The Professional Playwriting Program seeks to train playwrights to become craftspeople and artists who contribute to the culture. The basic and advanced principles of the craft can be learned through earnest study of our dramatic literary heritage and intensive practical application of the craft.
The M.F.A. is earned through the completion of 135 credit hours of coursework over three years. The third year may include an internship with a professional theater company. Coursework includes Playwrights Workshop, Playwrights Seminar, Playwrights Production, Theater History and Criticism, and a variety of electives. The goal of the program is to create an environment in which each writer can develop his or her unique voice while freely experimenting with different theatrical styles and forms. In this environment, writers in the program will complete a body of work, much of which will be produced during their course of study. The degree is awarded for significant progress in the development of dramatic writing skills and the completion of a body of work that is suitable for professional production.
There are four major components to the Professional Playwriting Program at Ohio University:
Playwrights Workshop is the laboratory for the development of full-length plays. Much of the work in Playwrights Workshop focuses upon the practical application of playwriting theory introduced in Playwrights Seminar Workshop consists of a weekly reading of a play by a different writer of the workshop. These rehearsed readings are open to the public and usually draw upon actors from the Professional Actors Training Program and the B.F.A. Performance Program at the School of Theater. After each reading, the workshop writers meet in a private session to discuss the play. Approximately half of the discussion during this session is in the form of notes and feedback to the writer whose play was read. The other half focuses upon playwriting theories and concepts generated by the reading. Students in the Professional Playwriting Program take Playwrights Workshop every quarter while in residence at Ohio University, except for the fall quarter of their first year.
Playwrights Seminar is a part of the theory-based portion of the program. In the first year, these classes explore basic theories of dramatic structure and serves as a laboratory for the beginning of new work that will eventually move into the Playwrights Workshop. In the second and third year, Playwrights Seminar focuses upon the application of dramatic structure, its relationship to the craft of playwriting, as well as different playwriting structures within the genre, such as theatrical adaptation of nondramatic material, the one-person play, or non-linear story-telling. Student in the Professional Playwriting Program must take Playwrights Seminar every quarter during their first year. During their second and third year, they must take seminar four out of six quarters.
Playwrights Production is part of the practical-based portion of the program consisting of a weekly informal production of new work. It begins early in the week with a different writer of the program selecting a theme, style, or concept for the upcoming production. Each writer must then write a three-to five-minute piece based upon that theme, style, or concept. Each piece is written, cast, and rehearsed throughout the week in preparation for the Friday night, script-in-hand production presented before an invited audience. Students in the Professional Playwriting Program take Playwrights Production every quarter while in residence at Ohio University.
Annual Playwrights Festival
The Annual Ohio University Playwrights Festival represents the culmination of the work of the writers in the program. Theater professionals from around the country are invited to the University to respond to the work of Ohio University playwrights. During the festival, first-year students present their work in the form of rehearsed sit-down readings. The work of second and third-year students is presented in the form of rehearsed reading, script-in-hand workshop productions, or full Studio productions. During the festival, playwrights receive audience feedback in addition to individual professional response and individual mentoring.
History and Criticism
In addition to these four major components of the program, students are required to take a number of more traditional courses of study in Theater History and Criticism and a variety of electives.
Minimum Writing and Production Expectations
In the first year, playwrights are required to develop a full-length play in Seminar. This play is taken into the Workshop in the second quarter of the first year where the play is developed in preparation for the Playwrights Festival.
In the second year, playwrights will develop another full-length play that may receive a workshop or studio production during the festival. By their third year, students must participate in the production of their work in the Studio Series, the Playwrights Festival, or in an equivalent venue. Third year students may also work as interns for a professional theater and/or assist a professional playwright in production.
When appropriate, the Playwriting Program attempts to match the needs of individual students with suitable institutions for internships. Ongoing internships have been established with Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago and with New Dramatists in New York. Both of these organizations have received Tony Awards for leading the nation in their work with playwrights and the development of new plays. Other playwriting internships have been established with organizations such as The Acting Company (NYC), Pan Asian Repertory (NYC), Steppenwolf (Chicago), Goodman Theatre (Chicago), Indiana Repertory Theatre (Indianapolis), People’s Lights and Theatre Company (Philadelphia), Freedom Theatre (Philadelphia), and Intiman (Seattle). When not on internship, third year students are expected to take a leadership role in the Workshop in addition to serving as producers of the Playwrights Festival.
Note: Plays begun before acceptance in the Professional Playwriting Program will not be developed in the program.
Minimum standards for acceptance include a 3.0 GPA for undergraduate work and the submission of two sample manuscripts in dramatic form. Admission is based on evaluation of the applicant’s writing sample, résumé, goals statement, and recommendations from references. A visit to the University and an interview are strongly encouraged.