Founded in 2009 by Steppenwolf Co-Artistic Director, Audrey Francis, and Laura Hooper, Black Box Acting began as a boutique studio with just twelve students and two classes that rapidly grew to become one of Chicago’s most sought after training grounds for new and working actors.

The approach was simple: develop a streamlined curriculum based on human behavior and create a home where actors can continually challenge their creative limits. From this fierce commitment to training actors to Work Hard and Be Fearless, The Black Box Method was born. 

This comprehensive and rigorous curriculum, based in Meisner Technique and Viewpoints, trains actors to:

  • Be present and feel alive onstage
  • Own that they are enough
  • Live fully under imaginary circumstances
  • Own text with integrity
  • Follow physical impulses
  • Work from an honest and brave place…consistently

This curriculum is at the core of each of our training programs:

We teach the full Black Box Method in a three level curriculum — detailed below — which comprises The STUDIO Core Curriculum as well as Stage I of The ACADEMY.

B1: Human Behavior is a Meisner Technique and Viewpoints class which teaches the fundamentals of physical and emotional repetition, the activity and walking in exercises, and seven of the nine Viewpoints.

B2: Power of Imagination is the bridge to working with text. B2 uses an expanded version of Meisner’s activity and walking in exercise to introduce script elements such as relationship and truths, teaches the final two Viewpoints while reinforcing the connection between imagination work and physical work, and ends with an introduction to script work.

B3: The Professional is where all of the pieces of The Black Box Method come together. In B3, students learn the four stage Homework Process which gives them a framework for script analysis building on their B1 and B2 Meisner training, a physical approach to memorization that eliminates preplanning, and a methodology to use the vocabulary of Viewpoints to implant their prep work in their muscle memory. This last component is expanded upon in The Go Time Process, which teaches students to quickly start a scene emotionally full, to be in the moment with their scene partner, and to take adjustments with ease and integrity. Students leave B3 with a concrete process that can be applied every single time they have an audition or a booking, whether on stage or on screen.

Audrey and Laura always envisioned Black Box to be by and for the next generation of artistic revolutionaries. In late 2018, as Black Box was about to embark on its second decade, longtime students and teachers, Andrew Cutler, Amanda Fink, and Eric Gerard assumed ownership of the school.

The new leadership team is continuing to offer the intensive, process-based training through The Black Box Method that is the heartbeat of Black Box, with an increased commitment to accessibility, professional development, and immediate applicability.