After some reflection, I decided to focus my DTP study on the teaching of introductory acting. The Drama Departments beginning course is taught exclusively by graduate students (MFA Acting Candidates) under my supervision. Each instructor teaches two sections with a maximum enrollment of 12 undergraduates. Most semesters all ten sections are full, so we are teaching 120 students per semester. It became clear to me that this course was ideally suited to the objectives of the DTP program. It was a broad-based studio course, serving a large and diverse population. It had built-in potential for interdisciplinary connections. It was designed to serve the creative needs of our liberal arts majors, and it was a course that was being taught at virtually every major college in the nation.
In order to insure quality and consistency, I had already developed a six-session workshop for the instructors. One of my DTP goals was to thoroughly analyze and refine this initial training sequence. An instructor handbook was developed and a system for monitoring instruction was initiated. My six graduate instructors served as able consultants on this project.
I then designed a national survey and sent it to eighty liberal arts institutions, asking trainers to respond to questions on the structure and content of their introductory course. This study allowed me to compare our system to other approaches in theory and practice. I analyzed specifics such as approaches to group exercises and scene study, vocabulary choices, textbook use, class size and instructor background.
In the second year of my DTP, I chaired a panel entitled, Teaching Introductory Acting in a Liberal Arts Program at the Southeastern Theater Conference in Norfolk. We shared ideas with colleagues on collaborative student projects, promoting better discussions and honing student skills in critiquing work, teaching literary concepts through performance, and journal writing.
I believe our introductory acting course is now more creative, more challenging, and better taught thanks to the DTP Project.