The New School for Drama's playwriting program prepares a select group of students for professional careers as skilled dramatic writers in theater, film and television. We believe that a complete playwriting education requires rigorous attention to craft and artistic exploration as well as consistent opportunities to apply one's developing skills through presentations and productions. We do not impose an aesthetic upon playwrights; instead we nurture and strengthen each writer's developing voice and vision through intensive analysis of dramatic elements and weekly collaborations with a company of fellow writers, directors, and actors.
During three years of training, the playwright builds a portfolio of produced pieces including 10-minute plays, one-acts, a 90-minute play, and a full-length presentation for an audience of industry professionals. Each playwright also completes a full-length screenplay and a sample television script.
As part of the learning process, the playwright faces the artistic and pragmatic challenges of writing and rewriting, of working with actors and directors, and the critical process of guiding a play from artistic impulse to exploratory and clarifying drafts and through to rehearsals and production.
Each week, the playwright takes two four-hour writing courses, as well as a CoLab class with actors and directors. The writing instructors are all high-level professionals with extensive practical knowledge of what is required and expected of a working writer for theater, film, and television. Instructors teach fundamental and advanced skills of the craft as they draw upon their wealth of experience, addressing the complexities and realities of belonging to both an artistic tradition and a rapidly changing industry.
As with the other departments at The New School for Drama, the Playwriting Program is strongly committed to the exploration of emotional and behavioral truth, and to helping young artists build an awareness and understanding of the range and depth of human experience. Because we believe that the best theater emerges from an intelligent and passionate fusion of writing, directing, and acting, we put a high premium on gaining experience in the art and skills of collaboration. We are the only MFA program that integrates a regular, ongoing class with actors, writers, and directors through all six semesters.
Year One: The Well-Written Scene, The Short Play, The Writer and the World
In writing classes, the playwright builds methodically from the seeds of inspiration to the crafting of the well-written scene, the 10-minute play, and the collaboratively-inspired 15-minute piece. The playwright explores the creation of drama as an emotional and artistic commitment and intellectual pursuit. Text analysis investigates classic and modern plays. Co-Lab classes provide all tracks with a first-hand initiation into the vocabulary and technique of collaboration for the development of new plays, with resulting presentations at the end of each semester.
Year Two: The One-Act and The Full-Length
During Year Two, the playwright is challenged with a series of assignments including the adaptation of historical material and writing for specific casts. In the first semester, the playwright originates several short plays, which are developed in both class and rehearsals and are critiqued in Writing and Co-Lab presentations.
During the second semester, writing courses delve more extensively into the process of revision as they address longer one-acts, which are rehearsed in Co-Lab and produced at the end of the school year. In addition, playwrights begin a yearlong examination of the full-length play, which culminates in finished drafts of original full-lengths by the end of the semester. In the spring semester, playwrights also take the first half of the screenwriting course, learning the fundamentals of screenplay structure and vocabulary.
Year Three: Plays in Production, The Screenplay, Television
The playwright completes a 90-minute play, which is developed in class as well as in private sessions with a thesis advisor throughout the fall semester. Plays are given a full production in the spring semester. During the fall, each playwright also completes a screenplay and begins a two-semester course in writing for television. This class includes instruction in basic television writing forms, practical instruction about how a writers' room works, and the realities of executive producing and creating new shows. Throughout year three, the playwright works on a longer full-length play, which will be presented in reading or workshop form to industry professionals at the conclusion of the spring semester.