The Iowa Playwrights Workshop—The University of Iowa's MFA Program in Playwriting—is an intensive three-year program dedicated to educating playwrights for the professional theatre. We train talented playwrights and collaborative theatre artists who will lead the American theatre in the creation of new works and the training of future generations of playwrights.
The Playwrights Workshop was founded in 1971, but a strong tradition in playwriting has existed at the University of Iowa since the early 1920s. Graduates have found success in every medium of dramatic writing, including stage, screen, television, and nontraditional performance. Iowa graduates include the playwrights Tennessee Williams, Lee Blessing, Sherry Kramer, Charles Smith, John O'Keeffe, David Hancock, Naomi Wallace, Rebecca Gilman, David Adjmi, Kirsten Greenidge, and Samuel Hunter, and Jen Silverman; and the film and television writer-producers Richard Maibaum, Norman Felton, Barry Kemp, Rick Cleveland, and Paul Rust. These and many others have exemplified the Iowa tradition of training professional dramatists who are both writers of scripts and texts and collaborative artists who actively engage in the development and production of new work.
The Playwrights Workshop seeks to create conditions in which you can develop your unique voice while freely experimenting with a variety of creative processes and theatrical forms. Your writing is nurtured through both coursework and opportunities to present new work at all stages of development. We believe that only by working with actors, directors and other collaborators, and by seeing one’s work on stage, can a writer find his or her own theatrical voice. Therefore we offer you a wide variety of opportunities to have your work produced. In addition to weekly staged readings, Gallery productions and workshops take place throughout the academic year. In the spring, the New Play Festival showcases four full productions and staged readings by all students in the Workshop.
All opportunities for reading and production are designed to develop and enhance your training and experiences in your coursework. The areas of coursework, writing, and staged reading/production are interdependent in the student's development. Through them, you are expected to demonstrate ongoing growth and maturity as a writer, collaborative theatre artist, and student of theatre.
A new class of MFA Playwriting students is admitted every fall. The deadline to apply for the fall of 2023 is January 15, 2023.
Faculty & Guest Artists
Faculty include Art Borreca, Dare Clubb, Lisa Schlesinger, and Megan Gogerty. Professional guest artists—playwrights, dramaturgs, and directors—are in residence for both short and extended periods of time throughout the academic year, teaching courses and workshops in writing, new play development, and collaboration.
Recent guests have included Sherry Kramer, Lisa D’Amour, Kia Corthron, Cori Thomas, Wendy Goldberg, Samuel D. Hunter, John Baker, Bryan Delaney, Anne Garcia-Romero, Naomi Wallace, Rinde Eckert, David Gothard, Matthew Maguire, Len Berkman, Tim Miller, and Mickle Maher among many others.
Playwriting students also have the opportunity to work with guest artists brought to campus for the department's annual New Play Festival, as well as the Partnership in the Arts program, through which a team of professionals is in residence for four or more weeks to develop and present a new theatrical work. Recent Partnership guests have included Darrah Cloud and Kim Sherman; Paola Coletto, Matteo Destro, and David Bills; Steven Epp, Dominque Serrand, and Nathan Keepers; and The Q Brothers.
A professional internship is not required of MFA candidates in Playwriting. However, in individual cases an internship may be desirable or advisable. If you are intending to take an internship, you should plan for the internship in your Plan of Study. If a decision to pursue an internship is reached after approval of the Plan in the first year, the Plan may be revised, with the approval of your Committee, to include an internship. Usually internships are taken in the first semester of the third year.
You are responsible for securing your internships and negotiating all related details (with assistance from the faculty). You should obtain a letter from the sponsoring institution agreeing to employ you and in what capacity. If faculty approves the internship, a copy of the letter will be placed in your advising file with his/her Plan of Study.
During the internship semester, the Playwrights Workshop requirement will be waived if you complete a 3 s.h. Independent Study with a member of the playwriting faculty.
Academic & Program Reviews
Your work on writing projects and productions is intensively reviewed at the time of the project's presentation in Workshop or other department venue; conferences with playwriting faculty are ongoing throughout your enrollment.
The first year is a probationary period for all MFA students in Theatre Arts. At the end of the first year, you meet with program faculty for an overall review of your progress in the program.
Near the end of the first and second years of enrollment, you submit An Annotated Checklist of all works completed and in progress during the current academic year, along with a 2-3 page Self-Assessment Essay. In the second year, the essay includes reflection on progress over the first two years, and the expected focus and approach of the MFA Thesis play.
Program faculty use this Self-Assessment, Checklist, and Proposal, along with your work on courses, in the Playwrights Workshop, and in the Gallery Series and/or 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 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 or marked regress in any major area of the program—coursework, writing, collaboration—over the course of the second year. In the case of students who have been removed from probation, the Committee reserves the right to request withdrawal because of your failure to maintain satisfactorily the conditions of removal.
Important Note: In accordance with Graduate College and Department policies, you must maintain a grade point average of 3.0 in your coursework. If the G.P.A. falls below this, you are 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 writer or collaborative theatre artist may also lead to academic probation.
Iowa Playwrights Workshop Students, Past and Present
A selection of current and recent Iowa Playwrights Workshop Students' bios.
Art Borreca or Lisa Schlesinger
Co-Heads of Playwriting
Department of Theatre Arts
The University of Iowa
107 Theatre Building
Iowa City, IA 52242-1705
Art Borreca: 319-353-2401
Lisa Schlesinger: 319-335-1751