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The Old Globe University of San Diego

Shiley Graduate Theatre Program

"You could probably count on one hand the major training programs that are affiliated with a major theatre company. This is a specifically classical training program that is very, very heavily centered on Shakespeare. It's pretty unique nationwide."
- Barry Edelstein, Erna Finci Viterbi Artistic Director, the Old Globe 

MFA Actors in Measure for Measure directed by Delicia Turner Sonnenberg

The Program 

The professional actor training program is designed to take advantage of training and performance opportunities made available by The Old Globe.  Students' performance work in the Globe's professional productions is much more than an added attraction, it is one of the centerpieces of the training. 

The program is unique in its ability to provide students with an exceptional number of professional performance opportunities.  Partnership with the Globe demands that students achieve its formidable standard of artistic excellence, community, and professionalism. 

In addition to its symbiotic relationship with one of America's premier regional theaters, the professional actor training program is unique in other ways:

Each student accepted into the professional actor training program is awarded a full-tuition scholarship from the University and a small monthly scholarship from The Old Globe Theatre. With only seven actors in each class an exceptional amount of personal attention is given to the student’s individual training needs.


Academic credit earned through performance work at the Globe enables the University of San Diego to award its Master of Fine Arts degree after only two years of study.


Because the mission of the program is to provide students with the skills necessary to pursue successful acting careers, every effort is made to facilitate the transition into the profession.  The program's showcase presentations in New York and Los Angeles have been highly effective in helping graduates establish acting careers in film, television, Broadway, off-Broadway, and regional theatres.

Private funding for the program has been contributed through a generous endowment established by

Donald and Darlene Shiley


Additional support for the program is provided by

Terry Atkinson

The Dorothy Brown Endowment Fund 

Louis Yager Cantwell Foundation




How we started


In the early 1980s, young actors sufficiently trained in classical theatre techniques were becoming more and more difficult to find. With a national reputation built primarily on The Old Globe’s Shakespeare productions, Founding Director Craig Noel knew such actors were critical to the theatre's future.  Noel decided he would develop a program to train them in San Diego.


In 1987, Noel and University of San Diego Vice-President and Provost Sally Furay, RSCJ, established what is now The Old Globe and University of San Diego Shiley Graduate acting program.  The result has been one of the most acclaimed classical training programs in the United States.  Currently, the program accepts seven students each year from hundreds of applicants.  

The program's graduates continue to prosper in the professional industry. They have performed extensively on and off-Broadway, in regional theatres, feature films, and on television.  They have also founded successful theatre companies, written award-winning plays and screenplays. Graduates also have performed throughout Europe and Canada. Some remarkable Alumni: Heather Raffo, Old Globe/USD Graduate, wrote the smash hit "Nine Parts of Desire" (which was part of her 20 min Thesis) and recently"Noura." Jim Parsons, the Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning star of “The Big Bang Theory.” More of our inspiring graduates can be found in the "Program News" section of our website and on our Instagram Account Highlights: "Alumni Life Success".

How We Work


The Master of Fine Arts program utilizes, as primary training tools, the professional performance opportunities at The Old Globe and studio productions at the University of San Diego.


Students have performance assignments continuously throughout the program, and their work is carefully monitored by voice, movement, and acting faculty advisors.  Because the program trains only actors, studio productions are chosen exclusively to serve actors - not directors, designers, or playwrights.


Students should expect a healthy and challenging training schedule that builds endurance and athletic theatricality. They are typically expected to attend classes, workshops, and rehearsals six days a week during the school year.  Summers are generally reserved for performance work with the Globe's professional company. Because of the year-round schedule, prospective candidates should be prepared to embark on a rewarding and profound two years.







The Curriculum


The curriculum has been developed to support, nurture, and expand the individual artist's journey

within their ensemble. 

Each of four semesters concentrates on modules in Classic and Contemporary Theatre- tailored for personal and ensemble growth.  Performance and classes are coordinated with literature courses to enable students to acquire the tools of voice/speech, movement, acting, and interpretive skills to perform. Course content and instructors vary, a comprehensive performance skills core curriculum is taught each semester, including: Acting, Voice and Speech, Literature, Movement, Stage Combat, and  Alexander Technique. We believe in various teaching methods and techniques to support each individual artist and not just one way of working.

