Certificate in New Play Performance


single-paper-background New Play Performance

New Cohort begins Summer 2025
Under special circumstances permission to begin certificate programs in off years may be given by the program director. 

The New Play Performance Certificate provides graduate-level instruction from leading theatre professionals in the specific skills required in new play development. Students gain practical experience in playmaking through a program that is integrated with the Playwright’s Lab at Hollins University, an internationally recognized graduate program in playwriting.

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Students complete their certificate in play directing in two six-week summer sessions.

In their first summer, performers learn:

  • The basics of conceiving and writing new plays
  • How to analyze a script for production
  • How to collaborate with playwrights and directors on new plays

Students will also take a viewpoints and composition course with playwrights and directors.

Performers in their second summer learn:

  • How to perform for other media by acting in an original web series written by our playwrights and produced by the Playwright’s Lab
  • How to manage their professional career

Students also take a course in advanced performance techniques. Students will leave the program with a graduate-level certificate in theatre and the skillset needed to perform on a professional level in the area of new play development.

Acting Opportunities

Each year of the two-year program, performance students will audition and act in No Shame Theatre, Overnight Sensations, multiple readings and up to two new plays for our Playwrights Festival where their work will be seen by over a dozen industry professionals.

Ongoing Partnerships

The program works with Roanoke’s Mill Mountain Theatre and a growing network of theatres around the country that specialize in new play development.

Each year we produce, in collaboration with Mill Mountain Theatre, two to four plays by Hollins playwrights as part of the Winter Festival of New Works, and we work to bring back our student performers, directors, and playwrights for those productions — providing transportation, accommodations, and a small meal stipend. These plays are frequently selected for regional and national recognition through KCACTF. Some have even transferred to other theatres around the country.

New Works Initiative

A fund that offsets the costs related to producing work by Hollins’ student playwrights. Students in the New Play Performance Certificate program can apply for production assistance whenever they are performing in work generated by Hollins playwrights.

How is the Program Best Described?

“Hollins performers know what they’re doing, do it well, and know how to work with a playwright and director to find the play. They are here to do the work, which is why they get work.” – Todd Ristau, program director, Playwright’s Lab at Hollins University


Summer 2025 tuition: $900 per credit hour or $12,600 for the normal load of three four-credit courses and one two-credit course for the term.

  • Technology fee: $165 per summer
  • New students must pay a nonrefundable deposit of $400 within two weeks of their acceptance. Returning students must pay a nonrefundable deposit of $200 by May 15. All deposits will be credited toward summer tuition charges.

Application Deadline: February 15

More Play Performance FAQ news-listing-arrow
  • What are you looking for in a statement of purpose or letter of interest? How important is that to the application as a whole? (New Play Performance Certificate)

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    In a lot of ways, your letter of interest is the most important thing in your application for our New Play Performance Certificate program. Lots of pressure, but the only good introduction is an honest one. In short, be yourself. Trying to be anyone or anything else is more work than it is worth.

    Before you pick a school, you should have been selective in that choice—you should know why you want to go there, have specific goals and a plan for how the program you are applying to can help you meet those goals. All that should be in your letter of interest.

    How else are we going to know anything about your passion for theatre, how much you looked into our program, and whether your expectations of the program are realistic? Your letter of interest is the best tool we have (outside of an actual interview) to help decide whether or not the school and the student will be a good team for the next two years.

    Choosing a cohort of students is like casting a play. Talent is important, but so is knowing the ensemble will work well together, be mutually supportive and be good ambassadors for the institution. And if you don’t get in, that means nothing more than the path to your success might lie in another direction.

    Ask hard questions of yourself and the institution. We’ll do the same—and that is going to be a very good and useful conversation to have regardless of the outcome.

  • Will you reject me if my undergraduate grades are terrible? (New Play Performance Certificate)

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    Not necessarily, but we do use past performance as an indicator in determining if you are up to meeting the demands of graduate level study.

    A lot of people who do extremely well in graduate school have undergraduate grades they might be less than proud of. Don’t try to hide them. Don’t decide not to submit a transcript just because it reflects progress in an unrelated field or a degree you didn’t complete. Address those issues in your letter of interest and speak to both your desire to make a stronger showing in this program and discuss some of your strategies for doing so.

    Don’t obsess about past grades. The quality of your writing sample, strength of your letter of interest, and the enthusiasm of your references will likely outweigh that D– you got in calculus.

    Often I hear people stressing over their resume or CV… even about what the difference between a CV and a resume is, and which one is appropriate, how long should it be, and how much not having a bunch of professional credits on it matters.

    To all that, I can only say, “Relax.”

    A resume is geared more toward employment and a CV (Curriculum Vitae) is geared more toward academic achievements, so for this program resume is probably more appropriate, but that doesn’t mean the academic achievements are irrelevant.

    As for credits, we don’t want you to prove you don’t need the instruction in order to get into the program. What we want is an accurate idea of your background, where you’ve worked and what you’ve done and who you’ve done it with.

    Be truthful. Be complete. Be concise.

  • Do you really look at my grades?

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  • What do you need in terms of a resume and transcripts? (New Play Performance Certificate)

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    The need for official transcripts is obvious. We need demonstrable proof that you have obtained your undergraduate degree. If your undergraduate degree is not from an accredited college or university, a special request for a waiver of that requirement must be made to the full Grad Council and approved by the vice president for academic affairs.

    And, we need all transcripts from every academic institution you have attended, even if you didn’t graduate from them, your grades there weren’t good, or you don’t think the field of academic study represented by them is relevant to your Certificate Training.

  • What can you tell me about letters of reference? (New Play Performance Certificate)

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    Letters of reference are a very important part of your application process, not just a hoop to jump through. Give serious thought to ensuring they are significant, supportive, and above all, relevant.

    An artistic director, literary manager, or famous director of a major theatre looks great as a reference, but most people entering grad school are going to find those kinds of references difficult to obtain.

    A lot of programs ask for three letters and not coincidentally, are looking for people who can speak directly to three specific things. Your talent as a performer, your ability to handle the academic rigor of a graduate level study, and your potential for success in the field. Our suggestion is to try to get references that can each speak in general about all three of those things but then be very specific about one of them.

    Find someone who can speak about why they think you are a talented performer. If possible, a director, another actor, or even a playwright.

    Find another someone who can speak to your academic ability, especially if that ability is not reflected in the grades on your transcript. A supportive teacher is better than the head of a department who hardly knows you.

    Find someone who can speak to your passion and commitment to pursuing your dream, and if possible, mention how you have helped others to do so.

    Where possible, make sure those someones are accomplished themselves so that their evaluation of you carries weight. You want references who know you well, will describe you favorably but not with faint praise, know something about the program you are applying to and your goals, and willing to take questions about you over the phone.

    Lastly, remember that your reference is putting his or her reputation at risk by writing your recommendation. Don’t ask if you aren’t reasonably sure they’ll say yes. If they do say yes, don’t make them regret it.

  • How quickly can I expect to graduate? (New Play Performance Certificate)

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    Every student in the certificate program is expected to complete their training in the two-year rotation. If for some reason you had to unexpectedly leave the program, you would have to wait until that rotation came around again and reapply in order to take those courses.

E.B. Smith

“The thing that draws me to Hollins is the fact that it is a tight-knit and small community. I think everyone can have a presence in a place like this. I think everyone has an impact, and I think we are able as a community to support one another in ways that I haven’t seen in larger programs. I think it’s very powerful and meaningful training.”

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