Women in the Performing Arts: Barbara Mackenzie-Wood


During this Spring and Summer, I am spotlighting a handful of remarkable women educators in college theatre in my blog series entitled, Women In The Performing Arts. I hope you enjoy getting to know them, and learning about the important theatre programs they have pioneered.

For my fourth in the series, I have chosen Barbara Mackenzie-Wood from the famed Carnegie Mellon School Of Drama and Music Theatre. CMU boasts the oldest Bachelor Of Fine Arts Degree in the U.S. and an impressive list of celebrity alumnus. Barbara is recognized as one of the great master teachers in acting and is featured in the book, Acting Teachers Of America.


How did you become your program department chair?

I was promoted to head of Acting/Music theatre in 2001 by Peter Frisch then Head of School and continued for the next 14 years under Elizabeth Bradley and current Head of School Peter Cooke.

What makes your program different?
We do not separate our Acting and Music theatre students in the core acting classes. Typically we bring in a total class of 24 students- 12 actors and 12 MT'S . We have a strong emphasis on sequence based Acting training rooted in Stanislavsky. All student receive extensive voice and movement training. Music Theatre students receive private singing lessons, intense dance training . Actors receive music theatre classes as well as taking a required number of electives outside the School of Drama . This is consistent within our mission of being a conservatory within a world class university. Our class sizes are small with approximately 10 actors in an acting class meeting 7.5 hours a week. Students are presented to the profession in a showcase in NYC and LA at the end of their training. Our seniors collaborate with graduate directors and playwrights on developing new works. During their senior year students are permitted to study abroad at comparable conservatory training programs.

What is your philosophy about educating young artists?
Our goal is to graduate students who are immediately capable of working in the profession.

What does the future hold for your graduates?
Upon graduation the majority of our students are represented by agents and managers. They find work on stage , film and television. Our Music theatre students often go right into B'way shows and tours playing leading and significant supporting parts.

What is your greatest professional bliss?
Teaching. My students continue to inspire and challenge me.

Give me 4 adjectives to describe a CMU grad.