Summer 2021: June 21 – July 30
The Playwright’s Lab at Hollins University is more than a traditional three-year degree program. Similar to an intensive workshop/retreat or conference, it promotes inclusivity and collaboration, not exclusivity and competition. Students work with some of the most important names in new play development. Unlike other programs, The New Works Initiative provides opportunities for the production of student work at professional theatres. The combination of intense training and professional experience gives Hollins playwriting graduates an edge in the industry.
In 2018, the Playwright’s Lab received fourteen national awards and commendations from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival–including the Kennedy Center Gold Medallion, considered one of the highest honors in educational theatre.
Hollins playwrights get work done.
Core program faculty >
Our visiting faculty >
Students get their M.F.A. in three to five six-week summer sessions. You’ll work with visiting professional faculty, artists-in-residence, and guest speakers, developing personal and professional relationships. This can lead to reading and production credits before graduation.
The Playwright’s Lab features two professional certificate training programs that model best practices. These programs focus on the special skills required to work on new plays in production. They also pair playwrights with actors and directors in dynamic collaborations.
Students Engaged in the Theatre from Day One
Hollins Playwrights get work done
Director Todd Ristau talks about what makes the program so unique.
New Works Initiative
Playwright’s Lab students have had readings and productions in major theatre centers. These include Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and Manhattan. Smaller regional theatres in places like Roanoke and Burlington, Vermont, have also welcomed our students.
The New Works Initiative helps cover the cost of student readings/productions in legitimate theatres. This encompasses the playwright’s travel expenses as well as production costs.
The initiative also makes it possible for student writers to work with guest professional directors. It supports their work as actors, dramaturgs, and designers on plays by important guest writers.
If you wish to support the New Works Initiative of the Playwright’s Lab, you may do so online. Be sure to select “other” and designate that the gift is for the New Works Initiative.
“National Theatre Powerhouse”
An editorial in The Roanoke Times makes the case for how Hollins has become “a national theatre powerhouse.”
Mill Mountain Theatre
MMT has been a major contributor to the performing arts in the Roanoke region for over 40 years. It provides a variety of production and reading opportunities for Playwright’s Lab students. MMT also features a February Showcase written by one of the Playwright’s Lab’s M.F.A. students each year.
No Shame Theatre
No Shame is a weekly venue for new work that’s part of a national network. It has launched some of American theatre’s most important artists and groundbreaking plays. Guest artists and visiting faculty perform with Playwright’s Lab students on the No Shame stage.
“I could not be happier with the M.F.A. playwriting program. The Hollins Playwright’s Lab is one of the few low-residency programs in the country. My classmates were geniuses, and my instructors were working theatre professionals. At every step, I was challenged to create bigger and more unique work. Nearly every production or collaboration I’ve been part of for the last several years has come through a connection that I made or strengthened at Hollins.”
Adam Hahn M.F.A. ’11
“It’s the working person’s playwriting program.”
Elizabeth Heffron M.F.A. ’14
“All of a sudden everyone wants you to work for them when you get an M.F.A. Had to turn down two colleges wanting to get me in for the spring semester… I had to turn them down because my play was being directed by Bob Moss and going to New York City.”
Taylor Gruenloh M.F.A. ’14
Meet the Director
Todd Ristau, director of the graduate program in playwriting; M.F.A., Iowa Playwright’s Workshop
Professor Ristau’s work has been performed in theatres across the U.S. and England, including London’s West End. He founded No Shame Theatre in 1986 and oversaw its evolution into a national network of venues for new works in dozens of cities. He has an extensive theatre background, with expertise in acting, directing, and design. He worked with Mill Mountain Theatre for six years as coordinator of their second stage and as literary associate overseeing new works programming. Ristau served as the first artistic director of Studio Roanoke, a storefront theatre space dedicated to new works development in downtown Roanoke. Ristau is an active member of the Dramatists Guild, and member of Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of America.
He has served as chair of playwriting for the South Eastern Theatre Conference, Getchell New Play Award Committee, and KCACTF Region IV’s Chair of the National Playwriting Program.