The MFA in Dramaturgy is central to the mission of training theatre artists who will create the theatre of the future by building on theatrical traditions of the past. While providing the training needed to work as dramaturgs on works of all periods and types, the MFA in Dramaturgy at Iowa focuses on the training of new play dramaturgs with special skills in the development of new work.
At Iowa, the tradition of new play dramaturgy extends back to the founding of the department in the 1930s. Along with such figures as Columbia's Brander Matthews and Yale's George Pierce Baker, Iowa's first Chair of Theatre Arts, E.C. Mabie, pioneered the development of drama as an independent discipline in which scholars and artists could train to create and lead the theatre of the future. Under the leadership of Oscar Brownstein in the 1970s, the MFA Program in Playwriting offered one of the country’s first courses in Dramaturgy, through which MFA candidates in Playwriting served as dramaturgs on department productions of established plays. In the 1990s, the department developed the MFA in Dramaturgy in close association with the Playwrights Workshop.
The Department of Theatre Arts sponsors short-term workshops by leading playwrights, dramaturgs, and other theatre artists. Many of their courses and workshops are open to MFA Dramaturgs.
Admission for the Dramaturgy MFA is highly selective. The program currently enrolls 3 students for the degree and expects to maintain enrollment at this level. Dramaturgy is accepting applications for the 2023-24 academic year. The application deadline is January 15, 2023.
Development of Institutional Dramaturgy Skills
One of the professional dramaturg’s most important functions is to serve as an advisor to and administrative liaison between the various artistic and administrative units of a working theatre. To gain experience in this area, you will be encouraged to complete two or more of the following:
- Student Representative to the Department Season Planning Committee
- Graduate Assistantship in the Performing Arts Marketing Office
- Graduate Assistantship in Arts Share
- Summer or Semester Internship at a Professional Theatre
Graduate Assistantships are assigned by the Chair in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies and on the basis of recommendations by the Head of Dramaturgy.
If you are approved to do an Internship, you are responsible for arranging it in consultation with the faculty. The Department of Theatre Arts has informal relationships with a number of professional theatres and theatre practitioners through whom internships, or applications for internships, may be arranged.
If you plans to complete a semester-long internship, you are advised to do so in the Fall Semester of the third year. During that semester, you can enroll for a 3 s.h. Independent Study and/or 3 s.h. Thesis Hours. For the Independent Study, you must complete a portfolio of Internship work (sample script reports, research materials, etc.: to be arranged with the Program Head), and a paper based on the reading list for Dramaturgy Practicum. No credit will be granted for summer internships; however, in the subsequent Fall Semester, you may complete a follow-up Independent Study (as arranged with the Head of Dramaturgy).
Academic & Program Reviews
The first year is a probationary period for all MFA students in Theatre Arts.
Your academic and dramaturgical work is supervised regularly by Playwriting/Dramaturgy faculty. Your work on readings and productions is intensively reviewed at the time of the project's presentation in Workshop or other department venue; conferences with Playwriting/Dramaturgy faculty are ongoing throughout your enrollment.
Near the end of the first and second years of enrollment, you will submit a 2-3 page Self-Assessment Essay, including an overview of academic and dramaturgical work over the first year or first two years, and an Annotated Checklist of all dramaturgy projects on which you have worked over the last year or last two years. In the second year, the student also submits a preliminary thesis proposal and a bibliography of sources relating to the subject of the thesis.
Program faculty use this Self-Assessment, Checklist, and Proposal, along with your work on courses, in the Playwrights Workshop, on Department productions, and in New Play Festival, to confer about your progress and determine if you will (1) be invited to continue in the program; (2) be placed on academic probation; (3) be removed from continued enrollment in the program.
You will receive a short letter documenting the primary reasons for the faculty’s decision. In the case of academic probation, the letter will outline the conditions of the probation and the date by which you must demonstrate that the conditions have been met in order for probationary status to be removed. In the case of dismissal, you will receive a letter outlining the reasons for dismissal. Students may request a meeting with program faculty to discuss probation or dismissal.
Early in the Fall Semester of the subsequent academic year, returning students meet with program faculty to review the previous year’s work and to establish academic and creative objectives for the new academic year.
The Graduate Committee reserves the right to request withdrawal on the basis of insufficient progress in any major area of the program - including coursework, production dramaturgy, and collaboration – over the first two years of enrollment. In the case of students who have been removed from probation, the Committee reserves the right to request withdrawal because of the student's failure to maintain satisfactorily the conditions of being removed from probation. In accordance with Graduate College and Departmental policies, you must maintain a grade point average of 3.0 in your coursework. If the G.P.A. falls below this, you is automatically placed on probation and must raise the G.P.A. to 3.0 by the end of the following semester. Failure to do so may be grounds for dismissal. Lack of demonstrated growth as a dramaturg and collaborative theatre artist may also be cause for academic probation.
Iowa Dramaturgs, Past and Present
Link to a selection of current and recent Iowa Dramaturgs’ bios.
Art Borreca or Dare Clubb
Co-Heads of Playwriting and Dramaturgy
Department of Theatre Arts
The University of Iowa
107 Theatre Building
Iowa City, IA 52242-1705
Art Borreca: 319-353-2401
Dare Clubb: 319-353-2403