Carnegie Mellon University

Where the Best in the Industry Bring out the Best in You.


Here at Carnegie Mellon’s Pre-College Drama, you will be introduced to the intensity of a top-rated undergraduate conservatory experience. You will prepare for the rigor of the audition and application process. You will develop a clear picture of what the future could hold.

Curriculum Overview:

Pre-College Drama prepares students for the college audition and interview process, illustrating the kind of creativity and discipline required of students studying a Bachelor of Fine Arts Drama curriculum. Classes are taught by nationally acclaimed Carnegie Mellon University faculty and adjunct professors.

We offer several pathways to discover and prepare for an education and career in theater.

Acting and Musical Theater: Students focus on the audition process rather than a production, allowing students to enter the college application and audition process with a repertoire of monologues and songs, as well as the skills needed to find material appropriate for their age and type.

Design/Production:  Students leave with the beginning of a cohesive portfolio which they can build on for their college application process.

Curriculum:

Pre-College Drama is a six-week residential program for high school juniors and seniors that offers training and preparation for college auditions/interviews and exposure to a top-rated drama conservatory experience. Each of the three disciplines offered - Musical Theater, Acting, and Design/Production - has a different focus that will bring students unique experiences, challenging opportunities, and preparation for future theater endeavors. Through this program you may find value in a wider, liberal arts undergraduate experience where you can explore all the options afforded to you.

Students will attend classes for approximately eight hours a day, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. with a daily lunch break.

Pre-College Drama students are involved in a wide variety of classroom projects, topics, workshops, lectures and demonstrations, seminars, and master classes. All provide curriculum enrichment.

Program Options:
  • 6-week*
  • Residential OR Commuter**
*For specific program dates see, the home page.

**In order to be eligible as a commuter student, the parent or legal guardian must have a permanent residence within approximately 30 miles of campus or within Allegheny County. Families who relocate temporarily to the Pittsburgh area are not eligible for commuter status. There are no exceptions to this policy.

Disciplines and Optional Workshops: 

Musical Theater is designed to prepare high school juniors and seniors for college auditions. Students will learn how to search for appropriate audition monologues and songs, working with acting and singing faculty to develop repertoire and audition techniques. Students will learn what to expect when auditioning, what will be expected of them and perform a mock audition with constructive feedback at the end of the program.  This focused and specific feedback allows students to continue the work begun at Carnegie Mellon with a clear idea of their strengths and weaknesses. Additional classes will provide support and background to improve the student’s training.


Classes Include:
  • Audition: Group and individual work on monologue preparation and presentation.
  • Acting: Work in small groups on technique and methods of training to provide a deeper understanding of the text and performance.
  • Song Coaching: Group and one-on-one coaching with instructors to find appropriate audition songs and presentation delivery.
  • Acting for the Camera: Skills for acting on camera using scenes from actual film and TV projects. Topics covered:
- camera basics
- film and camera terminology
- shot size
- how to hit a mark
- hierarchy of a professional film set
- preparing for auditions
- adjusting a performance from stage to screen

There is a major self-tape component to the course, which will be useful for shooting pre-screens for college auditions.

  • Dramaturgy: An approach to play analysis that incorporates philosophy, history, intense reading skills, extensive research and writing, and a knowledge of how the drama impacts - and is impacted by - the society that creates it. The central goal of the course is to make students stronger, more critical, and more discerning readers of plays.
  • Ballet and Jazz: A series of warmups and basic ballet and jazz instruction to help learn the language of dance, helping Musical Theatre students prepare for dance auditions.
  • Musical theater students are also encouraged to choose one Elective course in addition to the regular curriculum for enrichment from the following list of classes:

- Directing
- Tap
- Text Analysis
- Dramatic Writing
- Music Theater Repertoire
- Improvisation

The Acting program is designed to prepare high school juniors and seniors for college auditions. Students will learn how to search for appropriate audition monologues and work with Acting faculty to develop repertoire and audition techniques. Students will learn what to expect when auditioning, what will be expected of them and perform a mock audition with constructive feedback at the end of the program. This focused and specific feedback allows students to continue the work begun at Carnegie Mellon with a clear idea of skills the students have achieved as well as new goals to work on for the future. Additional classes will provide support and background to improve the student’s training.

Classes Include:

  • Audition: Group and individual work on monologue preparation and presentation.
  • Acting for the Camera: Skills to act on camera using scenes from actual film and TV projects. Topics covered:
- camera basics
- film and camera terminology
- shot size
- how to hit a mark
- hierarchy of a professional film set
- preparing for auditions
- adjusting a performance from stage to screen

There is a major self-tape component to the course, which will be useful for shooting pre-screens for college auditions.

