Next Stage Ensemble


What is the Next Stage Ensemble?

The Next Stage Ensemble was created to foster the work of early career actors and to train them in ensemble-based performance techniques. Classic drama demands that actors are trained in this tradition. Participants work with The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey resident directors and guest directors on a fully developed production of an abridged classic play and a short collection of scenes and vignettes from the classical canon. These productions tour to over 30 locations throughout the state - including libraries, retirement homes, and community centers. The plays are rehearsed and performed in repertory.

In addition to the touring schedule, the plays are performed for The Shakespeare Theatre’s Summer Professional Training Program and The Theatre’s artistic staff. The Ensemble also presents free public performances on the lawn outside The F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre as part of The Picnic Series after select Saturday afternoon performances of Main Stage productions. The productions chosen are suited and tailored to meet the needs of the ensemble process.

In conjunction with The Shakespeare Theatre’s mission as a teaching theatre, members of the NSE also take classes in Acting, Voice & Speech, Movement for the Actor and Stage Combat as well as master classes in various disciplines in order to hone and nurture the skills necessary to be a consummate theatre artist. Participants are given advanced seminars throughout the summer with working professionals from around the country to supplement & enhance the work done in the class room, the rehearsal room and on tour.

What are the dates of the program?   

The Next Stage Ensemble dates for 2015 are May 24th – August 10th.

What will it cost?

There is no tuition for members of the 2015 Next Stage Ensemble.  There is, however a $75 lab fee to help offset the cost of classes, master classes and seminars.  Housing is $1500.00 (plus a $100 refundable deposit) for a standard, double-occupancy room.

How many actors are cast? 

The 2015 Next Stage Ensemble will consist of 6-10 actors. All Ensemble actors are cast in both Ensemble productions.

What kind of plays make up the Next Stage Ensemble season?

Plays are chosen from the classic canon, and at least one Shakespeare play is mounted each season.

What experience is REQUIRED to be a member of the Next Stage Ensemble?

Most of the members of the Next Stage Ensemble have completed their undergraduate degrees and are working as early-career professionals or towards a graduate degree. Many have graduated from our acting apprentice program. Admission into the NSE is by audition and/or invitation only.

What kind of training is involved in the program?

During the 11 weeks of the program, Next Stagers receive focused coaching from The Shakespeare Theatre’s highly experienced faculty, education and artistic staff in specially crafted master classes and workshops. Each week, the Ensemble will explore topics that will continue their development both as artists and working professionals in today’s arena. Past topics have included: text analysis with STNJ’s senior artistic staff, voice & speech (including private coaching sessions for each member), stage combat, Viewpoints, Suzuki, clown work, monologue and audition coaching with STNJ’s casting director, and group improvisation and transformation work.

Can I earn Equity Membership Points as a member of the Next Stage Ensemble?

Yes. Ensemble members understudy actors in the Main Stage and Outdoor Stage productions. EMC points are earned for every week of understudy assignment, which will total 6-11 weeks. There are no designated understudy performances at The Shakespeare Theatre, however each Ensemble member will have an opportunity to observe select Main Stage or Outdoor Stage rehearsals. Understudies have appeared on the Main Stage when necessary. Main Stage audiences have the opportunity to see your work in The Picnic Series, held on the lawn in front of the Theatre several times during the summer.

What are future opportunities for members of the NSE?

The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey has a long-standing tradition of nurturing the careers of young artists. Actors who have participated in the Next Stage Ensemble are considered for ongoing opportunities. Numerous NSE members have returned to The Shakespeare Theatre to perform on the Main Stage as part of the Non-Equity company or move onto the Shakespeare LIVE! touring company. Many NSE members have gained their Equity cards by performing in subsequent seasons at The Shakespeare Theatre.

What else is going on during the summer at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey?

From June to August, more than 300 actors, directors, designers, and students congregate at The Shakespeare Theatre for our Main Stage and Outdoor Stage productions and our Summer Professional Training Program. With many of these artists residing on campus, there are numerous opportunities to share experiences, learn from mentors and peers, and make lasting connections with professionals at every stage of their career. The Next Stage Ensemble will present both touring productions as part of the summer’s Late-Nite Series, and may engage in other optional, independent Late-Nite projects such as “Night of the Fights” and the Late-Nite Cabaret.

Where do I stay while at The Shakespeare Theatre?
Members of the company stay in residence halls at Drew University, which have kitchens, laundry facilities, and lounges. The University recreation facilities (the most notable of which is the athletic forum which houses an indoor track; basketball, tennis, and squash courts; a fitness room; a free weight room; and a swimming pool) are available at no cost to Shakespeare Theatre company members. The Drew campus is a five-minute walk from the town of Madison, which has a variety of restaurants, grocery and convenience stores, movie theatres, etc.

Are there any crew responsibilities?

Ensemble members will be asked to participate in occasional Front-of-House duties, including ushering, concessions and assisting with Opening Night festivities. As an ensemble, Next Stagers are responsible for set-ups and load-outs of the simple scenic, prop and costume elements of the touring productions. 

Is Financial Aid Available?

Some scholarships and additional financial assistance may be available to qualified applicants. If you would like to be considered for financial assistance, please complete the Financial Aid application on our website prior to April 3rd, 2015.

How do I apply?

Artists interested in being considered for the Next Stage Ensemble should electronically submit a Headshot and Resume, as well as two video monologues (2 Contrasting Shakespeare pieces, or 1 Shakespeare and 1 non-Shakespeare classical) to All NSE submissions should include "NSE SUBMISSION" in the subject line.

Please feel free to call 973-845-6745 with questions about the program.