The School of Drama John Wells Directing Program is a three-year, graduate directing MFA. It is designed for directors who wish to expand and develop their skills and join a think tank to envision the future of theater and contemporary performance.
The John Wells Directing Fellows are encouraged to think critically and adventurously about their work in a generative environment. The program admits two, highly motivated directors as John Wells Fellows each year who demonstrate the ability and drive to articulate their own vision for theater and contemporary performance. Directing skills are honed in workshops and performances, as well as through theory, history, and studio classes.
The John Wells Graduate Directing Program provides Fellows with the opportunity to pursue both rigorous, classical training, new technologies, and experimental approaches to contemporary performance. As the boundaries of performance and theater continue to expand, it is critical that directors develop the tools, vocabulary and vision to not only thrive in this new environment but to envision its future. The program includes two unique courses, “Future Stages,” and "MFA Director's Lab".
Future Stages is an innovative class that integrates video, technology and new media into theater in a laboratory environment. Working collaboratively across disciplines, John Wells Fellows investigate innovative approaches to contemporary theater, foster creative ways of storytelling and communication, and strengthen their ability to articulate artistic goals. Communication with collaborators and integration of design are considered critical tools for all directors and design classes are emphasized in our curriculum.
MFA Director's Lab is a core curriculum, program-long modular laboratory focused on emerging performance techniques and hybrid research, exposing directors to the disciplines and tools they need to create contemporary and relevant work in the field of theater and performance. Conducted over the entirety of the program residency, the course investigates rotating topics with semester-long studies in Socially Engaged Art, Post Internet Creative Strategies, Locative Media, Devising, Gaming, VR, and Transmedia Storytelling. The lab provides collaborative opportunities to work across disciplines with other departments in the University and with the greater community.
The John Wells Graduate Directing Program also includes the study of theater theory, history, dramaturgy, and design classes, as well as electives from departments across the University. A key component of the program: John Wells Fellows direct at least one production per semester, progressing from smaller projects to larger productions and finally to an MFA thesis production. In the second and third year productions, John Wells Fellows work with students from Acting/Music Theater, Design, Dramaturgy and Production Technology and Management. Final MFA Thesis productions are presented as part of the School of Drama’s Subscription Series.
The third year of the program offers the student the opportunity to spend one semester outside of the university. This semester away allows the student to assist a recognized director in the field, to create a broader network of contacts, and, most importantly, to "observe" a John Wells project in production.
Recent opportunities for third year graduate directors generously offered by John Wells included observing Wells direct the filming of the USA series Animal Kingdom on location in LA, observing direct the filming of August: Osage County with Meryl Streep on site in Oklahoma, observing Wells on the set of the Showtime television series Shameless, being in the Writer’s Room during the development of an episode of Shameless.
Other recent semester-away activities have included working as an assistant director to Neal LaBute, The Wooster Group, John Collins/Elevator Repair Service and others; and pursuing possible job opportunities for post-graduation. Graduate directors have also been able to ‘transfer’ their productions begun at CMU to professional venues post-graduation.
All School of Drama students have to opportunities to participate in the following:
Dance/Light is a performance opportunity for students across all disciplines to collaborate in the creation of original dance and movement pieces.
A Festival of Independent Student Work: Playground is the annual, School of Drama, three-day performance festival showcasing independent, student-produced work across multiple disciplines.
VISITING ARTISTS PROGRAM
The Visiting Artists Program brings distinguished national and international guests to campus to work with students across all disciplines.
The School of Drama Showcase presentations in Pittsburgh, New York and Los Angeles are designed to give graduating students from all disciplines the opportunity to meet with and present work to leading arts and entertainment professionals.
The John Wells Fellowship Curriculum
Kim Weild is a Drama Desk Award-nominated director and winner of two New York Innovative Theater Award nominations (seven nominations).
Her formative years were spent training at the School of American Ballet and dancing for 10 years in the children’s corps with the New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center. She went on to receive her BFA in Drama from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and spent time as an actor working with Robert Wilson, Anne Bogart, Mike Nichols, Paul Sills, George Morrison, Diane Paulus and Ianthe Demos. A graduate of Columbia University School of the Arts (MFA), Weild is founding artistic director of Our Voices Theater a company dedicated to diversity, inclusion and innovation. The company disrupts and challenges contemporary perceptions about what is “normal” by highlighting the advantages of difference and cultivating diversity through examination of themes of otherness including culture, language, gender, ability, sexual orientation/identification and race.
Graduates from The John Wells Directing Program move into the profession with a broad understanding of theatrical practice and a sense of where their own work sits within the larger traditions of theater making. Graduates emerge as well rounded leaders and collaborative artists, able to articulate their individual artistic aspirations.
Upon successful completion of this program, students will be able to: