Graduate Programs

Becoming a theatre artist requires mastering one field of study while developing knowledge and respect for the others. For this reason MFA students at Iowa have their own intensive programs and work closely with one another across disciplines. The art of the theatre occurs most successfully with this kind of open collaboration. When you apply for an MFA program at Iowa you are applying for admission to a community of artists.

Each of Iowa’s MFA programs is

  • An intensive 3-year course of study
  • Dedicated to the development of theatre artists & new work
  • Grounded in the study of dramatic literature
  • Connected to its sister programs by means of formal & informal collaborations

Additional Information for All Graduate Students in Theatre Arts:
Fellowships, Assistantships & Scholarships
Summer Career Development Awards
Admission Details
Graduate Admissions Information
General Program Requirements & Procedures
Academic Procedures
Grading Procedures
Grading & Evaluation
Production Assignments
Graduate Committees, Comps, & Thesis Procedures
Continuance, Probation & Dismissal
Academic Misconduct
Accelerated Degree Policy

Fellowships, Assistantships & Scholarships

We have a range of teaching and research assistantships, as well as fellowships and scholarships based on talent, academic merit, and financial need.  Virtually every graduate student in Theatre is appointed as a teaching or research assistant or has substantial scholarship support. Assistantships are awarded to incoming students as part of their acceptance package; continuing students apply in February for the following year, and they may propose to continue their current assignment or seek a new position in order to diversify their skill-sets.

Iowa Arts Fellowships

Each year the Department of Theatre Arts offers an Iowa Arts Fellowship to one incoming student in each of the MFA programs. This is a one-year award that includes an $18,500 academic year fellowship stipend plus tuition and health insurance allowance.

Teaching and Research Assistantships

Nearly all Theatre Arts graduate students hold an assistantship for the three years they are in residence. Theatre Arts assistantships require anywhere from ten to twenty hours per week. Salaries for 2019-20 range from $9,822 to $19,644.

Teaching and Research Assistantships

Tuition Scholarships

Students holding a 25% or greater teaching or research assistantship (covered by the COGS bargaining unit) are assured a scholarship that covers full tuition and 50% of mandatory student fees for the 2019-20 academic year. Students who have an assistantship quarter-time or more are classified as Iowa residents for tuition and fee purposes.

Graduate Assistant Tuition Scholarship

Theatre Arts Scholarships

The Department of Theatre Arts has a number of scholarships specifically designated for graduate students. Scholarships are awarded annually. Awards are based on the recommendation of the head of each program. The scholarships include:

Available to all graduate students in Theatre Arts

  • Jaffee-Kaplan Scholarships
  • Dewey Stuitt Scholarship


  • Shirley Rich Scholarship
  • Kenneth Allison Scholarship
  • Cosmo and Josephine Catalano Scholarship


  • Andrea Keck Scholarship
  • Hubbard Scholarship
  • David and Jean Schaal Award
  • Erik Ulfers/Margaret Hall Scholarship for International Travel
  • Foster Harmon Scholarship


  • Cosmo and Josephine Catalano Scholarship
  • Sidney Spayde Scholarship
  • David and Jean Schaal Scholarship
  • Zgud Scholarship


  • Theatre Arts Scholarship


  • Norman Felton Scholarship
  • Barry and Maggie Kemp Scholarship
  • David and Jean Schaal Scholarship

Stage Management

  • Foster Harmon Scholarship

Summer Career Development Awards

The Graduate College Strategic Initiative Fund (SIF) assists our graduate students in their career development.  The SIF Summer Career Development Awards are for Continuing Graduate Students. During 2014 and 2015, graduate students from the Department of Theatre Arts were awarded a total of $40,000 of support in their advanced research off campus.  In 2016, we awarded $10,000. A selection of those include projects, workshops, intensives, research trips and internships include:


  • Vocal technique workshop with Fitzmaurice
  • San Francisco Mime Troupe workshop


  • 69th Annual Tony Awards show
  • Indiana Repertory Theater
  • 19th century tailoring at University of Bournemnouth, England
  • Mahogany Mas Camp / Notting Hill Carnival, England


  • Research Trip to the West Bank
  • Research Trip to England
  • SITA Company Summer Intensive
  • Kennedy Center Directing Intensive
  • Notre Dame Shakespeare


  • Research trip to Portugal
  • Research trip to DC
  • Research trip to Wyoming
  • Flashpoint Theatre Company, New York City
  • Indian Dance Festival, Minnesota
  • Improv workshop with iO, Chicago

Stage Managers

  • Arkansas Shakespeare Festival
  • Children’s Theatre Company
  • Little Theatre of the Rockies
  • MUNY, St. Louis
  • Research trip to Harvard

In 2016, we awarded $10,000 for the following:


  • Film Project in Ghana
  • Riverside Theatre


  • Riverside Theatre Stage Combat Project
  • New Play Research in Missouri


  • Research Trip to Argentina
  • Research Trip to England
  • Grant Wood Research Project

Stage Managers

  • Ash Lawn Opera

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Reefer Madness

I would not trade my experience at the University of Iowa for anything in the world. My three years spent in the design program was time that allowed me to grow as a person, as a designer, as a collaborator, and as an artist. I have never worked harder in my life, but I have also never reaped so many benefits as I have from my graduate school experience...After being out in the real world, I become increasingly aware of the superior education I was gifted while a student (at Iowa), and I could not be more thankful.

Courtney Schmitz Watson, MFA '09


Admission Details

Admission to the Theatre Arts graduate program requires 2 steps:

  • Admission to the University of Iowa Graduate College
  • Admission to the specific program to which you are applying in Theatre Arts

Detailed information about both steps, including admission requirements, deadlines, procedures etc, is available through the MFA in Theatre Arts pages in the Graduate section of the University Admissions site.

Graduate Admissions Information

One advantage of studying in the Department of Theatre Arts is that you work within a small community of artists. One advantage of studying at the University of Iowa is that it is a large research institution with a vast array of resources.  The advantage of studying in Iowa City is that it is classic college town filled with students and hundreds of student related activities. The links below provide information about the University campus and Iowa City.

Community Information
Financial Assistance

Each program has its own identity, its own admission schedule, and its own criteria for admission, here are links to those pages.

Playwrights Workshop
Stage Management


General Program Requirements & Procedures

To attain the MFA degree in Theatre Arts, you normally must complete:

  • 6 semesters in residence (internships may be substituted with the permission of the program faculty and the Director of Graduate Studies);
  • The requisite number of graduate hours stipulated by their program of study;
  • All requirements of the Graduate College, including a cumulative GPA of at least 2.75;
  • All courses on the plan of study with an overall grade point average of at least 3.0;
  • Creative or scholarly work of high quality according to program requirements;
  • A comprehensive examination;
  • A written thesis.

You must make normal progress toward completion of the degree requirements to remain in their program. For maintaining normal progress you must:

  • A cumulative GPA of at least 2.75, in accordance with requirements of the Graduate College; if the average falls below 2.75 it must be raised to that level by the end of the following semester
  • A GPA of at least 3.0, or receive grades of satisfactory in all courses within the primary area of concentration, as defined by each program
  • Grades of at least B- or satisfactory in all courses in the primary area of concentration
  • A record of approved creative or scholarly work, as evaluated by the program faculty.

You must also demonstrate that you are effective collaborators and observe professional standards and ethics appropriate to their discipline.

If you fail to make normal progress are placed on academic probation and given only 1 semester to resolve the outstanding issues.

Academic Procedures

Every graduate student’s program is composed of 2 elements: (a) course work and (b) required production assignments. You must successfully complete all work assigned in these 2 categories.

Course Work

  • Before enrolling, you are given a list of required and recommended courses.
  • If you request advanced standing, you must do so before enrolling. After enrollment, advanced standing is granted only under exceptional circumstances.
  • By the mid-point of your first semester, the program head and you must agree on a specific course of study to be pursued throughout the degree period. This course of study may, with permission of the program head, vary from the norm in order to address a specific need, strength or interest. Once the program of study is accepted by the program head and the Director of Graduate Studies, you may not alter it without the agreement of the program head and the DGS.

