From colleges and universities with bachelor’s and master’s degrees to à la carte learning options at local institutions, there’s no shortage of opportunities to study acting in Chicago.
Let’s take a look at some of the most highly regarded acting schools in the Windy City, each with its own training methodology and advantages.
Founded in 1981, Acting Studio Chicago provides programs for both adult and youth students. The school grounds its training in the 12 Guideposts, which is based on the book “Audition” by Michael Shurtleff.
Its classes cover a variety of mediums and topics, including its Core Acting Program for beginners; intermediate and advanced acting options; and targeted workshops for on-camera acting, auditioning, voiceover, and movement.
Students can also take advantage of its complimentary online acting resources, which include:
- Free books and articles to improve your craft
- Advice from agents, casting directors, and union members on navigating the business
- Open audition sites
- Webinars and guides to help you with headshots, résumés, and finding representation
Acting Studio Chicago’s classes typically run from four to eight weeks. The cost varies depending on the training provided and the length of the course, but in general you can expect to pay between $200 and $400.
You can apply to the Acting Studio Chicago online, but its advanced courses require you to submit a headshot and résumé before approval. Acting Studio Chicago currently offers both in-person and online classes.
Though newer among the acting schools in Chicago, Black Box Acting has quickly gained attention for its accelerated training programs.
Black Box Acting’s premier program is the ACADEMY, a rigorous 100-day course that combines the Meisner technique and Viewpoints with study of text analysis, classics, and TV and film. Students of the ACADEMY are guaranteed a graduate showcase in front of “leading industry professionals.” The program’s tuition is $9,000, and the school offers both extended payment plans and scholarship opportunities.
The history of the Chicago Actors Studio (CAS) dates back to the 1940s, making this one of the oldest acting schools in Chicago outside of collegiate institutions. The core program at CAS is “Acting as a Craft,” an eight-week, $349 workshop that focuses on scene study, cold reads, script analysis, monologues, the Meisner technique, improv, and sense memory.
Other programs CAS offers include:
- Audition Power: Monologues and Cold Reading ($290)
- Voice and Movement Workshop ($255)
- Intro to On-Camera Acting ($395)
- Advanced On-Camera Acting ($550)
If you are just starting your acting career, Chicago Actors Studio may be a good fit. CAS doesn’t require any auditions for its beginner classes. Students can also split tuition fees into multiple payments, and you will have access to internship and scholarship programs.
Depending on the type of class, students can expect to pay anywhere from $300 to $400 per course.
Columbia College Chicago (CCC) is an arts institution with multiple offerings for its acting students.
CCC’s undergraduate school has both B.A. and BFA in Acting programs. If you already have a bachelor’s degree, you may be interested in pursuing an M.A. or MFA in Acting and Contemporary Performance Making.
The programs at CCC provide a diverse training ground with classes that explore performance styles from not only the United States and Europe, but also from Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
Undergraduate application requirements vary according to your current status:
- Freshmen and transfer students: Transcripts, a writing sample that “outlines your goals for your enrollment at Columbia College Chicago,” an audition, a portfolio, and an application fee of $25
- Returning students: Transcripts and a meeting with an advisor
- Non-degree seeking students: Transcripts and an application fee of $25 (domestic undergraduate), $60 (domestic graduate), or $75 (international undergraduate or graduate)
- Second bachelor’s degree: Transcripts and an application fee of $25
To apply for an M.A. or an MFA in Acting and Contemporary Performance Making, you’ll need to submit:
- A résumé
- Two letters of recommendation
- A self-assessment essay
- An interview or audition
- A portfolio (optional)
For full-time undergraduate students, the 2022–2023 tuition is $31,026. Graduate students can expect to pay anywhere from $39,691 to $65,844.
Prospective students looking for acting schools in Chicago with degree options should also consider DePaul University, which offers a BFA in Acting.
This four-year program provides a comprehensive array of course requirements to prepare students for a career in front of the camera or onstage. Students taking acting classes at this Chicago university can expect to learn about a wide range of acting styles such as Grotowski, Spolin, Stanislavski, and Suzuki.
As a first-year student, you can expect to immerse yourself in 101-level topics such as acting, movement, and history of dramatic literature, before moving on to targeted courses such as stage combat, makeup, and improvisation. Year-four students at DePaul participate in a graduate showcase.
Tuition costs $43,506 for the 2022–2023 academic year.
