You are here : : Academics > Graduate Programs > Playwriting

Playwriting MFA

The American theatre needs bold, committed, and compassionate playwrights who are connected to the world they live in. Each year we admit one or two such individuals who will be nurtured by the close individual attention and extensive production opportunities that are unique to this program. We believe that the theatre itself is a valuable teacher of playwrights and so playwrights work collaboratively with their colleagues in the MFA acting, directing, design, and stage management programs to create stimulating and meaningful works of art. The year-long development process includes a series of readings and a workshop week culminating in the Wagner New Play Festival, produced each April. The Festival provides a dynamic opportunity for all its featured plays to receive greater local and national attention as it attracts professional guests from theatres across the country.


The core of the playwriting curriculum is the Playwriting Seminar, a course which all MFA playwrights take together each quarter. The focus is on their evolving work, which is read and discussed at all stages of its life, from inceptive idea through a post-production draft. Seminar also includes playwriting exercises, topics on various aspects of professional life, the reading and discussing of plays (with emphasis on contemporary works), and frequent guests—playwrights and other theatre professionals. Other core courses include Dramatization and Adaptation, Screenwriting, and Writing for Television which are offered in rotation within a three-year cycle.

In addition, first year students take a course in Text Analysis and collaborate with students in all MFA areas in researching and creating a piece for informal presentation. As electives, students take a variety of topics in theatre and dramatic literature and can take advantage of the rich offerings in literature, music, visual arts, and language study.


All students have a production each year. First year students have a workshop production with limited technical support and rehearsals, and usually directed by one of the faculty professional directors. Second and third year students receive fully-staged productions each year directed by MFA directors. All of these works are presented as part of the Wagner New Play Festival each spring. The Festival is attended by literary managers and artistic directors from theatres across the country. Moving from development into production is always dependent upon the works being ready for staging.


In the summer following the first year, playwrights spend two weeks at the O'Neill Theatre Conference as observers. For the following summer, the playwriting faculty assist in creating a residency appropriate to the individual needs of each student. This has varied from working as an intern on a television series to working in a literary office or at New Dramatists to travel for research or theatrical breadth in such places as New York, Seattle, Edinburgh, London, Germany, Hawaii, and Rumania.


The following guest faculty recently taught special seminars of from five to ten weeks: Erik Ehn, Athol Fugard, Velina Hasu Houston, Jose Rivera, Kelly Stuart, and Susan Yankowitz. Playwrights such as Ellen McLaughlin, Charles L. Mee, Mac Wellman, and others too numerous to mention have visited for shorter periods. For information on our current full-time faculty please visit our faculty page.


Graduates of the program include:

  • Naomi Iizuka (recently at Berkeley Rep and the NY York Public Theatre)
  • Melanie Marnich (Manhattan Theatre Club, Actors Theatre of Louisville)
  • Guillermo Reyes (Actors Theatre of Louisville, INTAR, and Head of Playwriting, University of Arizona)
  • Andrew Case (Manhattan Theatre Club Fellow 2002)
  • Caridad Svich (Bunting Fellowship, Harvard/Radcliff Institute for Advanced Study

These and other graduates have won three NEA Playwriting Fellowships, six Jerome Fellowships, a Fulbright Fellowship, Britain's Mobil/Royal Manchester Exchange Award, ASK/Royal Court in London Residency, TCG Playwriting Residency Grants and numerous California Arts Council Fellowships and Samuel Goldwyn Awards. Former students have worked at the Guthrie, New York's Second Stage, South Coast Repertory, and the Mid-West Plawright's Lab. Their plays have been presented at Actor's Theatre of Louisville, Intar, The Mark Taper Forum, Dallas Theatre Center, Ensemble Studio Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, NADA, Here, Salvage Vanguard, Mixed Blood, Stage West, Clubbed Thumb, The Women's Project, Sundance, the New York Public Theatre, and in London. Currently enrolled students have plays at the 2002 O'Neill Theatre Center and Mark Taper Forum New Works Festival.


Of Interest:

TheatreForum - An international theatre journal since 1992
La Jolla Playhouse - UCSD is home to this Tony Award winning theatre
UC San Diego Home Page - UC San Diego's Main Web Site
9500 Gilman Drive MC0344
La Jolla, CA 92093
Tel: (858) 534-3791