Theatre MFA Graduate Courses & Requirements

Experiential learning is the methodology around which all our coursework during the first two years is centered. We encourage students to master their concentration deeply and thoroughly. We also support learning through partnership with other concentrations. We offer two Collaboration classes – one in each of the first two years. Here, the focus is on the creation of new work through interdisciplinary teams. Additionally, students have access to a wide range of New York’s most established producers, managers, and publicity agents, often through taking classes in their offices throughout the city. Due to these connections, students and acclaimed professionals are able to build relationships and facilitate the acquisition of sought-after internships and coveted jobs. We also urge students to participate in learning opportunities at Columbia’s other acclaimed graduate schools.

The third and final year is devoted to students synthesizing their learning and crafting their own artistic and professional voice through thesis projects, productions, and internships with professional theatre organizations. In addition, students attend colloquia throughout the year with writers, actors, directors, agents, and producers. Upon successful completion of the program, directors are eligible to join the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC) at no cost to them.

Completion of the following while maintaining Satisfactory Academic Progress is required to earn the Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) from Columbia School of the Arts:

  1. sixty (60) points of required and approved graduate coursework*
  2. two (2) production assignments for thesis productions (usually completed in the first year).
  3. at least two professional internships, documented by executed internship contracts and a five-page paper documenting the internship experience and lessons learned.

The exception to this rule is for those in the Acting program, who are exempted from completing internships. Students in the Theatre Management and Producing program are required to complete three internships.

  1. a thesis approved by the student’s advisor. The thesis is either a written document or participation in a production, or both.

*Approved coursework requires written confirmation from student's Concentration Head submitted to the Director of Academic Administration that the course enhances or supplements the student's educational or professional goals.

Courses that do not count toward the 60-credit minimum are:

  1. any course below the 3000-level.*
  2. any language course below the 6000-level.
  3. an elective not previously approved by the Director of Academic Administration.
  4. any more than six (6) points of coursework at the 3000-level.

In addition:

  • Theatre Management and Producing students must also serve as a General Manager or Producer for a Columbia-affiliated production.
  • Dramaturgy students must have either:
    • earned a grade of “C” or better (or “Pass” for those graded Pass/Fail) in two semesters of an intermediate-level undergraduate language course
    • passed one semester of Rapid Reading and Translation at Columbia
    • received a grade of “B” or better in the equivalent of Rapid Reading and Translation at another accredited college (including CUNY’s Language for Reading Knowledge classes),
    • or passed a language proficiency exam at Columbia.

It is the student’s responsibility to provide evidence of fulfillment of this requirement (transcript, letter/certificate of completion, etc.) to the Director of Academic Administration.

Current students can reference the Theatre Wiki for all procedures.

Sample Curricula

The following is a list of sample curricula, listed by concentration and year. Please note course requirements are subject to change at the discretion of the faculty.

Acting Thesis

All Acting students participate in a full-scale production, directed by a faculty member or guest director. Recent directors have included Diane Paulus, Andrei Serban, Karin Coonrod, and Yuriy Kordonskiy. There is no written component to this project.

Directing Thesis

Each Directing student, with the approval of his or her advisor, chooses a play to direct as their thesis. The play is cast by current Columbia MFA Acting students and professional actors. The Theatre Program provides a modest production budget. In addition to the production, students complete a written analysis and reflection on the production, not exceeding 25,000 words.

Dramaturgy Thesis

Every Dramaturgy student must complete a written thesis of no less than 12,500 words, based on production work, empirical research, translation, or similar project approved by his or her advisor.

Playwriting Thesis

During the third year, Playwriting students either create a new work or further develop an existing piece to present as their thesis in a full production. This process is guided by a Playwright Mentor. Recent mentors have included Caryl Churchill, Will Eno, Madeleine George, Melissa James Gibson, Stephen Adly Guirgis, Amy Herzog, Rajiv Joseph, Stan Lai, Tracy Letts, Gregory Moss, Sarah Ruhl, Caridad Svich, Alice Tuan, Anne Washburn, and Chay Yew.

Stage Management Thesis

Students must complete a paper of no longer than 10,000 words that present a viable and original concept, supported by research, experience, documented sources, and (if applicable), interviews, statistical analysis. Ideally, the thesis will be based on recent production or work experience. However, students may choose to write about historical, economic, and/or sociological topics directly related to stage management. Traditional prompt books and/or production diaries can be used as appendices to support the thesis topic.

Theatre Management & Producing Thesis

Every Theatre Management & Producing students must write a paper between 12,500-25,000 words for their thesis, under the supervision of a faculty advisor and second reader from the professional realm. The thesis can address any area of the theatre industry (e.g., commercial, not-for-profit, national, international, etc.), but must be supported by primary, secondary, and empirical research.