While it doesn’t provide a traditional degree, the Green Room Studio offers several selling points for potential students. Many of the studio’s instructors are casting professionals who can offer an informed perspective on what the industry wants from performers.
This school takes a multifaceted approach to its training and doesn’t rely on a single style such as the Meisner technique or Method. Instead, the Green Room Studio focuses on providing the relevant tools that will prepare students for the demands of onscreen acting.
The Green Room Studio provides screen acting as well as voice acting classes for adult and youth students, offered in-person and online. The studio also has an online network called The Practice, which provides accountability for its members with regular assignments, peer reviews, and community access for $46 a month.
A traditional eight-week course costs $500. For a single class, such as a one-day workshop, the fee is under $200.
Green Shirt Studio created a multi-tiered training program featuring acting classes that build upon each other. Students with any amount of experience can join Green Shirt Studio’s Level 1 classes; eligibility for Levels 2–5 requires completion of the previous courses. Topics include:
- Level 1: Living Truthfully. This introductory class provides students with exercises that promote spontaneous, “in the moment” performance guided by emotion and impulse.
- Level 2: Under Imaginary Circumstances. This class helps students lean into their imagination and further develop spontaneity while working on memorized pieces.
- Level 3: Emotional Preparation. This class focuses on harnessing emotional truth and range in performance.
- Level 4: Doing the Work. Using the previous levels as building blocks, this class explores monologue and two-person scene work with particular attention put on script analysis.
- Level 5: Process to Performance. This is the culmination of the previous levels that helps students take the tools learned in the classroom into the real world.
The eight-week courses, which are based on the Meisner technique, each cost $335. Green Shirt Studio also provides both in-person and online private coaching lessons for $70 per hour, during which you can focus on subjects like auditioning, monologues, storytelling, vocal training, and professional development.
Once accepted into Roosevelt University’s BFA in Acting program, you’ll join the Theatre Conservatory of the Chicago College of Performing Arts (CCPA), which includes approximately 200 undergraduate students. All members are guaranteed onstage performance experience and credit while attending Roosevelt University.
Roosevelt students are introduced to a variety of training approaches, including body technique, circus arts, Linklater voice, on-camera technique, period styles, stage combat, Stanislavski, and Viewpoints. Dance and voice classes round out their training.
Additionally, Roosevelt helps students find internships at local theaters such as the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Goodman Theatre, and Steppenwolf Theatre.
To qualify for a virtual audition, prospective students must submit an application and two 60- to 90-second monologues from works published during the 20th century to present day. Tuition for the 2022–2023 academic year is $39,552.
The Second City is a legendary comedy institution that counts Dan Aykroyd, Tina Fey, and Bill Murray as alums. Among the various acting schools in Chicago, the Second City is renowned for its improv classes, but it also offers several levels of acting courses and workshops on standup, physical comedy, dialect and character creation, voiceover, and hosting.
Given the school’s association with improv, it is no surprise that the Second City roots its acting classes in this technique, with no script usage at all. According to the Second City, students will develop skills “found in the physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual aspects of the human condition.”
Adults and youth students can choose in-person, online, and on-demand classes, which cost between $300 and $400.
- Theatre History 1: Premodern Drama
- Acting 1: Fundamentals
- First Year Dialogue Seminar
- Movement & Voice 1
- Practicum in Theater: Run Crew
- Script Analysis for Theatrical Production
Similar to CCC, DePaul, and Roosevelt, students at UIC can expect to examine a variety of different acting styles while pursuing their degrees. Classes include the study of Brecht, Ibsen, Stanislavski, and Viewpoints.
Since UIC is a state school, tuition depends on your residency status. For the 2022–2023 academic year, tuition for an Illinois resident is $18,424. For an out-of-state student or international student, that number increases to $33,032 or $34,958, respectively.
Last but certainly not least is Vagabond School of the Arts. This institution’s mission statement highlights four pillars—education, wellness, community, and volunteerism—as a way to not only teach performance, but to prioritize physical fitness, build a tight-knit group, and give back to the Chicago area.
Vagabond’s in-person course options include on-camera, theater, voice work, and the business of acting. Each class runs for seven weeks and costs approximately $325.
There are plenty of acting schools in Chicago, which means there is a training space for everyone who wants to perform. Evaluate, compare, and perhaps even visit a few to determine which school could be your own career launchpad.