Lisa D'AmourPlaywright Lisa D'Amour works with MFA Playwriting students (Spring 2017)

Master of Fine Arts in Theatre: Playwriting

The ultimate artisans of theatre, playwrights remind us where society has been and—more importantly—where it's headed. Our goal at the U of A is to provide MFA playwriting candidates the opportunity to grow and amplify their artistic voice by equipping them with the skills and space to become confident theatrical storytellers and bold dealers in personal truth.

The next cycle of MFA Playwrights will be selected for Fall 2019. All applicants must apply directly to the Department of Theatre. Our application window will open on October 1, 2018. The deadline for Step One will be on (or around) January 15, 2019. To receive a notification about when the submission window opens please fill out THIS FORM.  

About the Program

Our MFA playwrights learn by doing, and participate in a series of rigorous writing workshops on a variety of special topics designed to build foundational knowledge in dramatic form and structure, while exposing them to a diverse array of styles and approaches to creating new work.

While these workshops are designed around craft-related topics, equal focus is on the playwright’s personal process. We aim to give writers space and time to develop resiliency and the core strength to overcome inhibition and self-doubt, as they reach toward embracing a fearless form of personal expression—one rooted in fierce personal investment while engaging with the larger cultural dialogue their work challenges and confronts.

We offer a comprehensive three-year degree covering all aspects of dramatic writing—from short- and long-form structures, and special topics in adaptationtelevision/screenwriting, Theatre for Young Audiences, and writing for the solo-performer. Additional courses in dramatic form and structure unlock  strategies other writers have used in creating work, and develop the dramaturgical skills to articulate how a variety of plays function and create theatrical meaning.  The program is intentionally intimate, only two or three playwrights are accepted into the program every other year, allowing for intensive individualized mentorship, as well as the flexibility to let writers shape their course of study to meet their own creative goals and ambitions. 

The theatre faculty shares a philosophy that is deeply collaborative, with cross-disciplinary classes that regularly generate new work – both individual and group-centered. 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. Playwrights are also encouraged to take acting, directing and design classes and to diversify their artistic palettes by taking 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.

Students are given multiple opportunities to practice the process of building a new play from conception to completion, working peer-to-peer with fellow collaborators including: directors, actors, and designers.  This process is repeated throughout the writer’s three-year course of study at varying levels, from concert- and staged-readings through to a full production in their thesis year as a part of the ArkType New Works Festival, presented in our newly renovated theatre @ Global Campus.

As a part of their assistantships, playwrights serve as administrators on the Kernodle New Play Award and are given additional opportunities to serve as dramaturges on departmental productions. These experiences develop the playwright’s skill-set in Literary Management and—more critically—provide opportunities for deeper investigation into how other writers create theatrical meaning.

While our core focus is on preparing playwrights for a professional career in the field, opportunities can and have been created for playwriting candidates who express an interest in developing the tools and skills to teach. Because of our small size, we are nimble enough to create TA opportunities, in-classroom opportunities, and full classes for those candidates who want to gain teaching experience.

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 graduate playwriting faculty includes active playwrights, John Walch and Les Wade, who see to it that student writers get multiple perspectives on their work. Additionally, the department is committed to bringing in guest playwrights to give further perspective. Recent guests have included playwrights Lisa D’Amour, Dael Orlandersmith, Idris Goodwin, Emily Schwend/Theatre for One, and Amy Evans. Our students also take ala carte workshops with TheatreSquared visiting playwrights, who recently have included Stephen Karam, Mona Monsour and Robert Schenkkan.

Our faculty seeks to prepare our students for the unknowns of the professional world, by making them confident in the power of their voice, while being capable to articulate their vision, triage critical feedback, and effectively improvise with collaborators.

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 in the Arkansas New Play Festival at TheatreSquared, which the American Theatre Wing 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.

Nestled in the beautiful foothills of the Ozark Mountains, Fayetteville and its Northwest Arkansas environs are fast becoming a cultural destination. The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, only adds to the area's already rich cultural legacy and has announced plans to open a new space for contemporary performance and art. 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.

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.

*All Graduate Assistantships are contingent upon the satisfactory completion of a criminal background and sex offender registry check.  Determination of satisfactory is at the sole discretion of the University.

The next cycle of MFA Playwrights will be selected for Fall 2019.

All applicants must apply directly to the Department of Theatre. Our application window will open on October 1, 2018. The deadline for Step One will be on (or around) January 15, 2019. To receive a notification about when the submission window opens please fill out THIS FORM.

Before applying it is recommended you familiarize yourself with the departmental requirements and admissions process.

In addition to the Departmental Application requirements, all MFA Playwriting applicants must provide a portfolio of their work which should include: 

  • Two writing samples.
    • The first work sample should be a full-length play that the applicant feels best reflects their theatrical sensibility and dramatic writing.  
    • The second can be a full-length, a one-act, a work-in-progress, or something in a different genre/medium. The applicant should provide a 15-20 minute excerpt from this piece, plus a one to two paragraph description of the work and their reasons for selecting it. 

  • A one- to two-page personal statement addressing the applicant’s reasons for wanting to pursue a MFA in Playwriting at this moment in their development as a writer. The statement should also discuss the applicant’s goals and expectations coming into the program. Applicants are welcome to share other relevant information that might give the selection committee perspective on their application.

  • Three letters of recommendation from theatre professionals, professors, or other people who are familiar with the applicant and/or their work. One of the recommendations must speak directly to the applicant’s work.

  • A résumé detailing academic experience, professional work in the theatre, and other relevant work experience.

The GRE Test is not required for admission to the MFA Program in Playwriting. 

We can no longer accept mailed applications.

Sample Plan of Study

Fall Semester

  • Playwriting Workshop: Playwriting
  • Form and Structure: Classic
  • Acting/Directing/Design Elective
  • Dramatic Theory/History
  • Presentation: One-Act or 10 Minute Play

Spring Semester

  • Playwriting Workshop: Adaptation
  • Interdisciplinary Elective
  • Acting/Directing/Design Elective
  • Presentation: Readings of Full-Length Play


  • Optional: Internship/Independent Study

Fall Semester

  • Playwriting Workshop: Playwriting
  • Form and Structure: Conteporary
  • Presentation: Solo Shows

Spring Semester

  • Playwriting Workshop: Social Justice or TYA
  • Interdisciplinary Elective
  • Acting/Directing/Design Elective
  • Collaboration/Devising
  • Presentation: Workshop Productions of Full-Length Play

 Fall Semester

  • Playwriting Workshop: TV/Film or TYA
  • Interdisciplinary Elective
  • Thesis
  • Presentation: Production of Thesis Play

Spring Semester

  • Playwriting Workshop: Comedy
  • Portfolio Development
  • Thesis
  • Presentation: Production of Thesis Play