See Course of Study for details.

Additionally, a variety of workshops and specialist classes are offered in such areas as scansion, improvisation, acting as a business, stunt work technique, audition technique, acting for film and television, and current topics in the industry. There are also many opportunities for students to work and be advised with The Old Globe's impressive roster of visiting guest artists.


In your second year, the Graduate Thesis Project, an original solo performance piece, is the program's capstone assignment.  Scheduled as the final academic requirement, it is often the students' most creative and personal performance event.  Under the careful guidance of faculty advisors chosen by the student, the student is encouraged to develop a project which demonstrates technical expertise, personal artistic growth, and individual theatrical expression.  After graduation, many students have expanded these projects into successful, fully-realized professional productions across the world.

Course of Study



  • Students will demonstrate the ability to apply the fundamentals of different techniques to heightened language and contemporary vernacular.This comes from a belief that there is no fixed system that can lay claim to the whole truth about Acting. The faculty's goal is to bring out the unique gifts of each student and using many techniques to accomplish this.

  • Students will exhibit an increased proficiency at combining full breath support, the connection of imagery to rich vocal resonation, articulation, and an open emotional life when speaking texts for the stage. It is a journey that is about encouraging the creation of personal process of vocal technique interpretation.

  • As a resource to be used for the exploration of text, and character relationships, students will become proficient at applying a variety of physical techniques to transform the body and create a base for a healthy imaginative physical relationship for performance . 

  • Students will develop skills for analyzing and interpreting dramatic texts, researching literary sources, and referencing stage history as fundamental tools to inspire performance work.

  • Through their work in production at the University and The Old Globe Theatre, students will develop a clear understanding and appreciation for professional  behavior, artistry, community, and healthy industry practices.


Students are expected to complete the 60 units of graduate work for this degree in two consecutive years, according to the following schedule. All courses carry 3 units of credit.


First Year – Fall Semester (12 Units)

THEA 501– Text and Context: Modern Drama

THEA 511– Movement I

THEA 521– Acting I

THEA 541– Voice and Speech I


First Year - Spring Semester (12 Units)

THEA 502– Text and Context: Renaissance Drama

THEA 512– Movement II

THEA 522– Acting II

THEA 542– Voice and Speech II


First Year - Summer (6 Units)

THEA 506– Graduate Colloquium

THEA 531– Globe Production I

Second Year - Fall Semester (12 Units)

THEA 503– Text and Context: Classical Drama

THEA 513– Movement III

THEA 523– Acting III

THEA 543– Voice and Speech III


Second Year - Spring Semester (12 Units)

THEA 595– Thesis Project

THEA 514– Movement IV

THEA 524– Acting IV

THEA 544– Voice and Speech IV


Second Year - Summer (6 Units)

THEA 532– Globe Production II

THEA 533– Globe Production III

  • The University of San Diego and the Old Globe Theatre are equally invested hosts of the Shiley Graduate Theatre Program and, as such, respect the responsibilities of the students to both institutions. Casting and understudy assignments in Globe productions may occur during the academic calendar and will happen during the summer. These responsibilities: workshops, readings, classes, USD productions, Old Globe productions, and understudy assignments -  model a theatre in repertory with a committed company of actors that each MFA Actor will experience in their two years of attendance.



  • Courses will be undertaken either at the Globe or at USD, under the supervision of the Director of the Program with the advice and consent of the Oversight Committee for the MFA Program. Periodic evaluations, apart from the normal grading process, will help determine the advisability of students' continuing in the program.





A survey course in drama from Ibsen to the present contemporary canon.  Provides students with a reading background in the period as a context for their winter and/or spring productions.



A study of the cultural background of the English Renaissance, with an emphasis upon the works of William

Shakespeare. Readings in the drama of the period may be supplemented by social, political or artistic material.


THEA 503 TEXT AND CONTEXT: Approaching the Comic Text

Drama (3)

A study of the cultural background of Moliere, the Restoration and the 18th century. Readings in the drama of

these eras may be supplemented by social, historical, political or artistic material.



