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As far as it goes, we only have one very simple guiding force: "Make it believable. Make it yours."


The Curriculum

A very short time ago, if young actors, directors, designers, artisans wanted to become masters of of the mysteries of creativity and art, they did not simply purchase a course of study in theatre. Instead they would make known their sincerity and passion; they would seek out a professional company or troupe which would make a commitment to the young artist by contract - a promise to provide him or her with all the rigors of a professional apprenticeship. Over many years of practice and study,the overriding goal was to transform the young talent from neophyte into master.

There were no charges for this agreement.

Things change, of course. But the wisdom of our ancestors occasionally prevails... there are still powerful urges in our society and education that recognize the insight of tradition. In 2016, it is a minor miracle that an arts training institution exists; managed by professionals and supported by the public school system at no charge to the young artists chosen and attending.

This is the Academy. Hosted by Chagrin Falls Exempted Schools, Managed by the ten-school-consortium of Excel-TECC, and funded by those schools based on the number o students who meet our requirements - not of talent necessarily, but of sincerity and passion.

The classes described below form the philosophical and practical basis of the two year course of study at the Academy.  Students joining the Academy as juniors will begin a two year graduated program that will lead them through a course of study that fully prepares them for college and beyond.   Students joining the Academy as seniors will be given an accelerated program with more challenging roles and scene work.


  • The Academy is fully accredited.
  • The Academy offers 6 college credit hours
  • Study during school hours - during the school year.
  • The Academy is housed in the new Chagrin Falls Performing Arts Center
  • Tuition is paid by the public school system.
  • TWO YEAR CURRICULUM - A Two Year Course in all aspects of Performing Arts, with a focus on college preparation.
  • Right from the start, students are introduced to concepts of acting that actors can apply in practical ways to building a character.

    The Actor has three primary concerns; Mind, Will and Sense. If all three are properly engaged, we will develop an imaginary circumstance that will seem entirely believable, even in the joyous, larger-than - life Musical or the grand soulful world of Shakespeare or the naturalistic milieu of Chekhov.

  • We begin with sense; teaching the body to respond to imaginary circumstances that have been build solely from the imagination.
    • SENSORY EXPERIENCING (First Semester I)
      "I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of cake.  No sooner had the warm liquid and the crumbs with it, touched my plate than a shudder ran through my whole body, and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary changes that were taking place... Suddenly memory returns... I was conscious that it was connected with the taste of the tea and cake, but that it infinitely transcended those savors... immediately the old gray house... rose up like the scenery of a theatre to attach itself to the little pavilion, opening on to the garden, .. and with the house the town... whence did it come?"
      Marcel Proust - "Remembrance of Things Past"

      The Experiencing class is the study of the imagination and how it is stimulated and energized by using the five senses -- the concepts applied in this session are the key to what is called 'the world of the play' and are central to the art of acting and creating reality on the stage.  Exercises in this class focus on establishing belief, developing a sense of truth and bringing the internal form of a sensory event to clear, physical expression that leads to character behavior and emotional truth.

    • ACTION (First Semester II)
      "All action on the stage must have an inner justification, be logical, coherent, and real.  ... When an actor is completely absorbed by some profoundly moving objective so that he throws his whole being passionately into its execution, he reaches a state we call inspiration." (Constantin Stanislavski)  

      Action is a class in the ‘language of the body’.  By articulating behavior that is born of simple, relaxed movement, consistent with wants of the character, the actor has access to the key that can unlock the soul and thus reveal the play.

    • ACTION II (Second Semester I & II)
      "Actors must learn to naturally and reflexively understand how to extend and totally envelope a moment on stage... so that the body is committed cap-à-pie!  From head to foot - out to the fingers and beyond.. So that you can do this instinctively and with a sense of ease... If you accomplish it, the audience is drawn to you because you're not simply performing, you're investing yourself into the experience, the want, the totality of the creative moment... - the focus on physical and emotional completion of this instance in time... Genius is blind to thought and reason... the solution is in the doing... no matter what your mind tells you may be right or wrong. 

