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Hollins University
Graduate Center
PO Box 9603
Roanoke, VA 24020-1603
(540) 362-6575
(540) 362-6288 (Fax)

Program director:
Todd Ristau
(540) 556-5396

General information:
Hollins University Graduate Center
P.O. Box 9603
Roanoke, VA 24020-1603
(540) 362-6575
Fax: (540) 362-6288



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M.F.A. in Playwriting Summer Program

Summer 2015: June 22 - July 31

The Playwright's Lab at Hollins University is designed to be more like an intensive workshop/retreat or conference than a traditional three-year program. We foster inclusivity and collaboration not exclusivity and competition. You can get your M.F.A. in three - five six-week summer sessions and work with some of the most important names in new play development.

Our unique summer program, with its emphasis on both scholarly research and creative writing, will enable graduates of the program to:

  • produce dramatic works of the highest quality
  • write and articulate clear, perceptive, and informed analyses of dramatic texts
  • pursue careers in such professions as dramatic writing, dramaturgy, literary management, and arts instruction

Hollins offers an intensive, supportive, and challenging atmosphere that encourages academic excellence, a spirit of independent inquiry, a free exchange of ideas, and a love of learning. Our faculty of productive scholars and visiting faculty of established artists work together to help you achieve your academic, professional, and artistic goals.

Program strengths:

  • The Playwright's Lab emphasizes peer mentoring, collaboration, and cooperation are over competition.
  • You'll work closely with Hollins' visiting professional faculty, artists-in-residence, and guest speakers to develop the kind of personal and professional relationships that can lead to reading and production credits before graduation — an advantage few other programs offer.
  • We are constantly expanding our network of creative partners who work with us to provide production, reading, publication and internship opportunities for our students. We feel it is part of our mission to advocate for the professional advancement of our students.
  • Mill Mountain Theatre has been a major contributor to the performing arts in our region for over 40 years. First as a community theatre and then as a professional Equity playhouse, this theatre has always had a deep commitment to new play development including hosting a major national playwriting contest and home of the Norfolk Southern Festival of New Works. Mill Mountain Theatre continues to work with our playwriting program by providing a variety of production and reading opportunities for our students including the annual Festival of Student Readings, Overnight Sensations, and CenterPieces Readings, and a February Showcase written by one of our M.F.A. students each year.
  • Students can also take advantage of No Shame Theatre, a weekly venue for new work with a proven 20-year history of innovative experimentation that has been a launching point for some of American theatre's most important artists and groundbreaking plays. No Shame alums include Rebecca Gilman, Toby Huss, Camryn Manheim, Stuart Sherman, and many others. Plays developed at No Shame include The Eight: Reindeer Monologues, by Jeff Goode, and Mambo Mouth, by John Leguizamo. During the summer session, guest artists and visiting faculty perform alongside our students on the No Shame stage — including Mac Wellman, Naomi Wallace, Jeffery Sweet, Carl Hancock Rux, and Bob Moss. No Shame is part of a national network, and Roanoke's chapter has twice been invited to participate in the prestigious Piccolo Spoleto Theatre Festival in Charleston, South Carolina.
  • We have recently launched two new professional certificate training programs designed to model best practices and provide graduate level training in the areas of New Play Directing and New Play Performance. Not only doe these new programs give focused training in the special skills required to work on new plays in production, they pair our playwrights with actors and directors in dynamic collaborations.

The New Works Initiative

The Playwright's Lab at Hollins University is working with local arts organizations to find ways to assist our students in getting their work in front of live audiences at legitimate theatres.

Our students have had readings and productions in major theatre centers like Los Angeles, Washington, DC, and Manhattan as well as smaller regional theatres in places like here in Roanoke, VA, and Burlington, VT.

In many cases the biggest barrier to producing new work is finding adequate funding — not only for production costs, but for allowing the playwright to travel to a city where their work is being done and to participate in rehearsals as an active collaborator.

Obviously, as responsible stewards of our program's financial resources — which includes student tuition — our budget must remain dedicated to supporting our academics. However, the Playwright's Lab feels it is an important part of our mission to sponsor our student writers when opportunities to realize their work on stage arise. That's why we have established a separate fund for the sole purpose of offsetting costs associated with the production and presentation of plays by or involving our students.

The New Works Initiative was created in 2008 and has already helped provide production assistance and travel costs for dozens of student readings and productions in legitimate theatres. It has made it possible for our student writers to work with guest professional directors, and provided support for them to work as actors, dramaturgs, and designers on plays by important guest writers associated with the program like Lucy Thurber, Jeff Goode, and W. David Hancock.

To support the New Works Initiative of the Playwright's Lab, please visit us online at: www.hollins.edu/giveonline. Be sure to click on "other" and designate the gift as being for the New Works Initiative.