The Theatre School’s Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree in playwriting helps students explore and identify their voice and unique process of working as a writer in a variety of circumstances. The four-year curriculum provides students with the primary tools of dramatic writing and the space and opportunity to use them through classroom and workshop experiences.
Students learn from a distinguished and award-winning faculty of professional playwrights, dramaturgs, directors, and arts writers both in the classroom and through individual guidance and advising. Students receive formal and informal feedback from faculty through continual readings and workshops of their work.
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The first-year curriculum is taken in collaboration with other theatre studies students and is an immersion into the culture of theatrical production and literature. Coursework includes script analysis, theatre history, and performance to facilitate critical thinking and an experiential understanding of the theatrical process. Students also participate in three crew assignments in various areas of production.
In the second year, students move into the specific playwriting curriculum and explore elements of writing for the stage – beats, obstacle, subtext, and characterization – while working on a series of short plays. Students take coursework in design or technical areas as well as courses in English, literature, and communication. Students can participate in the production season as assistant directors and dramaturgs and participate in workshops of their scripts in our annual Wrights of Spring playwriting festival.
In the third year, students hone their writing skills and explore their individual interest and style though a year-long independent study under the guidance of playwriting faculty. Students also work closely with their peers to explore the collaborative process of developing and staging new works. Students can participate in the production season as assistant directors and dramaturgs and participate in workshops of their scripts in our annual Wrights of Spring playwriting festival. Third-year students traditionally have the opportunity to share their work by participating in readings at professional Chicago theatres.
The fourth year is a transition year, further developing students abilities and preparing students to enter the profession. Students continue to develop more complex scripts through independent study and new play workshops. Coursework also includes various career and networking opportunities. Students can participate in the production season as assistant directors and dramaturgs and participate in workshops of their scripts in our annual Wrights of Spring playwriting festival. Additionally, each graduating playwright receives a realized production of a full-length script in our Studio Series. Graduating playwrights are also eligible for consideration in our New Playwrights Series.
New Playwrights Series
The New Playwrights Series features the world premiere of a play written by a fourth-year playwright or recent graduate, selected by our faculty. This production is fully-realized, and directed by a faculty member or guest artist. This provides the playwright the opportunity to develop his or her play in collaboration with the Acting Company, production team, and a professional director - while developing the play through the rehearsal and performance.
At the end of each year, The Theatre School hosts a Graduate Showcase event to showcase the work of our graduating students. Under the guidance of the faculty, graduating Playwriting students prepare a showcase exhibit of their portfolio – which is presented in Chicago for artistic directors, alumni, and other members of the theatre, film, and television industries.
In addition to the theatre training curriculum, students complete 52 quarterly credit hours (13 courses) in the university's Liberal Studies Program. Courses are taken in theatre history, writing, quantitative reasoning and technological literacy, philosophical inquiry, religious dimensions, scientific inquiry, understanding the past, multiculturalism in the United States, and electives. These liberal studies courses are scheduled during the first three years of the program.
Every student receives quarterly evaluation and feedback from the faculty. Evaluations are based on discipline, collaboration, professional potential, and progress in the program.