Research and creative production in theatre arts

Faculty and graduate students in the Department of Theatre Arts are active in all areas of production, performance, and scholarship, often with the assistance of undergraduate students. Actors, directors, designers and playwrights present their work professionally and on campus, including at Iowa's popular Mainstage series. Scholars publish their research and participate in national and international conferences.

Research and creative opportunities

The Big Ten Theatre Consortium

As a founding member of the Big Ten Theatre Consortium, Iowa commissions plays by outstanding American female playwrights that feature substantial age-appropriate female roles.

New Plays by and About Women

The Big Ten Theatre Consortium is commissioning a series of plays by outstanding American female playwrights. Each play features at least six substantial age-appropriate roles for young women. Men may also be included in the casts.

The purpose of the initiative is to promote the writing and production of new works about women by professional and academic theatres around the country. It is also meant to draw attention to the need to produce and support such plays.

Each year the theatre departments and schools of the Big Ten have the first opportunity to present the newly commissioned play. After that year, the play is available for production anywhere. At that time, arrangements for rights and royalties may be made through the writer’s agent.

Five plays have been commissioned:

  • Good Kids by Naomi Iizuka  
  • Baltimore by Kirsten Greenidge
  • Twilight Bowl by Rebecca Gilman
  • Companion Animals by Madeleine George
  • Bonnets by Jen Silverman

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A series of collaborations across campus and beyond

Borderless is an event series created by the Department of Theatre Arts to produce theatrical works representing a wide diversity of experiences. We believe this is essential for students, faculty, administrators, and community members (in our predominantly white institution and town) to encounter onstage. The initiative emerged in spring 2020 under the name “Diverse Voices” and was renamed Borderless in the fall of 2020 to more clearly embrace its essential pillar: collaboration.

We’re dedicated to working beyond the walls of the Theatre Building and permeating borders between university departments, across campus, and to the professional theatre world.

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The first week of May is a special time for us, as we mount our annual Iowa New Play Festival (NPF).

Yearly Iowa New Play Festival information, including the festival dedication, guest artists, productions, reading series, and more, is available in the Virtual Lobby for both past, and upcoming festivals, as it becomes available. 

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About the Festival

The Iowa New Play Festival is presented during the last week of spring term classes. Four to five plays by MFA playwrights are selected for full productions, most of them directed by MFA directing students and faculty members. Readings of full plays written by the other MFA writers are also presented during the week, as is a selection of work by undergraduate playwrights. Classes in the department are cancelled for the week so everyone may participate. Professional playwrights, directors, and producers from around the country are in residence to see and discuss all aspects of the work.

Many of the plays premiered during the Festival have gone on to win prestigious awards and have productions at professional theatres throughout this country and abroad. Preparing four or five new plays and presenting them in a single week is a monumental undertaking that is only possible by the utilization of the department’s wide-ranging resources in acting, directing, design, dramaturgy, stage management, and technical support. The development of new work through production continues to be a fundamental emphasis of the entire department.


For more than two decades, Theatre Arts has presented an annual festival centered on producing, reading, and discussing new scripts from the Iowa Playwrights Workshop. The Workshop was formally organized in the fall of 1971, although a strong tradition of playwriting has existed at Iowa since the 1920s when the department was under the leadership of E.C. Mabie. From 1923 until his death in 1956, Mabie was strongly dedicated to the writing and production of original plays. The Workshop was one of the first programs established to concentrate solely on playwriting and is one of the most production oriented playwriting programs in the country.

Research and creative production in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

As part of a top-tier, AAU-accredited public research university, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences holds scholarly, scientific, and artistic discovery at the heart of our mission.

Throughout our departments and programs, our professors are at the forefront of their disciplines. They bring their world-class research and artistry into their classrooms, studios, and labs, giving students the unparalleled opportunity to learn right from the source of the latest innovations in knowledge and practice.

Graduate students and many undergraduates work side-by-side with faculty members, conducting breakthrough research and creative production that advances humanity’s understanding of ourselves and the complex, ever-changing world in which we live.

The creation of knowledge and understanding is an exhilarating and never-ending mission—and is at the core of every University of Iowa liberal arts and sciences education.