Summer 2024: June 17 – July 26
The Playwright’s Lab is where you will find an artistic home, with new play development as its rock-solid foundation. Playwrights, directors, actors and dramaturgs gather for a dynamic and intensive six-week summer session to build community, gain new skills, make new connections, and gain the confidence to turn today’s inspiration into tomorrow’s new plays. Choose the program that’s right for you, an M.F.A. in playwriting, M.A. in New Play Development, or certificate program in directing, performance, or dramaturgy.
The Playwright’s Lab
Students work with some of the most important names in new play development. The Playwright’s Lab has garnered dozens of national awards and commendations from the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival–including the Kennedy Center Gold Medallion, considered one of the highest honors in educational theatre. But our greatest achievement is the way in which our program offers a collaborative and creative community, where people who came looking for a graduate school found an artistic home.
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.
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.
- Summer 2024 tuition: $865 per credit hour, or $10,380 for the normal load of three four-credit courses.
- 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 (deposits credited toward summer tuition charges).
- Technology fee: $150/summer
- Housing: $1,360
- Health services: $45
Student scholarships are available. To apply for these, students must complete the FAFSA annually.
How do you select your guest speakers and visiting faculty?
One of the greatest strengths of our Playwriting M.F.A. program is our visiting faculty and guest artists. Our unique schedule allows some of the best known names in new play development to participate in ways that wouldn’t be possible in a traditional program. Busy working professionals can fit in six weeks of teaching much easier than five months.
We ask our M.F.A.s who they would be interested in meeting and learning from, as well as what types of courses they feel they need in their plan of study. If we’re doing a class on American Women Playwrights, we’re going to bring in people like Erin Courtney and Naomi Wallace. If we’re doing a course on Experimental Playwriting, we’re going to bring in Ruth Margraff and W. David Hancock.
We bring in experts representing every aspect of professional theatre—playwrights, agents, directors, artistic directors, dramaturgs, producers, composers, agents, publishers, designers, actors, and lots of other disciplines.
We invite individuals who’ve made an impact on modern theatre with their own work who also have a proven record of successful and inspirational teaching or a history of helping emerging talents find their voice and be heard by a wider audience.
A successful community shares a common philosophy and enthusiasm for the mission it embodies, so we want visiting faculty and guest artists who will be good ambassadors for the program. What our guests and faculty say about Hollins has a huge impact on who is willing to come in the future.
We look at more than resume and reputation, we look for those who are eager to join our community, and excited about helping it grow.
Often, we’ll invite someone as a guest responder for the festival of student readings. If that goes well, we might invite them back as a guest speaker, and then (if it fits our curriculum) we may invite them back for a summer of teaching.
We don’t want people who are trying to find work, we want people who will help us create new work together.
What are you looking for in a statement of purpose or letter of interest? How important is that to the application as a whole?
In a lot of ways, your letter of interest is at least as important as your writing sample.
Of course we want to accept writers with demonstrated facility in form and craft. We’re looking for interesting ideas, interesting characters, and a passion for writing that will carry you through all the demands of an M.F.A. program.
At the end of the day, though, it won’t be your plays that go to classes, participate in discussions, interact with our faculty, guests, and other students. You will be. Your writing sample introduces your work to us, your letter of interest introduces you.
That’s pretty important stuff, there. 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 writing, how much you looked into our program, 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 three to five years.
An M.F.A. is a huge investment in time and finances, but the university is taking a gamble too! 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 lies 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.
How important are the writing samples? What are you looking for in the writing samples?
Well, I’d be lying to you if I said it wasn’t the single most important part of the application.
That being said, we’re not looking for a writing sample that proves you don’t need instruction. We’re looking for evidence that you can write well, write coherently, craft characters who are interesting, and that you have potential to become an even better writer after working with us. Remember, your writing samples remain a part of your permanent file so they are a kind of time capsule by which we can measure your progress after you’ve started the program.
We’re also curious to see if you’re able to be selective in what you send, which is why a lot of programs set limits rather than minimums on number of pages or items allowed to be submitted as part of the application. Quality is always better than quantity. Proof that you can knock out five pounds of pages won’t impress us more than proving you can write five interesting pages.
I get asked all the time whether I want only full-length plays or several one acts or do 10-minute plays qualify or can other kinds of writing work if there aren’t any plays the applicant feels comfortable submitting.
The most important thing we’re looking for is that the writing sample reflect who you are as a writer now, and demonstrates what it is you’re interested in writing about now. Sending your perfectly formatted full-length play from five years ago is not as good a sample as the first draft of the one act you wrote last week. Or even something that isn’t a play…yet. If that means sending a poem instead of a play, fine. But, tell us why you want to be a playwright and not a poet in your letter of interest.
Send the work you feel best introduces you as the writer you are and that will be perfect. Then, in your letter of intent, let me know about the writer you hope to become and I’ll have a better idea of how to help you get from here to there.
Will you reject me if my undergraduate grades are terrible?
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 a CV is probably more appropriate. There are lots of good examples online on how to craft a good one.
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.
Are you really going to look at my grades?
What do you need in terms of a resume and transcripts?
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 M.F.A.
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. Each year, our collaboration with MMT also results in a Winter Festival of New Works featuring full productions of two to four plays written by Playwright’s Lab’s M.F.A. students.