  • Acting: Work in small groups on technique and methods of training to provide a deeper understanding of the text and performance.
  • Voice and Speech: Work on technique to help students present their work in a polished and professional way. Some dialect work included as well.
  • Dramaturgy:  An approach to play analysis that incorporates philosophy, history, intense reading skills, extensive research and writing, and a knowledge of how the drama impacts - and is impacted by - the society that creates it. The central goal of the course is to make students stronger, more critical, and more discerning readers of plays. 
  • Shakespeare: Work to provide a deeper understanding of presenting classical monologues. Exercises and assignments will help students get comfortable with complex language and become more familiar with Shakespeare’s characters and plays.
  • Movement: Focuses on how the body is used as a tool for expression, using movement exercises, mask work, and techniques to help students understand the use of movement to enhance character development.
  • Acting students are also encouraged to choose one Elective course in addition to the regular curriculum for enrichment from the following list of classes:
- Directing
- Tap
- Text Analysis
- Dramatic Writing
- Music Theater Repertoire
- Improvisation 

This program is designed to introduce high school seniors to Design & Production coursework and to prepare a portfolio for college interviews. Classes introduce several aspects of Carnegie Mellon’s undergraduate School of Drama’s Design/Production program.

The range of classes offered in the Design/Production option may include any of the following:

  • Basic Design: A combination of a presentation and studio course where topics will be introduced such as:
- principals and elements of design
- scenery, costume, and lighting design disciplines
- history of theatrical spaces and important theatrical founders and their companies
- the art of online collage, followed by practical application by the students with teacher feedback
  • Science of Scenery: An understanding of engineering and applied science in the context of physical production. This will inform Designers and Technicians on is practical, enabling the development of innovative approaches to realize design goals.  Discussions will relate to topics including:
- materials science
- Newtonian physics (statics and dynamics)
- structural design and engineering
- mechanical design and engineering

These studies will provide students with a better understanding and awareness of the underlying scientific and mathematical principles at work in various aspects of theatrical production.

  • Storyology: How to arrange sensory information (visual and aural) into form. The same story -- plot, characters, events -- can be arranged in a variety of forms each potentially revealing new meanings and creating unique experiences. This course explores why storytelling choices are made and what they mean. Topics include viewpoint, flow, time, genre and world-building.
  • Technical Production: A survey of content from several Production Technology & Management courses constituent to a Bachelor of Fine Arts program. Content includes:
- Production Planning
- Studiocraft CAD
- Scenic Fabrication & Installation
- Technical Direction

Students will have the opportunity to experience foundational content from each of the classes providing an insight into theatrical Technical Direction. 

  • Production Management: The principles required to successfully manage a production from start to finish.  This will include understanding the production department personnel, the scheduling and budgeting process, and how to effectively communicate with artistic and production stakeholders.
  • Applying to College: A team-taught course covering all of the tools playing a part in the College Design & Production application process: evaluating programs, portfolios, interviewing, and resumes. 

At the end of the program students will have an opportunity to participate in a mock interview for the School of Drama.

  • Dramaturgy: An approach to play analysis that incorporates philosophy, history, intense reading skills, extensive research and writing, and a knowledge of how the drama impacts- and is impacted by- the society that creates it. The central goal of the course is to make students stronger, more critical, and more discerning readers of plays. 
Optional workshops and master classes are held in the evenings, Monday through Thursday. Weekends are intended for homework, independent rehearsal, and Student Life activities.

Eligibility and Application Requirements:

  • Be at least 16 years old by the program start date (to participate in the residential program).
  • Be a current sophomore or junior in high school at time of application submission

The complete application for Pre-College Drama consists of the following:

  • Completed Online Application
  • Unofficial Transcript
  • Standardized Test Scores (optional)
  • One Letter of Recommendation
  • Responses to the two essay prompts 

Please note that the Drama program does not require an audition for Pre-College admission - the goal of the program is to develop repertoire for the college audition process.

 Essays required for the following prompts (300-500 words each):

  1. What do you hope to gain from participating in the Carnegie Mellon’s Pre-College Programs?
  2. The study of theater demands a high level of commitment to properly learn the tools of the industry. Tell us why you feel ready to devote the time and energy required to complete the difficult coursework offered by Pre-College Drama, and why you feel you are prepared to commit to conservatory training.
  • Why don't I need an audition tape?
    • Pre-College Drama focuses on preparing students for the audition process rather than the execution of a production.  Requirement of a video audition for admittance to Pre-College Drama would undermine the goals of the program.
  • Will I need to bring monologues or music?
    • If you have material you are working on or would like to work on, please bring it along.
  • Will there be a final production?
    • There is no final production. Our program is focused on process not product.
  • Where can I get the necessary textbooks?
    • The campus bookstore will bundle the necessary textbooks with the correct editions and translations as well as create a link for purchase. We'll share this link with students via email and the Facebook group. You'll be able to purchase the books through the link and pick them up when you arrive on campus.
  • What are the dance wear requirements?
    • If you have specific questions concerning dance wear, contact Maria Stoy at mstoy@andrew.cmu.edu or 412.268.3284.
  • Can I take an elective in the School of Music or another department?
    • No. Due to class times and varying schedules, you cannot take classes outside Pre-College Drama.
  • I'm a Pre-College student, but not enrolled in Pre-College Drama. Can I take a dance, audition or improv class?
    • No. Due to the number of students enrolled in Pre-College Drama; we do not have space in our classes to accommodate students from other programs.
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