Master of Fine Arts in Theatre at Sarah Lawrence College



E-mail Caden


What Will Studying Theatre Look Like in Fall 2020?

Theatre and performance centers around the gathering of people, sharing of space, and the creating/critiquing/disrupting of culture. All of these actions remain vital to our society even if we cannot be physically together during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many in our field are struggling with this new possible extended paradigm shift of social distancing. The Theatre Program at Sarah Lawrence is known for its experimentation and innovation and we have already created new ways of being together online, even in the short reactive period at the end of the Spring semester. From adapting our foundational components in Acting, Directing, Design, Playwriting, Tech, and Management to creating and retrofitting digital spaces and platforms for our students to rehearse and present their productions to fellow students, faculty, staff, alumni, and parents. We are creating rehearsals, developmental workshops, readings, performances, and robust discussions that hold at their core dialectics of presence, liveness, and critical proximity.

Many people are asking about how theatre and performance as a field will deal with social distancing, but in contemporary theatre, we have been living and working in the contentious space of presence and non-presence and structural issues of liveness for the past 50 or so years. We work in the mysteries of the double event or triple event. An actor with their lived experience and biography doubles into a representation of a character, which then, more often these days (even on Broadway), doubles again into a live mediated image. It's this problematic liveness that is at the core of our contemporary work. This fall semester we will continue to teach our foundations of theatre and performance making with a new emphasis on exploring and innovating online frameworks that embrace critical proximity and synchronicity of togetherness.

We are planning to hold hybrid FYS classes and our graduate students will be hybrid with access to our studios and workshops. Our undergrad students who will be on campus or have access to campus will also have the ability to schedule time in our workshops and studios for solo work or working with approved social distancing practices. We are currently assessing which of our components can have hybrid possibilities. The majority of components will be taught online and any hybrid components will follow the requirements of social distancing and wearing a mask at all times.

We have a full fall season planned and will be innovating ways to present the work LIVE online. Last semester we presented work via Zoom and this fall semester we will work with (and teach) techniques, programs, and approaches that can help our students’ work thrive during this time. At the moment the risk is too high to have a live audience so there will be no in-person audiences. Our online live presentations will be dynamic and innovative incorporating new formats and frameworks.

Embrace an approach to theatre that is as progressive as Sarah Lawrence College itself.

The Master of Fine Arts in Theatre program helps students find themselves and their individual aesthetic voice in the art form. Under the guidance of a faculty of artists who are working professionals, the program offers an advanced study of theatre that is multi-disciplinary, collaborative, extensive, and practical.

Academic Program

Like the College at large, the Graduate Program in Theatre emphasizes an individualized learning process. Each student’s course of study is unique, and is created in consultation with the program director and faculty in response to the student’s background, interests, strengths, and artistic training requirements.

Program Overview

  • The program emphasizes theatre-making as an integrative practice. Each student develops a program of study that draws from courses in acting, Alexander Technique, breathing, comedic and dramatic improvisation, creation of original work, design, directing, history, movement, playwriting, solo performance, puppetry, speech, voice, and the art of bringing theatre into the local community through Theatre Outreach.
  • Each student’s course of study is unique. Students spend several days during registration week in one-on-one interviews with the faculty, which help students decide which “components” they will take. The program uses the term “components” instead of “courses” because it is possible, and encouraged, to take a component from the Music or Dance performing arts programs.
  • Graduate students work closely in classes, conferences, and productions with faculty, fellow graduate students, and the Sarah Lawrence undergraduate theatre community.
  • Graduate curricular work is augmented by a practicum in which students learn by doing. There are multiple on-campus production venues that offer graduate students a wide range of opportunities in acting, singing, dance, design, directing, ensemble creation, playwriting, and technical work.
  • The Outreach program provides students with teaching placements in elementary schools, colleges, senior centers, halfway houses, and prisons, among others.
  • Students may participate in internships or fieldwork in New York City theatres and theatre organizations.

Program Requirements

For an M.F.A. in theatre, students must earn a total of 48 course credits (24 in the first year and 24 in the second). Students are accepted on a full-time basis; exceptions are made only in extraordinary circumstances.

There are three required courses in the M.F.A. program:

  • Contemporary Collaborative Performance (Year 1)
  • Projects (Year 2)
  • Grad Lab (Year 1 & 2)

Other than these required courses, students chose courses according to their interests and needs. The goal is to create an interdisciplinary course of study that explores aspects of theatre that are new to them.

Graduate students are expected to participate in one or more practicum activities per year. These may include involvement in department-sponsored productions, outreach placements, or internships. Students are asked to take one analytical class during the graduate program (history, theory, dramatic literature, etc.).