      Action II continues with the exploration of action as behavior that defines the ‘mask of the character’ – a place of inspiration where all emotional and spiritual expression is revealed.

    • CHARACTERIZATION (Third Semester I)
      "It is our conviction that if souls were visible to the eye we would clearly see the strange fact that each individual of the human species corresponds to some species of the animal kingdom; and we would easily recognize the truth, scarcely perceived by thinkers, that from the oyster to the eagle, from the pig to the tiger, all animals are in man, and that each of them is in each man; sometimes even several of them at a time."  (Victor Hugo) 

      Characterization focuses on developing characters by focusing on the muscles, the rhythm, the accent, the vocal sound and other outward manifestations that allow the student to play parts beyond ‘type’. Characterization" is an in-depth exploration of the outward images and subsequent inner rhythms that inform character. A cure for type-casting.

    • TECHNIQUE (Third Semester II)
      This class is the study of phrasing;  using the body and voice to accentuate the expressive word, the tempo and rhythm of the body, and the use of rules of language to add structure and form to the work.

    • VOICE FOR THE STAGE  (Integrated into all Semesters)
      "Words are the actor's tools, as color and brush-strokes are the painter's, and we have to be constantly sharpening our focus on them to find new textures and colors... But the voice is very sensitive to our own ego.. We must not, through lack of trust either in ourselves or in the text, over-control the language.  We must first allow the words to act upon us.. and then we must touch them out, let them free."
      Cecily Berry - The Actor and the Text

      A study in discovering, developing and using your voice with power and confidence. This course explores the theory and practice of vocal production for the stage that results in truthful and free flowing expression.  Study includes the principals of pronunciation, the correction of regional accents and the mastering of other dialects.  Breath control, relaxation, the use of consonants and vowels, extension of the vocal range are studied as they apply to a naturally, human, relaxed sound that is optimized to convey emotion and meaning.   

    • MOVEMENT FOR THE STAGE (Integrated into all Semesters)
    • Taught by Director/Actress/Mimest Wendy Kriss

      "Physical action is the basis of acting.  The body needs to carry out our intentions and express the state of mind, the mood, in which we carry them out.  Awareness and control are essential factors in our technique."
      Jean Benedetti 

      The physical preparation of the actor’s instrument, his or her body is explored in this class on physical action.  Students will study how to utilize their body in relationship to the five senses and the world of the play.  Actors learn to develop an expressive, graceful body with control of the muscles to produce the most powerful expression possible.
    • .
    • The Academy places great importance on teaching young actors how to develop precise control of their bodies, and creating a sense of grace in their movement. The movement class, taught by Wendy Kriss, is based on the teachings of Etienne Decroux. Decroux was teacher to the great mimest Marcel Marceau, who credited Decroux with having a deep going effect on his work. His theories of "mime", which he called "corporeal mime", give the young actor a connection to the physical moment - a primary concept of the Academy's actor training. Ms. Kriss's body training, following Decroux's approach, teaches actors a series of "isolations" where individual body sections move in a prescribed sequence, and thus learning physical "compensations" required by the actor to keep the body in balance when the center of gravity is shifted. He did not teach pantomime,the art of silence, rather he taught a true art of dramatic movement.
    • .
    • Decroux taught at a number of acting schools in Europe and in the United States beginning in 1962 until his death in 1991. Many hundreds of students, including The Academy's own Wendy Kriss, studied with him during that time. Students of the Academy will find this work invaluable for acting in general, but primarily as a classical actor in the plays of Shakespeare and the world of modern theatre, including musical theatre.

      This course is a college / professional theatre preparatory class that focuses on the study of potential schools, their particular requirements and then, the selection and performance of monologues that will give each student a leg up in the audition process.  This class includes one-on-one and classroom work.

    • Students are able to continue their studies in 8 fully mounted Academy Productions.  The productions are chosen to be extensions of the classroom theories and exercises


      A course in studying Shakespeare's verse.  Students learn the rules of verse scansion and underlying technique of exploiting the human heartbeat of iambic pentameter.   Students study the plays for clarity and find the musical laws that apply to the laws of verse and speaking.  Students study, rehearse and perform monologues from chosen Shakespeare plays. A new kind of 'action' is explored:  the action of speech, acting dramatic or comic poetry. 

