MFA Playwriting Concentration

The playwriting program takes a pragmatic approach, stressing the process and development of a writer’s skills, with the understanding that there is not one way to write a wonderful play but many ways, as Aeschylus and Shakespeare and Chekhov have proven. The philosophy of the program is based on the idea that the work must come from within the playwright. The fundamental approach in the classroom is a series of exercises that focus on sense memory and perception, targeting the inner process of generating work; as well as exploration of a variety of outer forms and dramatic strategies taken not only from the great playwrights of the western world, but also from the dramatic devices of Yuan and Kathakali and Noh theatre, and from the compositional strategies of choreographers and musical composers and painters. The classes do not aim to teach a specific form, such as the one-act or the full-length play. Rather, students’ own voices are encouraged and developed for their own unique qualities. Over two years of workshops, students are exposed to a variety of influences and teachers, with the program advisor providing continuity. The classroom work is supplemented by readings and workshop productions, which allow for student works to be heard and seen by an audience, and for the tools of collaboration with directors, dramaturgs, and actors to develop. The third year of study is devoted to the writing of the thesis project under the guidance of a mentor playwright chosen by the student.

Required Courses
(Course requirements are subject to change at the discretion of the faculty.)
Playwriting I-IV; Directed Studies: Playwriting; Playwriting Projects; History and Theory of Theatre; Fundamentals of Directing; Lyric Writing; Screenwriting; Drama and Film; Television Writing; Collaboration; Playwright-Dramaturg Workshop.

Thesis Year
In their third year, playwrights work on their thesis plays under the guidance of a professional playwright mentor.  Recent mentors have included Edward Albee, Edward Bond, Deborah Brevoort, Christopher Durang, David Grimm, John Guare, David Henry Hwang, David Lindsay-Abaire, John Logan, Kenneth Lonergan, Martin McDonagh, Dael Orlandersmith, Theresa Rebeck, and Sarah Ruhl. The thesis play is then given a full production in a downtown theatre.  Third-year playwrights also complete internships in New York, regional and international theatres.

The Oscar Hammerstein II Center for Theatre Studies
601 Dodge Hall
Mail Code 1807
2960 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
Phone: (212) 854-3408
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Columbia University School of the Arts offers MFA degrees in Film, Theatre, Visual Arts, and Writing, an MA degree in Film Studies, a joint JD/MFA degree in Theatre Management & Producing, a PhD degree in Theatre History, Literature, and Theory, and an interdisciplinary program in Sound Arts.