The Masters of Fine Arts in Playwriting

  • Admissions
  • Financial Aid
  • Graduate Handbook
  • Application deadline: December 15
  • For questions about the MFA  Playwriting program, contact the Head of Playwriting, Erik Ehn: Erik_Ehn@brown.edu
  • For questions about the application process (including GRE/TOEFL submission, LORs and other technical questions), please contact the Graduate School directly at Admission_Graduate@brown.edu.  Applications to the Ph.D. and MFA programs are submitted to, and managed through, the Graduate School.  Please do not email the department with technical questions or requests to troubleshoot your online application submission.   You can find detailed instructions about the application process and components here.  The application FAQ can be found here.
Submission Requirements

Apply via online system. Application must include:

  1. Two writing samples. The first should be a complete piece of any length in dramatic form (“dramatic” understood liberally). The second may be a part of a whole, and in any medium; if writing, no more than 15 pages, if visual no more than 15 images, if sound/video, no more than 15 minutes. If you have trouble uploading a second sample, or if it cannot be uploaded, please send it to the Graduate School, clearly marked Playwriting Application.    Do not send samples directly to the department as this will delay the processing of your application.
  2. Statement of purpose. What are your writing goals over the next few years, and how can Brown's program serve them?
  3. Three recommendations, at least one of which speaks directly to your work as a theater artist. 
  4. TOEFL: required for applicants from non-English speaking countries only; see Graduate School website for details.
  5. Inquiries should be addressed to Erik Ehn, Head of the M.F.A. in Playwriting in the Department of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies, Box 1897, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912.
  6. GRE (General/Subject): Not required.
The Overview

Our MFA in playwriting is a 3-year program. We are looking for students who are committed to: the athletic development of their craft; the deep interrogation of the forms and purposes of their art, and of the place of art in the larger world; a leaning into faithful transformation of society through theatrical action.

Students take a strong hand in designing their own course of study; they are given opportunities to teach as well (the process of constructing and executing syllabi so useful to the articulation of mission).

Brown is a chief and storied site for the formation of playwrights, established to grant broad inventive license while offering close mentorship and profound resources (in the department, the university, and the greater community, locally to internationally). Alumni distinguish themselves by their professional credits, and by their collegial élan. Brown’s resources are deep – gorgeous stores of intellectual and artistic capacity, a deep history, a will to innovate and collaborate, outstanding libraries, a substantial array of interdisciplinary opportunities, and students who are rightly and well authorized to formulate and execute their own experiments.

This is a promising hour for the arts, and writing in particular. There are new, global drives to form social groups that center on ideals (this, at the heart of performance). After years of innovation in media technology, there is a sharp hunger for immediacy (again, at the heart of live performance). There is a reordering of public space, physically and virtually. After decades of important skepticism there is a new search for ways of making meaning (and the words are expression and capture of comprehension).

We aim to afford an environment in which the student’s signal, personal voice can be explored on its own merits, and freely offered in an atmosphere of critical trust and exchange. Peace is the permission to be, to be in the moment. Drama, as the social moment, is learned through the establishment of a moment’s peace assured through the granting of meaningful permissions.

Art, particularly performance, maintains that the live moment is collective, and bears history forward. In every creative act, the question is: how may this be held common? Theater grounds itself in the avowal that our reality is social, and that our excellence achieves its quality in the give-away.

Our curriculum is:

Civic
Chaotic
Strange
Queer

Here are some of the many ways we might think of these words. You may offer others:

Civic
Globalized is to global what leatherette is to leather. There is a community that forms opportunistically, when individual countries don’t want to avoid acknowledging something they’ve done, or when they want to divide the spoils of belated virtue (credit for something they haven’t).

To gather our strength, theatrical strength, we need distinctive local behavior that can be moved without displacing it or making a copy of it. Rather than simply “international” with its absolving sense of no-place in patriarchal suspense: we want to graduate students who are civic, urban (in the sense of ecological); students who see their actions linked through chaos to worldwide principles, anarchists who recognize that anarchy, and chaos, and a forest are highly organized. Work is not objective, privileged, isolated or immortal, it is not personal, held apart, or inviolably bordered. It moves. It navigates landscapes without conquering them.

Chaotic
Just as we’re post national – we’re also post disciplinary. This was once understood to be post dramatic, in the sense of post authorship/post-text. But the total loss of disciplines, like the total loss of self, is disastrous. The world we are trying to describe now is so richly detailed and complex that it must be viewed from all angles at once.

We study and work in chaos: networks infinitely deep, beyond completion or full mastery.

Strange
The language of experiment in physics has for a long time now taken up the fuzzy, hairy, strange and tangled. Art likewise must pursue strangeness. The chief strangeness that we can inflict, the balance to the pace and breadth of the world (the world we must take part in), is stillness and silence. Our impractical process slows things down, so that time is in imitation of eternity, of beautiful nothing.

Queer
Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, and Ignatius Loyola took architectural, geographic, and military patterns inward, creating spiritual schema on the basis of observed structures. This is the shift we face: network is the manifest pattern; we must spiritualize it and then make the internal a public and hospitable space. Spirituality is the set of values by which one shares/distributes.

Queer can mean: A personal and demonstrated identity in contravention of logic or domination. Art must queer the system. Even critiquing the systematic self – at core – as with mystical thinking: we are ourselves and shared selves, selves for others at the same time.

The Program of Study:

MFA students are required to take the graduate playwriting workshop in each semester of their residency. Other classes are electives. Electives can be culled from a wide range of classes in playwriting, theatre studies, performance studies and the offerings of many Departments beyond the Department of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies.  Here is a full list of courses offered in the Department. All courses are selected by the student,  in consultation with advisors from playwriting faculty.  Other faculty in Theatre Arts and Performance Studies are also happy to advise playwrights when desired.

MFA playwrights are provided continuous collaborative opportunity, in and beyond the bounds of theater, to bring their text into space and time. If youn are operating within the conventions of a play as classically understood, your script is produced at least once while at Brown. This is realized in cooperation with Brown/Trinity MFA actors and directors, as well as actors, directors and dramaturgs in other parts of the Consortium of Theatre Programs at Brown. Productions along these lines occur during the Writing is Live Festival. Also available: readings, self-and-peer produced events, conceptual collaborations with designers, means to work with musicians, programmers, poets, scholars, public health workers… We encourage you to define “play” and “production” as liberally as your impulses direct, and we will help you to your vision.

FINANCIAL AID: The program provides a financial aid package that covers tuition, health fee and health insurance for three years of full-time enrollment. Students receive a 50% stipend during academic Year 1 (based on a 9-month academic calendar) and 100% stipends during academic Years 2 and 3. Students also receive a stipend for two summers. Funding is contingent on students remaining in good standing.