Top New York Acting Schools for Film and Theatre
The best New York acting schools are exclusive, expensive, demanding of your time and energy.... and worth every minute. We're going to talk about each of these schools. But first...
What These Schools Have in Common
Let's not mince words: The top New York acting schools carry hefty tuitions. Yes, these are institutions of the arts, but they're also businesses. And a business makes money. Plain and simple.
The Admissions Process:
All of the acting schools we mention below require you to audition and be accepted before you can begin your training. You should be wary of any acting school that requires only a debit/credit card to get into classes.
Some of these schools have been around since the 19th century. Some are brand new. But all are known for their devotion to excellence in the craft of acting. Part of the reason you attend one of these schools is because it looks good on your actor resume.
You can't argue with success. These New York acting schools (especially AADA and Lee Strasberg) have produced some very skilled and accomplished actors.
Aspiring actors come from all walks of life: kids, teens, students, teachers, blue collar, white collar, young and old. And because of this, we all have different schedules in life. These acting schools offer programs as short as twelve weeks, as long as two years, summer intensives, evening classes, and so on.
That's the basic criteria for judging the top New York acting schools. The rest is up to your individual needs and goals.
Top New York Acting Schools
American Academy of Dramatic Arts (AADA)
Founded in 1884, the AADA offers a two-year degree program which starts with the basics of acting and works up to courses like camera technique, career prep, even make-up. The result is a very well-rounded actor who is given the chance to join the Academy Company, which is great for exposure to the industry.
The Academy boasts such alumni as Spencer Tracey, Robert Redford, Lauren Bacall, Adrian Brody, and even Dale Carnegie!
American Academy of Dramatic Arts
120 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10016
America's first film acting school for teens, age 13-20. They have a program that will fit anyone's schedule: fall programs, spring programs, Summer Saturday, June, July, August, etc. Basically any time school isn't in session. They've had alumni on shows like the Sopranos, Third Watch, and That 70's Show. Private coaching is also available.
Rita Litton, ACTeen Director
35 West 45th Street
New York, NY 10036
The Actor's Studio
It's not an acting school, it's a membership organization for professional actors. It provides a place where they can develop their craft and take risks in a safe, commercial-free environment. The application for membership requires a lengthy audition process.
But the Studio is the most prestigious acting organization in the world, and was/is home to several legendary talents: Marlon Brando, Christopher Walken, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, Dennis Hopper, Shelly Winters, Joanne Woodward, Jane Fonda, Sally Field.
The Actor's Studio
432 West 44th Street
New York, NY 10036
Herbert Berghof and Uta Hagen were pioneers of modern acting technique, and their studio in Greenwich Villiage is a fixture in New York's cultural scene. Actors are not required to follow a curriculum. Instead, they can take only the classes they want and need.
If you have the time, pick up Hagen's famous text: Respect for Acting.
120 Bank Street
New York, NY 10014
Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute
Strasberg was director of The Actor's Studio up until he passed away in the 80's. He is considered the Method Acting guru, second only to Stanislavski. You can see his acting work in The Godfather II, ...And Justice for All, and Going in Style. The school offers a 12 week program, a one-year, and a two-year.
Actors who have studied: Robert DeNiro, James Dean, Al Pacino, Ellen Burstyn, Angelina Jolie.
Lee Strasberg Institute
115 East 15th Street
New York, NY 10003
Stella Adler Studio of Acting
Adler was one of the most passionate Method Acting teachers in New York. You can find snippets of her workshops on YouTube. "I want to be an actor!" is a common exclamation. Adler focuses on the imagination, activity, and text analysis in her teaching.
The studio offers a three-year conservatory program, an evening conservatory, a program for teens, and a summer intensive.
Alums include: Martin Sheen, Warren Beatty, and Elaine Stritch.
The Stella Adler Studio of Acting
31 West 27th Street, Third Floor
New York, NY 10001
William Esper Studio for Acting
Bill Esper was a protegé of Sanford Meisner, and his studio is the leading edge of the famous Meisner Technique. Esper's approach is very specific and technical, which leaves actors with a dependable and flexible craft they can apply to everything from Shakespeare to voiceover and film.
On a personal note, we've studied a lot of Meisner Technique in school and found it to be very liberating and helpful to my acting process. If you want a primer on Esper's work, read his book: The Actor's Art and Craft.
The William Esper Studio
208 West 37th Street
New York, NY 10018
Well, there you have it: the top New York acting schools. Find the one that's right for you and go for it. Pour in your hard work and passion, and someday they'll be proud to call you an alumnus.