Production Assignments

  • The program head assigns production work; it will be evaluated (see below) and considered an important element of your program.
  • During the academic year, you may wish to do production work outside your primary field – including professional opportunities outside the Department -- or undertake production work which you do not wish to be formally supervised and evaluated. You must have permission from your program head before you agree to such work.

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Grading Procedures

Graduate classes in Theatre Arts are graded in 1 of 2 ways: traditional letter grades (A – F), or Satisfactory-Unsatisfactory (S or U).

  • The Graduate College requires that students graduate with at least 18 semester hours of graded (A-F) credit. The remainder may by S-U.
  • Some classes, most notably the academic core courses of the department are ONLY graded by letter grade, A-F. Classes taken in other departments may be taken on the S-U basis if desired and allowed.
  • For those classes using the S or U, you may opt for a letter grade if they so desire. By the first day of class each semester, you need to indicate which system you wish to use. If you opt for a letter grade rather than S-U, you may not change the grading system for that particular course during that semester.
  • No matter which grading system is employed, criteria for grading should be made known to you in the class syllabus at the beginning of the semester. Requirements for satisfactory progress toward the degree should be spelled out to you by your program's faculty or by your adviser. If you are unclear about what your program's faculty considers satisfactory progress toward the degree, contact your adviser for clarification.
  • To graduate from the department, you must have at least a 3.00 GPA. Be aware that S-U grades are NOT figured into your overall GPA. Furthermore, if you have any U grades, you must either (1) petition the instructor to make up the course next semester or (2) petition your program faculty to substitute another acceptable class. Be aware that the faculty is under no obligation to grant these petitions.
  • If you do receive a U grade, the instructor will place an explanation of the criteria for the grade in your file. This explanation may be needed for future reference if you petition to change the grade.
  • A low GPA will jeopardize your standing with the Graduate College and can affect financial aid.
  • You should realize that if you should wish to transfer grades to another institution you might have trouble getting equivalency for S-U grades. Credit is sometimes not given by other institutions for these courses.

Grading & Evaluations

Courses: Courses are graded A-F, S/U or optional A-F S/U at the discretion of the instructor. You must take a minimum of 18 hrs. for a letter grade.

A indicates superior work

B indicates good work

C indicates that you barely passed the course. Such work is normally not acceptable in your primary area of concentration. If you receive a C, you may be required to repeat it in order to graduate.

D indicates work which does not meet degree requirements. If you who receive a D, you must repeat the course or an approved substitute.

F indicates you have failed the course

I indicates incomplete work. Faculty members who give you permission to take an incomplete grade will establish a time when the work must be completed; this must be approved by the program head.

S indicates the equivalent of B- or above.

U indicates that work is unacceptable and may not be used to satisfy degree requirements.

Production Assignments

Both process and product are evaluated. Each program establishes its own criteria, but all programs share the following elements:


  • Were you prepared to execute your responsibilities fully and on time throughout the entire production period?
  • Did you challenge yourself to do the best work possible?
  • Did you work with peers collaboratively in a way that stimulated creativity?
  • Were you able to sustain excellence in other areas of the program (such as classes and assistantship) while successfully completing required production work?


  • Does the product indicate that you are a promising artist or craftsperson, whose vision and skills are appropriate for someone at your level of training?
  • Does the product indicate that you are able to apply successfully the lessons learned in class?
  • Does the product show you are growing as an artist or craftsperson?
  • Does the product indicate promise that you will be able to work successfully as a professional upon completing the program?

At least one member of your faculty will evaluate each production assignment. You are required speak personally with the evaluating faculty member either at the time of the assignment or, depending on program procedures, at the end of the semester; you are encouraged to speak with as many other faculty members as possible about their work.

Summary Evaluations. At the end of every semester, you receive a formal evaluation of your course and production work. Evaluations may be given in writing, discussed in person, or both. They deal comprehensively with all aspects of your work. At the end of every year, you receive a written evaluation of your work, a copy of which is placed in your files.

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The Scene

Graduate Committees, Comps, & Thesis Procedures

Plan of Study. This normally must be approved and submitted to the Director of Graduate Studies by November 15.

Graduate Committee. This committee will review your work on a major project and at the end of every semester. The chair of the committee will write a letter evaluating your work at the end of the first and second year. It is up to you to initiate evaluations except at the end of the year. Membership: minimum of 3 people, composed of program faculty and, where appropriate, another member selected by the student with the permission of the Program Head.

