Melisa Tien

Undergraduate Discipline


Graduate Program

MFA Theatre Program

BA, University of California–Los Angeles. MFA, Columbia University. Diploma, French Culinary Institute. A New York-based playwright, lyricist, and librettist, Tien is the author of the plays Untitled Landscape, The Boyd Show, Best Life, Yellow Card Red Card, Familium Vulgare, and Refrain. Mary, her musical co-written with composer Matt Frey, will have a workshop at New Dramatists in fall 2019. Her play Best Life was selected to participate in the 2018 Bushwick Starr Reading Series and will be part of JACK’s inaugural season in its new space in Brooklyn. Her play Yellow Card Red Card was presented as part of the Ice Factory Festival in 2017 at the New Ohio Theatre and had a workshop production at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in 2016. In addition to being a resident playwright at New Dramatists, she is a New York Foundation for the Arts fellow in playwriting/screenwriting, a Walter E. Dakin fellow at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and a recipient of the Theater Masters Visionary Playwright Award. She has been a resident of the MacDowell Colony and the Millay Colony and was a member of the 2010-2012 Women’s Project Lab. She has presented work at the Great Plains Theatre Conference, the Women Playwrights International Conference, and the National Asian American Theatre Conference and Festival. SLC, 2019–

Previous Courses


Experiments in Theatrical Writing

Intermediate/Advanced, Component—Year

In this course, we will explore, discuss, and write side-by-side with contemporary experimental theatrical texts. What pushes against theatrical traditions and orients outward toward the new and unfamiliar is what we will think of as experimental. Areas of experimentation that we’ll encounter on our yearlong journey will include time, setting, structure, character, language, and genre. Experimentation finds purpose in the notion that departure from theatrical convention is a move toward altering how an audience responds and reflects upon a play—which, in turn, changes how an audience perceives and behaves in the world. We’ll explore the landscape of the plays that we read in terms of how each play looks, feels, and sounds. We’ll discuss the cultural, historical, and personal contexts of the plays. We’ll look for ways in which those contexts may inspire and inform our own writing. We’ll generate our own experimental work using the assigned texts as points of departure, with the intention of arriving at a different destination. We’ll write from different parts of the brain, from the deeply subconscious to the acutely analytical. We’ll consider how the unique structure of a play can derive organically from the story being told. And we’ll examine ways in which modern technology may assist—or hinder—our storytelling.