Workshop exploring the particular skills required to perform a chosen genre of dramatic literature. The theatrical

genres and skills studied vary from year to year.



This course utilizes the concepts and theories of various techniques from established movement education as the basis for vocal/physical explorations and a foundation of a movement-based techniques for the actor. Also, yoga and private tutorials in the Alexander Technique continue throughout the program.



An introduction to stage combat, this course focuses on the skills needed to practice safe, industry standard, and dramatically effective stage combat. Classes address the unique focus necessary for the integration of combat skills into the actor’s process. The Actor will learn various choreograph, weaponry, and awareness of spatial relationships thru repetition and physical core conditioning.



This course is designed to give actors the opportunity to apply movement concepts and principles: Physical Comedy, Clown, Commedia - directly to their acting process, strengthening the development of an integrated movement-based psycho-physical acting




An in-depth exploration of psycho-physical approaches to acting. Classes focus on the main

concepts of basic psycho-physical exercises; work with qualities, sensations and feeling, character, actions & gesture and atmosphere.



The exploration of techniques and application of the analytical process of texts in the Modern Drama

genre. In addition, extra-curricular performance assignments will be an integral part of this and all acting

courses throughout the program.



Applying techniques and exploration begun in Acting I, this course will concentrate on performance of Shakespeare and heightened language. Students will practice techniques widely used by professionals in the performance of verse and complex language. Individual emphasis will be placed on practicing alternative techniques that support growth and range of performance.



Students will perform scenes from a range of periods such as French neo-classical, English restoration and 19th

century. Individual emphasis will be placed on practicing techniques that support growth and range of




This course is designed to develop skills in preparation for professional theatre careers. Workshops in audition

technique, monologue preparation, on-camera performance, and the business of acting are taught throughout the semester.



Independent study practicum under the supervision of the Director of the Program. Includes rehearsal and

performance participation, as well as discussions and seminars with professional company members at The Old

Globe Theatre. This course is pass/fail.



Independent study practicum at The Old Globe under the supervision of the Director of the Program.

This course is Pass/Fail.



Independent study practicum at The Old Globe under the supervision of the Director of the Program.

This course is Pass/Fail.



In this course, students develop and practice the fundamental voice and speech skills necessary for professional theatre performance. Emphasis is placed on breath support, articulation, resonance, vocal health, and strengthening the actor’s connection to their authentic voice. The International Phonetic Alphabet is introduced as a foundation for transcription and dialect work in future semesters. 



Further development of practices begun in Voice and Speech I. Utilizing classical and contemporary text, students explore the creative power of their voice and the integration of vocal awareness, ease, and expressiveness with the acting process. IPA training is expanded to include phonetic transcription of spoken language. 



This course introduces methods for the actor to perform in any dialect with authenticity. Students receive individual dialect coaching as they research and analyze the cultural context, oral posture, prosody, and phonetics of dialects. Class work culminates in the presentation of research and performance of text in dialect. 



As preparation for professional theatre auditions, students receive individual and group singing instruction. Classes focus on healthy vocal technique, support, pitch accuracy, vocal style, and the art of acting through song. Students are guided in selecting repertoire, working with accompaniment, and preparing a strong 16 - 32 bar audition.



Workshop dedicated to producing the program thesis, an original solo performance piece. Coursework includes

research, writing and rehearsal.


Bibi Mama(2020) playwright and actor for her one woman show (her 2nd year Thesis Project) at Moxie Theatre, "The Mango Tree" - directed by Claire Simba (2021).

Nora Carroll (2018) and Kate Burton in The Old Globe Production "The Tempest"
photo by Jim Cox

PlayOn Shakespeare: Macbeth adapted by Migdalia Cruz 
directed by Dawn M. Simmons
picture: left- Camilla Leonard(2023) as Lady Macbeth and
right- Jude Tibeau(2023) as Macbeth

Photo by MFA Actor: Bernadette Sefic (2023)

The Mechanicals in The Old Globe Production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" directed by Patricia McGregor
picture: left- Becca Lustgarten(2023), Komi M. Gbeblewou(2022), Nathan VanAtta (2022), Jake Millgard( Alumni), Savannah Faye Ochran (2022), and Jude Tibeau (2023)
photo by Rich Soublet II

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