How to become the next Zendaya, Timothée Chalamet: 7 best acting schools with famous graduates

best acting schools
Your favourite movie stars might not have gone to some of the best acting schools, but having a good foundation can help you reach greater heights. Source: AFP.

Do you dream of becoming a Broadway star?

Do you want to be part of the big screen — being part of a TV show’s cast that shaped a generation or being a movie star determined to win an Oscar? 

The best acting schools — or theatre schools, whichever you prefer — are the perfect place to pursue those dreams, not only for honing your acting skills but also for self-exploration and personal and professional growth. 

best acting schools

An old Greek theatre in the Sicilian village of Taormina. Source: AFP.

How it all began

First things first, acting is part of theatre. Theatre is the umbrella term for most of the performing arts, including acting, singing, music, and dance.  

Hence, acting schools aren’t only for students who wish to become movie stars. They also have programmes for those passionate about design and technical theatre, playwriting, directing and even music. 

Whichever aspect of theatre you wish to pursue, it’s worth noting that theatre is a fulfilling industry, albeit competitive at times, you get to immerse yourself in a world with creativity, self-expression and love for the arts every day. 

In fact, our interest in theatre dates back as far as the 5th century B.C. PBS reports that the very first play was performed with just one actor and a crowd of people who helped him tell the story at the historical Theatre of Dionysus in Greece.

Since then, interest in theatre has grown worldwide. The earliest drama school, the Royal Strand Theatre in England, was established in 1833 before getting demolished in 1905 to make way for Aldwych tube station. 

Meanwhile, the oldest theatre school in the world that is still in operation can also be found in London. Established in 1861, the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) offers undergraduate, postgraduate, and short courses to all who aspire to a future in theatre.

Why you should join a theatre school 

Joining the top-ranked acting schools isn’t just about learning lines and hitting marks. It’s about digging deep into who you are, finding your voice, and owning it with confidence. 

You’ll discover parts of yourself you never knew existed in theatre schools, all while surrounded by an incredible community of fellow artists who lift and inspire you every step of the way. 

There, thanks to the amount of time you’ll spend with each other reading scripts, rehearsing, and performing, you’ll grow to become a tight-knit family, supporting each other through the highs and lows of this crazy journey.

The best part? Whether you’re diving into a complex character, experimenting with different acting techniques, or collaborating on a new production, every day will be a different adventure. 

It’s a playground for your imagination, but more importantly, you’ll pick up plenty of practical skills along the way, from communication and teamwork to problem-solving and time management. 

Sure, the performing arts industry can be competitive, but with the support and guidance of your theatre school, you’ll feel confident that you can turn your passion into a fulfilling career, which can begin as early as childhood. 

Whether you’re still in school or about to enter tertiary education, there are numerous top-ranked acting schools to choose from, from summer camps to universities. 

Some of them have even established the brightest Broadway stars and Hollywood artistes. In fact, you could be studying alongside them right now. 

best acting schools

Like any good school setting, the best acting schools give you a network of connections who will support and help you reach your dreams. You might even get to perform with your friends during your career. Source: AFP

Why going to theatre school is great: A case study

The best part of going to theatre school? The people.

It’s a given that you’ll be surrounded by an incredible community of fellow artists who will push you to even greater heights. With their help and support, you’ll discover parts of yourself you never knew existed and work alongside what could potentially be the next Oscar-winning actor.

Lauren Choo, who graduated with a BA in Theatre from UC San Diego, shared that she worked on a production with Lupita Nyong’o’s brother, Junior Nyong’o, who was an MFA student at UCSD.

Despite her experience being largely online, thanks to COVID-19, Choo enjoyed what UCSD had to offer and relished the opportunity to study from industry professionals. She learned many things that she could apply in real life to her career as a professional actor and much about the entertainment industry as a whole.

“Some of the best classes I’ve taken were a Senior Seminar class taught by Jennifer Chang, a professor who was involved in both the on-camera and theatre scene in LA,” says Choo. “I also enjoyed another acting class taught by Joy Osmanski, who is on the CW show Stargirl.”

Another example is Susanna Saw, who studied music at the Melba Memorial Conservatorium of Music in Melbourne. While working on musical productions and performing in Australia, she even performed alongside Hugh Jackman, who played Gaston in a live-action production of Beauty and the Beast.

This shows that theatre schools are the perfect place for an aspiring young actor to not only grow and learn but also meet and make connections with others – even the next big star. 

Here are the best acting schools worldwide to consider being a part of: 

best acting schools

Founded in 1905, The Juilliard School is recognised as a world leader in performing arts education. Source: AFP

7 of the best acting schools worldwide 

Tertiary level: 

1. The Juilliard School

Located in New York, the city of Broadway, The Juilliard School is renowned for its exceptional training in performing arts, including acting, music, and dance. 

With a mission to provide the highest calibre of artistic education, Juilliard rigorously trains its aspiring musicians, dancers, and actors to achieve their fullest potential. 

Juilliard Drama, the drama division under the school, is dedicated to preparing up-and-coming actors and playwrights to tell meaningful stories embedded with clarity, passion, imagination, and artistry. 

Exploring material ranging from Shakespeare and Chekov texts to imaginative new works, Juilliard lets you find your distinctive voice as you develop your artistic viewpoint. 

More importantly, practical experiences with real-life audiences are abundant at Juilliard – the school publicly presents more than 700 ticketed and free performances in music, dance, and drama annually. 

It’s truly the stepping stone for you to hone your craft, collaborate with fellow artists, and immerse yourself in the vibrant cultural scene of New York City.