    • ACTING: SHAKESPEARE II Continued work on Shakespeare's verse, learning the rules of verse scansion and understanding the human heartbeat of iambic pentameter.   We study the history of the plays, the great roles, and perform monologues and scene work from Shakespeare’s plays. Continued work on the action of speech, acting dramatic or comic poetry. 

    • ACTING CHEKHOV - A study of the plays by Anton Chekhov and the special acting skills and techniques required to bring the to life.

    • ACTING: PERIOD STYLES  This class focuses on the various styles of theatre from greek to medieval to Elizabethan, restoration, Edwardian and modern theatre.   It explores the various approaches to language and the body and the use of gesture as it relates to the the demands of the style of the play.

    • ACTING: MUSICAL THEATRE I The study of the history of musical theatre; performing the style of musical theatre; scene work and song performance work.)

    • ACTING: MUSICAL THEATRE II Continued work in the study and performance of musical theatre.  How to audition for a musical play.  Particular attention is paid to how to ‘sell’ a song and develop an heightened acting approach that still maintains a sense of truth.

    • ACTING: FOR THE CAMERA This course is an in depth study of Acting for the Camera.  Students study the differences between acting for the stage and acting for the camera.  The course covers, auditions, cold readings, industrial films, professional criticism, and acting in feature films.  Final 'shoots' include preparing a commercial and a monologue for the camera.  This class is a must-do for actors serious in developing their cast-ability in all media from stage, to commercials to film. 

    • DIRECTING: FOR THE STAGE A course of moving a play from conception to stage, including:  Script Analysis:  Establishing Theme, spine and overall action; the director’s period of study and preparation;  The director's notebook;  Rehearsal notes that work;  relationship to designers, technicians, playwrights and actors; study of stage picture, atmosphere, rhythm, tempos, shape, form, climax and space relationships to enhance dramatic action and finally, the actor: How to help and encourage the actor to find the inner life of the role.   The students in this class will rehearse scenes with actors in class with comments by their instructor and their peers.

    • STAGE COMBAT This course studies the techniques used to create the illusion of violence to further dramatic conflict on the stage. stage with exercises that emphasize commitment to technique, professionalism, and theatrical skills.  The class covers a progressive curriculum of ballet, jazz, and tap techniques.

    • DANCE FOR THE THEATRE A study of dance for the PROFESSIONAL THEATRE FIELD STUDY Involves the study and viewing of professional theatre productions in the northeast Ohio area.  Additional admission fee required)


    Set, Lighting and Costume design (Ben Needham)

    A study of the basic requirements of producing theatre, from the production team, pre-production, rehearsing, preparing design elements, the production week.  Addition information on the various unions, and collateral personnel, including box office, marketing and artistic staff.

    DESIGNING LIGHTING FOR THE STAGE The study of lighting design, equipment, and the history of lighting design.

    DESIGNING SETS FOR THE STAGE The study of stage design from Shakespeare to the theories of Gordon Craig to modern set designers and their work.  In addition, students become acquainted with all stage equipment and the requirements for practical design that illuminates the world of the play and its theme

    Technical Theatre Practicum (Ben Needham, Christine Woods, Cody Swanson)

    Theatrical Make Up  (Christine Wood)

    Production Practicum (All Directors & Director of the Academy)

  • An Actor Prepares - by Constantin Stanislavski
    The essential text for the young actor as he or she prepares for study in the theatre. (Will be supplied by Academy)
  • Building a Character - by Constantine Stanislavski
    The essential text for the young actor dealing with the technique of voice, body and management of accentuation of the expressive word.
  • The Actor and the Text - Cecily Berry
  • Acting -  The First Six Lessons - Richard Boleslavski
  • Scripts from the world theatre
  • Advanced textbooks in movement, makeup, voice, lighting design, costume design and set design.

*all classes, productions and schedules are subject to change



Chagrin Falls Performing Arts Academy - 400 East Washington St.  - Chagrin Falls, Ohio 44022   440-715-4004