The University of Iowa Department of Theatre Arts is one of the oldest and most respected theatre programs in the country. We offer students the opportunity to earn an undergraduate BA degree or an MFA degree with an emphasis in acting, directing, design, playwriting, dramaturgy, or stage management.
New work and collaboration are the hallmarks of our department. For more than 90 years, we have supported the development of new plays by students, faculty, and distinguished guests. We recognize that every play, whether new or old, is brought to life through the complex collaborative effort of a writer, director, dramaturg, designers, actors, stage managers, and technicians. In order to support this process, we seek to create an atmosphere of passion for the art and generosity of spirit.
The Department of Theatre Arts is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Theatre (NAST). It is a member of the University/Resident Theatre Association (URTA).
Quick Facts about our Undergraduate and Graduate Programs
What sets Iowa apart?
WATCH: Theatre at Iowa
WATCH: Why Iowa?
Prepare for Success in Today’s World: Major in Theatre Arts!
The National Association of Colleges and Employers listed the top 10 skills employers look for in college graduates:
- Communication skills
- Strong work ethic
- Teamwork skills
- Interpersonal skills
- Problem solving skills
- Analytical skills
- Computer skills
- Technical skills
There is no better way to learn most of these skills than participating in theatre. In classes and productions, you work together on creative projects. You have a powerful incentive to work hard – a performance before an audience. You analyze the many demands of your project – writing, acting, directing, designing – and find ways to achieve not only your own goals but the those of the entire team. Sometimes you are required to lead, other times to follow. You must be creative and personal, and must genuinely engage their audience. Even if you love theatre but don’t intend to pursue it as a profession, the soft skills you will learn as part of the discipline will play a huge part in the growth of your career.
Majoring in Theatre Arts, you’ll practice:
- oral and written communication
- the ability to tell a story effectively
- critical thinking
- empathy and emotional intelligence
- the ability to work well in teams
- creativity, adaptability, resilience, and more!
Forbes Magazine calls these abilities, “essential to the future of work.” By allowing you to cultivate these soft skills, theatre training can lead to a competitive advantage in the job marketplace. (“Soft Skills are Essential to the Future of Work,” Forbes Magazine, published January 19, 2021)
Commitment to New Work
Since its founding, the Department of Theatre Arts has been committed to new work. Early in our history, many plays transferred directly to Broadway, and in recent years, numerous plays have gone on to be produced in New York and in regional theatres.
We are deeply engaged in play development. Each year at least 15 new works by graduate and undergraduate students are produced and another 25 new plays are presented as readings. The MFA Playwrights Workshop provides an intensive three-year study, and the undergraduate program offers four playwriting courses and many opportunities to present ten-minute and full-length productions. Link to a video about the creation of our mainstage production of The Imaginary Invalid.
MFA Playwrights Workshop
Partnership in the Arts
Iowa New Play Festival
Hundreds of writers have had their start at Iowa, as have 1000s of actors, directors, and other artists who still work in new play development.
Among the best known writers are: Tennessee Williams, Lee Blessing, Naomi Wallace, Rebecca Gilman, Keith Huff, Sherry Kramer, David Hancock, David Adjmi, Kirsten Greenidge, and Robert Alexander.
Hollywood writer-producers include: Rick Cleveland (West Wing, Six Feet Under), Mark Johnson (Rainman, Chronicles of Narnia), Barry Kemp (Coach, The Newhart Show), and Norman Felton (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.).
Orientation, Fall 2022
Download the full resolution image here.
The Commencement Ceremony returned to the E.C. Mabie Stage, May 14, 2022. Congratulations to all the graduates, and thank you for the years of artistry and commitment to excellence you shared with us during your training at the University of Iowa's Department of Theatre Arts!
Download this image, Graduating Class of 2022
Download this image, Graduating Class of 2022 with Department of Theatre Arts Faculty and Stage
Josephine (Jo) Catalano died on Saturday, May 16, at Oaknoll Retirement Community in Iowa City. Jo was the widow of Cosmo Catalano, professor of Theatre Arts from the 1950's through the 1990's. She was 93 and, until a fall in December, she was her trademark strong, witty and outspoken self. She was a wonderful friend to faculty, staff and students. As one of our department's greatest supporters, for decades she attended nearly every Mainstage show, and plenty of New Play Festival shows. One could always count on Jo to tell the truth - painful though it might be. If you didn’t want to know what she really thought about a particular production, you just shouldn’t have asked! Her kindness to newcomers to the department, including, in 1991, Alan and Carol MacVey, was extraordinary. We will miss her there in the front row of the audience.