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 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 committment to excellence you shared with us during your training at the University of Iowa's Department of Theatre Arts!
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.
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.).
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.