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Indiana University Bloomington
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Master of Fine Arts, Playwriting

Photo of Ruth McKee, head of playwriting Ruth McKee
Head of Playwriting Program
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The MFA in playwriting is an intensive three-year program designed for writers with original voices who are committed to making an impact on the profession. Along with classes and workshops in the areas of adaptation, screenwriting, writing a solo play, writing with an ensemble and writing for television, the program offers visits and guest workshops from successful writers, literary managers, artistic directors and agents to prepare students for entrance into the world of professional theatre.

Training

The comprehensive training program comprises coursework, productions, and professional engagement.

Official information regarding specific degree requirements and course options can be found on the University Graduate School web page.

Coursework

Classes are designed to give the writer a broad education in dramatic writing, in order to explore and develop multiple ways to tell a story as well as multiple ways to make a living. Examples of classes and/or workshops to be included within a three-year cycle: Adaptation, Screenwriting, Writing the Solo Play, Writing with an Ensemble, Writing for Television.  Professional guest seminars, master classes, and special workshops will also be a regular part of the coursework.

Further, the playwriting program is kept intentionally small, a maximum of three students total, allowing ample opportunity for each playwright to shape and design specific elements of his or her course of study and exploration.

Productions

Productions are a crucial part of the program. In each of the three years our playwrights and their plays will be nurtured and guided through the process of new play development, from inception to fully realized production. With only three writers at a time, this is an environment free from competition for resources or for productions.

In years two and three, the playwright will develop a full-length script (one each year) for production that, upon approval, will be part of the department’s mainstage season.  With these productions, it is our intention to foster meaningful and lasting collaborations between the MFAs in all areas (playwriting, directing, acting, and design), prepare the playwright for the professional world of new play development, and provide the playwright with the means to create a production-tested portfolio with which to enter the professional theatre

Professional Engagement

Each year a select group of industry professionals (literary managers, artistic directors, and agents) will be brought in to meet with the playwrights and to attend their productions.

As part of the program, we will take regular trips to see productions, meet industry professionals, and, whenever possible, arrange professional internships and/or observerships. Bloomington is well situated, with several nationally recognized theatres within driving distance – Actors Theatre of Louisville: 1.5 hours, IRT and the Phoenix Theatre: 1 hour, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park: 3 hours. The city of Chicago is within 4 hours.

Financial Aid

Academic Appointments

Graduate students in the MFA playwriting program are typically awarded an assistantship which includes a tuition waiver covering most fees, in addition to a stipend (currently a minimum of $13,400) for working 20 hours a week divided between teaching and administrative duties within the department. Academic merit fellowships and research/creative activity travel grant opportunities are also available on a competitive basis.

The standard graduate appointment is a 50% Full Time Employment (FTE) position requiring 20 hours of service per week or the teaching of three to four courses per academic year. Stipends for these graduate appointments are paid on a monthly basis and will have all appropriate taxes and deductions withheld. Students holding graduate appointments are eligible for fee scholarships which pay the cost of tuition for 24 credit hours of study during the academic year and six credit hours in the summer, with the exception of certain non-remittable fees.

Appointment of associate instructorships and graduate assistantships, as well as the awarding of fellowships, is contingent upon: maintenance of a 3.2 academic average, satisfactory performance of duties of the appointment or fellowship, and enrollment in a specified minimum number of graduate hours.

There are two types of graduate appointments:

Graduate Assistantships
Graduate assistants work in various areas of theatre production (costuming, lights/sound, props, stagecraft, house management) or work in the departmental offices (audience development, production management, dramaturgy).

Associate Instructorships
Associate instructors teach first year courses in acting, oral interpretation, and theatre appreciation. These appointments are open to MFA students and PhD students who have completed 30 hours of graduate work.

To supplement departmental financial aid, various scholarships, fellowships, and loans may be available through the University Graduate School or the Office of Student Financial Assistance.

Additional Benefits

Student Academic Appointees and Fellowship Recipients are automatically enrolled in the student insurance plan and the cost of the student premium is paid by the university. The plan also includes dental, mental health and prescription drug benefits. Eligible students may also insure their dependents. Eligible dependents are the spouse/same-sex domestic partner (residing with the Insured student) and unmarried children under the age of 24.

Learn more about the Student Academic Appointee Health Insurance Plan

Additional benefits include a "green conscious" campus with free buses, free Adobe and Microsoft products, and a ubiquitous wireless internet.

Teaching Opportunities

As part of the program, the MFA student will assist in the teaching of playwriting to undergraduates and then, in the final year of the MFA, teach a class of his/her own.  The MFA in Playwriting is a terminal degree that qualifies the student, upon completion, to teach on the university level.  

Life in Bloomington

In addition to its proximity to major theatres, Bloomington is also an idyllic location in which to write and live. It is shielded from many of the immediate pressures that major urban areas present while still, given the profile and resources of the University, providing a plethora of artistic, cultural, and educational opportunities.

Admissions

For full consideration applications should be completed and postmarked by February 1.

Please view the department’s general admissions requirements.

In addition to the general admission criteria for the Department of Theatre and Drama, applicants to the MFA in Playwriting should submit two complete plays that best represent the applicant and demonstrate his/her strength as a candidate. Please also submit a resume and a short (2-3 pages) statement about objectives for the program and reasons for applying.

In most cases a personal interview will be required.

Retention

Retention requires 3.2 GPA or higher, the satisfactory completion of all major projects, as well as a positive year-end progress report from faculty regarding the student’s artistic and academic progress.