Playwriting

The Seagull
The Seagull, 2009 Season

It's an incredibly safe place to grow as an actor. We were given tools and plenty of chances to use them. But we were also put through our paces, prepared for the really competitive environment out there – I mean rigorously prepared.

- Lara Hightower, Irene Ryan Competition, National Winner, Professional Actor, Chicago

The ultimate artisans of theatre, playwrights remind us where society has been and hint at where it's headed. Our goal at the U of A is to nurture playwrights who write with power and honesty, grounding them in the principles of realism and nonrealism, and in the related crafts of adaptation and screenwriting. The program supports the writer's growth through extensive collaborations with a talented pool of actors, directors and designers -- in script development classes, readings, workshops, and a thesis production in the third year. Playwrights are encouraged to take advantage of poetry and fiction workshops offered by the U of A's renowned creative writing program, along with a rich array of related courses in the arts.

If you pursue an MFA in playwriting at the University of Arkansas, you will join an intimate community of theatre artists who are at once mutually supportive and passionately devoted to craft. Only two or three playwrights are accepted into the program every other year, ensuring maximum interaction with our playwriting faculty and abundant opportunities for collaboration with a select group of graduate actors,
directors and designers.

We offer a comprehensive three-year degree covering all aspects of dramatic writing –from short- and long-form structures, adaptation, and screenwriting, to the one-person show and beyond. Our small size and flexible curriculum allow writers to shape their course of study to meet their own creative goals and ambitions.

Writing workshops thrive on the creative tension between rigorous attention to dramatic structure and an equally rigorous focus on each writer's unique voice. Our three-member graduate playwriting faculty – all active playwrights – see to it that student writers get multiple perspectives on their work.

Collaboration

Artistic partnerships formed in graduate school often play a key role in a playwright's future career. The theatre faculty shares a philosophy that is deeply collaborative, with cross-disciplinary classes that regularly generate new work – both individual and group-centered. Graduate level classes in one-person show creation and devised performance, along with our weekly “Off the Page” readings, are specifically designed to bring playwrights together with actors and directors. Playwrights are also encouraged to take acting, directing and design classes – as well as poetry or fiction workshops in the U of A's distinguished creative writing program.

Play Development and Production

In each of their first and second years, playwrights' work is featured in the “Off the Page” series and in one or more rehearsed staged readings. The program culminates in a full thesis production in the third year.

Screenwriting

Mastering the technical demands of film and TV writing not only opens up career opportunities, it also provides a useful perspective on theatrical form. To that end, graduate playwrights take at least one screenwriting workshop as part of their degree.

Professional Internships & Networking

As part of their training, playwrights are encouraged to pursue internships with literary departments and/or new play festivals at theatres around the country, including at TheatreSquared, which the American Theatre Wing recently recognized as one of the ten most promising emerging theatres in the country. Graduate playwrights also participate in the administration of the newly revamped Kernodle New Play Award.

Location

Nestled in the stunningly beautiful foothills of the Ozark Mountains, Fayetteville and its Northwest Arkansas environs are fast becoming a cultural destination. The recent opening of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, which the New York Times has said "is poised…to become a place of pilgrimage for art lovers from around the world," only adds to the area's already rich cultural legacy. Dazzling architecture and abundant live music, together with the area's natural beauty and congenial urban environment, make for an atmosphere that is the highly conducive to writing. Fayetteville is home to an unusually high number of successful poets and fiction writers, many of whom are or have been associated with the University's renowned MFA program in creative writing, one of the oldest in the country. With its many restaurants and cafés and its tradition of live music, Fayetteville is often referred to as Austin's younger cousin.

Financial support

We offer graduate assistantships, fellowships, and teaching opportunities. Our assistantships pay for all tuition and give an $11,000 stipend each academic year. Additional funds are available through our graduate fellowship, which offers an additional $3000 each year to qualified students. There are some other select scholarships for which you might be eligible, as well. Summer assistantships are also sometimes available.

Application

Please Note: The next cycle of MFA Playwrights will be selected for Fall 2018. The University of Arkansas will not be admitting an incoming class of graduate playwrights in the Fall of 2017.  If you are interested in receiving a notification when applications are open for the Fall 2018, please fill out this form. 

In general, applicants to the MFA playwriting program should prepare to submit two completed scripts, at least one of which must be a full-length play. The second script may be a short play, a screenplay, or another full-length. Please also submit a theatre resumé, listing playwriting activity, workshops, readings and productions, as well as any related theatre experience. Include a statement of purpose (600+ words) explaining why you want to pursue an MFA at this time and what you are looking for and would hope to achieve in an MFA program. For further information  or questions, please contact John Walch.

Playwriting courses include:

THTR406V Playwriting (Fa) (1-3) A workshop course for students who wish to attempt original work in the dramatic form. Prerequisite: Junior standing. May be repeated for up to 6 hours of degree credit.

THTR5533 Graduate Playwriting: Special Projects (Irregular) Advanced study and practice in the area of playwriting. The area of concentration will be determined by the student's specific writing project(s). Prerequisite: Graduate standing. May be repeated for up to 6 hours of degree credit.

THTR5543 Creating a One-Person Show (Irregular) Actors learn to use compelling personal experiences and interests in the creation of a unique one-person show. Includes exploration in characterization, staging and playwriting. Culminates in the public presentation of a short one-person show. Prerequisite: Graduate standing in Theatre.

For a complete list of graduate courses, please visit the catalog of studies.