Theatre & Drama Academy

The MPulse Theatre & Drama Academy provides a hands-on opportunity to work with some of America’s best professional theatre artists/teachers at the state-of-the-art Walgreen Drama Center on the University of Michigan Ann Arbor campus. Students will have the opportunity to apply for one of two specialized tracks: theatre performance or theatre design & production.

Students will receive a well-rounded, intensive experience in each of the specialized tracks, each with opportunities to engage with their fellow MPulse Theatre & Drama Academy students participating in other disciplines. The program also promises to give students the skills necessary to prepare for a college career in theatre and drama studies, no matter which direction they choose to pursue.

The 2022 MPulse Theatre & Drama Academy will resume in-person on the University of Michigan Ann Arbor campus.

Institute Dates: June 19, 2022 – July 2, 2022
Institute Tuition: *$3,150

*Tuition for the MPulse Theatre & Drama Academy covers all instructional classes and events as well as room and board.

Priority Application Deadline: February 1, 2022
Priority Admissions Notification: March 1, 2022

Application information for MPulse 2022 will be posted in November 2021.

The MPulse Theatre & Drama Performance Track provides students with the foundations of movement, scene study, and the development of the actor’s voice. Additional courses in improvisation, acting for the camera, and stage combat round out this conservatory style summer training program. All participants will rotate through each workshop over the two week session with weekend activities including a stage management workshop, connecting with other MPulse students, and exploring Ann Arbor. By the end of the program, participants will have developed specific character work that may be the basis for future auditions.

Associate Professor of Theatre

Christina Traister joined the faculty of SMTD in 2018 after an 11-year tenure in the Department of Theatre at Michigan State University, teaching a variety of subjects including classical acting, stage combat, movement, and voice. During her time there she was the recipient and nominee for multiple teaching awards. She has professionally acted at such theatres as the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, The American Shakespeare Collective (TASC), San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, Michigan Shakespeare Festival, Carmel Shakespeare Festival, Shakespeare at Stinson, Center Repertory Company, and BoarsHead Theatre; she also enjoyed a 6 month stint in Taiwan as a stunt performer. She holds an MFA in acting from the Alabama Shakespeare Festival and was part of the very first class to receive a BFA in theatre performance (acting) from the University of Michigan. She is a certified teacher and one of four female fight directors with the SAFD (Society of American Fight Directors), as well as a member of AEA (Actor’s Equity Association), AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists), and VASTA (Voice and Speech Trainers Association).

*Sample Schedule – MPulse Theatre & Drama Academy: Performance Track
*A final schedule for the 2022 MPulse Theatre & Drama Academy Performance Track will be sent to accepted participants in April 2022.

The MPulse Theatre & Drama Design & Production Track gives students first hand experience with multiple aspects of theatrical production including scenic painting, costume crafts and lighting. An introduction to design principles will be included as part of environmentally sustainable hands-on projects. All participants will rotate through each workshop over the two week session with weekend activities including a stage management workshop, connecting with other MPulse students, and exploring Ann Arbor. By the end of the program, participants will produce creative works that may be the basis for inclusion in a design and production portfolio.


Jess Fialko headshotJESS FIALKO
Lecturer, Design & Production

Jess (they/them) is a lighting, costume, and scenic designer. They teach lighting design and production courses at the University of Michigan. Prior to relocating to Michigan, they were based in Chicago, where they designed for Promethean Theatre Ensemble, Jedlicka Performing Arts Center, SheWolf Sacred Movement, The Actors Gym, City Lit, Profiles Theater, the side project and Northbrook Theatre. Regional credits include Theatreworks Colorado Springs, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Riverside Theatre, Iowa Summer Repertory, Penobscot Theatre Company, Maples Repertory Theatre, Hollins University, University of Northern Iowa, Birmingham Children’s Theatre, Davenport Junior Theatre, and Quad Cities Theatre Workshop.
Jess holds a B.F.A in Theatre Design/Technology from the University at Buffalo, and an M.F.A. in Theatre Arts from the University of Iowa.

*Sample Schedule – MPulse Theatre & Drama Academy: Design & Production Track

*A final schedule for the 2022 MPulse Theatre & Drama Academy Design & Production Track will be sent to accepted participants in April 2022.

Application information for the 2022 MPulse Theatre & Drama Institute will be available in November 2021.

Those interested in applying for the Theatre & Drama Academy Performance Track should submit the following items

Monologue Video

  • Upload a video of the student performing a memorized monologue.
    • Monologue should be no longer than 2 minutes
    • Monologue can be from any play.
  • Your face and body must be visible for the duration of the monologue.
  • Announce your name and monologue before you begin.

Upload a resume that outlines your experiences in theatre and any relevant work experience.


  • Upload one color headshot
  • Headshots should be recent, clear, and against a neutral background.
  • Headshots should be front-facing and from the neck up.
  • Headshots do not need to be professionally taken and should resemble a Driver’s License/Passport Photo.

Recommendation Letter
Applicants should submit one teacher evaluation (artistic teacher or mentor(s) preferred), academic teacher, or non-relative who can speak directly to the student’s academic aptitude, potential, and classroom performance. A recommendation is required for this institute.

Students should send this form to their recommender to fill out or the recommender may download the recommendation form here. Please have your recommender email their recommendation letter to
Recommendations are due by February 1, 2022, for priority applicants.

Download Recommendation Form – Available as PDF, Word Document, or Google Document

Please provide a statement of intent, either by written essay or video. The statement should include the following:

      • A brief introduction of yourself
      • Your reason for interest in the MPulse Theatre & Drama Academy: Design & Production Track for the upcoming summer.
      • Explain why you are passionate about theatre & design, being sure to highlight any design and production experience you have had.

Students with limited experience and/or portfolios who are curious and passionate about theatre and design are still encouraged to apply!

Merit Awards
A limited number of scholarships are available for extremely talented students based on Faculty discretion. Consideration for these scholarships is automatic for applications received by the application deadline.

Regarding the Design & Production Track, applicants who wish to be considered for merit scholarship should include a small digital portfolio of 5-10 images demonstrating their creativity and problem solving skills.

Need-Based Awards
A limited number of need-based scholarships are available to families with an Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) of $100,000 or under in the previous calendar year, or with special circumstances due to the pandemic. To be considered you must upload your financial aid materials by the application deadline as part of your application. This includes:

      • Monthly Expenses
      • Previous Year’s Tax Return
      • Statement of Need

*Watson Scholarship
In the spirit of the life of a graduate of the University of Michigan Medical School (1942) and Michigan physician, the Watson A. Young Scholarship promotes academic excellence and college aspiration among students with financial need. These need-based scholarships support middle and high school students’ participation in summer opportunities at U-M that seek to develop students’ interests and abilities in academic disciplines and expose students to the experiences and possibilities provided by higher education.

Application information will be posted in January 2022.

*Application open to Michigan residents only.

MPulse Summer Performing Arts Institutes
Office of Engagement & Outreach-Youth & Adult Programs
University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance
Stearns Building │ 2005 Baits Drive │ Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Phone: (734) 936-2660