us was the concept of a full-blown, full-blooded, fully-produced Repertory Season in which the students would unite to present their Master’s Degree theses not on paper or in the classroom, but where theatrical works belong: on the stage, in a season of original plays written by the graduating class’s playwrights, directed by its directors and acted by its actors, all of it offered free to the university, to our professional colleagues in search of new and exciting talent, and to the residents of the Lower Manhattan community in which Pace makes its home.