The UCSD Playwriting MFA trains writers with bold, distinctive voices who tell compelling stories. Only one or two writers are admitted each year; our cohort never exceeds five. This allows for individualized and intensive mentorship as well as multiple productions through which MFA writers develop their craft, their voice, and their vision. Through our unique and extensive production opportunities, our writers collaborate closely with their colleagues in the MFA acting, directing, design, dance, and stage management programs to fully realize theatrical, compelling, and meaningful works of theatre as part of our nationally-renowned Wagner New Play Festival, which occurs every spring.
MFA students are offered a full financial package that covers all university tuition and insurance (health, dental, vision). Living expenses and other fees are not typically covered. For a more detailed description of the financial support package for MFA students, download the Financial Package Breakdown.
ClassesThe core of the playwriting curriculum is the Playwriting Seminar, a course that all MFA playwrights take together. Seminar topics vary each quarter, from readings of contemporary plays to focus on particular styles and artistic movements. The work of the seminar is a combination of reading and discussion of plays, writing exercises, and discussion of various aspects of professional life. The other central course in the playwriting curriculum is the Playwriting Workshop, in which writers have an opportunity to hear a full draft read out loud by MFA actors. The focus of the Workshop is on the Playwright’s evolving work, which is read and discussed at all stages, from inceptive idea through a post-production draft.
Other courses include Screenwriting, Writing for Television, and Adaptation, which are offered in rotation within a three-year cycle.
In addition, first year students collaborate with students in all MFA areas in researching and creating a devised piece for informal presentation. Students are also able to take a variety of electives in theatre and dramatic literature, as well as courses in other departments. Recent students have taken classes in topics as diverse as Neuroscience and Human Sexuality.
ProductionsThe centerpiece of the UCSD Playwriting MFA is the Wagner New Play Festival, which occurs every spring and in which all MFA playwrights have a play produced. First year students have a workshop production. Second and third year students receive fully-staged productions. Productions are directed by MFA directing students, faculty directors, or guest directors. MFA playwrights have the opportunity to collaborate with MFA actors, designers, and stage managers during the festival.
The Wagner New Play Festival has grown to be a nationally recognized showcase and incubator of important new voices. The Festival is attended by artistic directors, literary managers, and producers from across the country as well as agents. Plays that were first produced in the Wagner New Play Festival have gone on to be produced at the Actors Theatre of Louisville’s Humana Festival of New Plays, the Roundabout Underground, the Huntington Theatre, and Second Stage.
ResidenciesIn the summer following the first year, playwrights spend two weeks at the O'Neill Theatre Conference as observers. In the summer after their second year, playwrights receive a travel stipend to travel anywhere in the world. Previous playwrights have used these stipends to travel to Egypt, Thailand, and Prague to research plays and have also traveled to London and Avignon to see theatre. The year after graduation, playwrights are awarded a Theodore and Adele Shank Fellowship to be in residence at a major American theatre of their choosing. The fellowship allows playwrights a “bridge” year to establish a new home base where they will become part of the professional theatre community.
FacultyFor information on our current full-time faculty please visit our faculty page. Recent guest artists who have taught the MFA playwrights include Les Waters, Darko Tresjnak, Sheila Callaghan, Jason Grote, Karl Gajdusek, Mike Finch, and Bobby Bowman, among others.
AlumniMFA playwriting alumni are represented in the top tiers of theatre, film, television, and academia. Our alumni ranks are populated by playwrights being produced Off Broadway and regionally, executive producers and show runners for network and cable TV, working screenwriters, and tenure-track professors. Each playwright who enters our program has different goals, and those goals evolve. A striking feature of our program is the mentorship playwrights receive in creating a professional life that is uniquely suited to their individual goals. We strive to train writers not only in the craft of writing, but also in strategies for sustaining themselves as writers, artists, and thinkers over a lifetime.
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