Comps. At the end of the second year, you will complete special assignments designed by each program and meet with your committee for a comprehensive evaluation (comps) of your work to date. This evaluation will determine whether you are permitted to continue your work into your third year and proceed to do a thesis.


  • The Thesis Committee is identical to the graduate committee; you may invite additional faculty members to serve on it.
  • The thesis topic or project must be approved by the thesis committee; this normally occurs by the end of the your second year.
  • Members of the committee normally provide feedback on the your work several times. All committee members evaluate the work at its completion. The committee determines whether you pass the thesis requirement, and, if appropriate, gives a grade.
  • Normally, you register for credit under 49:298 MFA Thesis (0-3 semester hours).
  • You are responsible for filing the thesis proposal form with the Director of Graduate Studies before the end of the first week of classes of the session in which the thesis is to be completed.

Continuance, Probation & Dismissal

  • All students are on probation for your first year. This means you may be dismissed at the end of either semester if you are not making normal progress. If a student in good standing ceases to make normal progress, as outlined above, you may be placed on probation for 1 semester before being considered for dismissal.
  • At the time of the summary evaluations each term, you are informed whether you may continue in your programs, are being placed on probation, or are being dismissed.
  • Normal progress is required in order for you to be in good standing. Under exceptional circumstances, the program faculty, with the approval of the DGS, may grant continuance even when normal progress has been interrupted.
  • You may be placed on probation for many reasons. Among them are:
  • (1) not making normal progress toward the degree;
  • (2) not completing creative and/or production work satisfactorily;
  • (3) not progressing toward the degree at an appropriate rate;
  • (4) not sustaining satisfactory progress in course work and creative work.
  • When placed on probation, you are informed in writing what you must do to re-establish good standing. Normally, you have 1 semester to comply. If you do not comply, you may be dismissed.
  • If you are placed on probation after the first year may lose your assistantships or other departmental support.


  • Students dismissed from the graduate program may appeal in writing to the Department Executive Officer (Alan MacVey) and the Director of Graduate Studies (R. Eric Stone), who will rule on the case.
  • If you wish to appeal the decision of the DEO and DGS, you may do so according to the “Academic Grievance Procedures” of the Graduate College
  • Dismissed students who are supported by assistantships lose that support until and unless you are formally reinstated into the program.
  • If you are placed on probation, you may follow the same appeal process.

Academic Misconduct

The policy of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) is kept on the CLAS site

Accelerated Degree Policy

Minimal Requirements for the MFA Degree at The University of Iowa (Graduate College):
24 semester hours in residence
48 semester hours total

Minimal requirements for the MFA Degree in Theatre Arts (as approved by the National Association of Schools of Theatre):
3 years in the program (may include an off-campus internship)
60 semester hours, including the completion of a stipulated series of academic core courses.
Core courses may be waived only if a satisfactory substitution is made. All substitutions must be approved by the course instructor, the Director of Graduate Studies, and the student’s graduate committee.
Satisfactory overall progress in artistic development.

Theatre Arts students may complete the requirements for the MFA degree in fewer than 3 years if:
They fulfill the minimal Graduate College Requirements for the degree and demonstrate satisfactory overall progress in artistic development.
They have graduate transfer credits from this or other institutions, acceptable to the program head and faculty.
They have experience in the profession (e.g., productions, publications) which their program accepts as equivalent to specific courses or other requirements normally required for the degree. Those courses must be individually waived on the student's plan of study and agreed to by the student's graduate committee, the Department Executive Committee, and the DEO.

The amount of reduction depends on the number of courses waived and the time it takes the student to complete the remaining requirements. In any case, the student must complete at least 24 semester hours of graduate credit in residence, 48 semester hours of graduate credit total.

Normally, the conditions to be met for graduation in fewer than 3 years (and/or with fewer than 60 semester hours) should be set out in the acceptance letter from the DEO to the student. A student already in residence may petition for accelerated status at any time. In either case, the student’s graduate committee, the Department Executive Committee, and the DEO must approve the terms of the accelerated program.