M.F.A. in Playwriting

"The University of Texas Department of Theatre & Dance…on the vanguard of this country's university theatre departments, encouraging students in a 21st century approach to the generation of original material."
The Austin Chronicle, April 10th 2009


The Mission

The Master of the Fine Arts in Playwriting Program at the University of Texas at Austin is a demanding, three-year course of study designed for artists committed to professional dramatic writing and its teaching. The curriculum emphasizes the generation and revision of new work, both by the individual playwright and in progressive collaborations with other writers and artists within the department. While open to only a limited number of students, this highly selective program draws on the resources of one of the largest Universities in the country, allowing each playwright to tailor an experience suited to his or her style, ambition, and vision.

Courses can be selected from the wide array of topics offered within the Department of Theatre and Dance including directing, dramaturgy, design, critical theory, history, performance ethnography, and movement. And work outside the department, either in conjunction with the Michener Center for Writers, or in areas such as film, television, performance art, and literature is recommended. The University's Main Stage Theatrical Season, the biennial Cohen New Works Festival, the UTNT (UT New Theatre) Program, and the rich resources of the Austin theatrical community offer more opportunities for student production than any other playwriting program in the country. These opportunities are augmented with financial support, marketing assistance, and professional mentorship to provide maximum exposure for each student's best work.

Furthermore, the M.F.A. Playwriting Program at the University of Texas at Austin is the only program in the country to provide specific coursework, professional counseling, and practical experience in the teaching of playwriting in both academic and community environments. Our rigorous M.F.A. program aims to develop each step of the writer's process-from the initial conception of new work, through the development and revision, to production and further professional growth.

The Program

Two candidates are admitted each year from an intensely competitive group of applicants.

In their First Year playwrights will focus on the generation and revision of new work. Numerous opportunities to share this work will be provided in the classroom, in public readings, through dramaturgical experiments in a playwriting lab, and in developmental workshops. Additional courses may focus on Narrative Strategies, Adaptation, and Multidisciplinary Collaboration.

In their Second Year playwrights will continue to generate and revise new work, but an additional emphasis will be placed on professional development. To that end, an intensive workshop is provided for each student featuring an acclaimed guest director, dramaturg or playwright. Recent guests have included Jesse Alick (The Public Theater), Jeremy Cohen (The Playwrights' Center), Adam Greenfield (Playwrights Horizons), Joy Meads (Center Theatre Group) and Tanya Palmer (The Goodman).

In their Third Year playwrights will further sophisticate and deepen their work, generally within the context of a production. It is our program's position that guaranteed “mainstage” productions within an academic setting, in some cases, do little to prepare playwrights for the professional arena and may harm some writers' abilities to do the ongoing work and revisions which their plays require. Thus we attempt to fit the scale of the production to the needs of the given script. However, there are more opportunities for the production of student work at the University of Texas than at any other program in the nation. It is the faculty's express aim to support and assist each playwright in securing the most beneficial production opportunity within the University, or, when appropriate in the local professional community.

Throughout the program students are also versed in the strategies and pedagogy necessary to successfully teach undergraduate and graduate courses in playwriting and other topics related to the creation of new work for the stage. In the Second and Third Years students gain professional experience teaching playwriting and other theatre courses to undergraduates at the University of Texas and in the greater Austin community.

During the summer the program regularly facilitates our students' participation in professional development opportunities around the country, including but not limited to guest residencies at the Clubbed Thumb (NY), Contemporary Theatre Festival (WV), New Harmony (Indiana), Orchard Project (NY), PlayPenn, (PA), Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Tofte Lake Center (MN).

The Master of the Fine Arts in Playwriting Program at the University of Texas at Austin is, above all, a community committed to the creation of a substantial and diverse body of work representing the best in new American playwriting. Students are expected to be full participants in this community of playwrights: giving and receiving feedback, fostering a collaborative environment, championing and challenging one another's work and supporting its production.