2. London Academy of Music & Dramatic Art

The opportunity to study in the oldest theatre school in a thriving art city is reason enough to consider chasing your acting dreams at LAMDA, London. 

Carrying a rich history and long-term mission to train exceptional dramatic artistes and technicians across generations, LAMDA has made a significant impact in theatre, film, TV, audio, and new media. 

And it’s easy to see why – the school seamlessly merges traditional and modern teachings in a collaborative environment to support your artistic development as you learn to achieve excellence in theatre, from creative work to rehearsal to active performance. 

Its BA (Hons) Professional Acting course trains you to take an independent and imaginative approach to the craft. It offers lessons that draw on the latest developments in the industry, enhanced by your teachers’ knowledge and experience and the school’s cutting-edge facilities. 

As you step out as a professional after your studies, LAMDA’s strong alumni connection promises to keep you connected among your peers, industry professionals and teachers regardless of where you may be. 

best acting schools

One of the best acting schools in the US, the New York University Tisch School of the Arts is a training ground for artists, scholars of the arts, and filmmakers. Source: NYU Tisch School of the Arts Facebook.

3. NYU Tisch School of the Arts

Google the NYU Tisch School of the Arts alumni list, and you’ll find that the school has produced an extensive list of Broadway and Hollywood actors you’ve grown up watching. From Idina Menzel to Lady Gaga and Adam Sandler, there’s no end to the talent being churned out by the school. 

NYU Tisch takes pride in its faculty of renowned industry professionals who bring a wealth of expertise and real-world experience to their teaching to help you become a leading performer. 

Learning from these seasoned professionals can provide invaluable insights and mentorship as you develop your craft in the city of Broadway with unparalleled access to the epicentre of the performing arts world.

With an extensive alumni list, it’s also worth noting that studying at NYU Tisch opens doors to strong connections in the entertainment industry. 

Through networking events, internships, and guest lectures, you’ll have the opportunity to connect with industry professionals and dive deep into the complexity and reality of the business side of the performing arts, transforming you into a well-rounded actor in the art scene. 

4. National Institute of Dramatic Arts

The Land Down Under also houses the National Institute of Dramatic Arts (NIDA), one of the most promising theatre schools in the world. 

Founded in 1958 in Sydney, NIDA has produced some of the world’s most influential and in-demand storytellers, such as Cate Blanchett, Sarah Snook, Mel Gibson, Judy Davis, and Baz Luhrmann. 

The school’s Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Acting programme equips you with the skills needed for stage and screen performance, covering acting, techniques, voice, movement, and character development. 

More importantly, studying at NIDA also lets you be part of the Australian Actor’s union membership, which is equivalent to an Actors’ Equity card in the US. This means you can immediately work professionally in both countries. 

Gordon Cormier, who plays Aang in Netflix’s “Avatar: The Last Airbender”, is 14 (as of 2024.) Source: AFP.

Primary and secondary level:

5. Teenage Stage International Summer School

Aspiring young performers like you will love Teenage Stage International Summer School. 

Designed for students ages 12 to 18, Teenage Stage is located in Ireland and offers various summer courses that are small and friendly. Here, you’ll learn from the finest teachers, participate in guest workshops, and partake in fun and cosy evening activities to end the day. 

Some of the courses include Musical Theatre, which allows you to take on ensemble work, acting classes, voice and movement; Acting For The Screen, which focuses on acting techniques specifically for film; and Filmmaking, which delves into the world of filmmaking, scriptwriting, directing, cinematography, and editing. 

If you’re a boarding student in Europe, Teenage Stage might even be in a partnership with your school, making enrolling in the school more convenient and easier. 

6. LeBlanc School of Acting

If you have a child who dreams of being a child actor, the LeBlanc School of Acting is the place to check out, especially with its schools located in North America and the UK. 

Specialising in television and film acting for children and teens, LeBlanc School of Acting uses cutting-edge, forward-thinking techniques that will help you find meaning in your work as you scout for opportune acting jobs in the industry, no matter your background or skill set. 

Parents have even praised the school’s personalised approach: each child is matched with an instructor who aligns with their personality and goals.

Jocelyn Gerspacher, a mother of three, shared: “Our children couldn’t be happier. Each child has been matched specifically with an instructor who matches their personality. Their lessons are completely different and help them grow to meet their individual acting goals. I cannot say enough how amazing all three of their acting coaches are. They push our kids past the limits I imagined, and they love every minute of their online classes!” 

Many of LeBlanc School of Acting’s students have even landed promising roles in popular shows, such as Netflix’s latest live-action adaptation of “Avatar: The Last Airbender”, “Bridgerton”, “Maid”, “The Baby-Sitters Club”, and many more. 

7. Sylvia Young Theatre School

Keeley Hawes, Billie Piper, Nicholas Hoult, and Daniel Kaluuya are established actors who have made it big in the acting industry and are notable alumni of Sylvia Young Theatre School, an independent school in London. 

Founded by its namesake, Sylvia Young, the specialist performing arts school offers a high level of academic and vocational studies for students aged 10 to 16 years old who are passionate about the performing arts. 

While emphasising high academic standards alongside excellence, the school offers a supportive environment that nurtures you to become a well-rounded individual, regardless of whether you pursue full-time studies or part-time classes. 

So, if you’re looking to elevate your secondary education to a whole new and enriching level, look no further than Sylvia Young Theatre School. The school’s 40-year legacy and notable alumni speak to its impact on the entertainment industry.