Undergraduate Programs
John Wells Directing Program

The John Wells Directing Program offers undergraduate students the opportunity to study the heritage of directing in breadth and depth.

While honing their creative skills in classrooms, workshops, and full studio productions, students are provided with a variety of hands-on opportunities to explore techniques of directing for stage and camera. Rigorous coursework develops creativity, intellectual curiosity, and individual leadership qualities.


The John Wells Directing Program undergraduate curriculum focuses on the practice, theory, and discipline of directing for those pursuing a career in theater, film or television.

The broad scope of the directing curriculum encourages the students to interact with all theatrical disciplines. In addition to core directing classes, students will develop visual sophistication and a broader understanding of how design elements combine in practical production situations.

Stage management skills are also studied and practiced. Theater history, criticism, playwriting, play development and theater management classes introduce students to the wide range of knowledge necessary for directing. Classes include scene work with actors, video and television production, new media and ensemble creation. Students expand their knowledge by taking several electives and pursuing a minor outside the School of Drama.


Students of the School of Drama John Wells Directing Program Option participate in projects across all theatrical disciplines, including choreographic presentations, scene work with actors, studio productions, and camera and video work.

All directors have the opportunity to direct a capstone production in their senior year. Capstone productions are fully supported by designers, technicians and managers within the School of Drama. Additionally, students have the opportunity to participate in the Tepper Semester in association with Syracuse University for a semester-long program in New York City that includes weekly theater visits and professional mentoring opportunities.

Unique Platforms

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.

The Visiting Artists Program brings distinguished national and international guests on 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 all graduating students from all disciplines the opportunity to meet with and present work to leading arts and entertainment professionals.

`` My undergraduate directing training at CMU afforded me skills and knowledge that have proven invaluable as a professional theater maker, and have been applicable to every artistic endeavor I've taken on, regardless of the medium. Directing graduates walk away with four years of conservatory training coupled with liberal arts studies from a world class institution, making them uniquely suited to enter and succeed in the professional arena.``

- Zach Morris (BFA 1999), Bessie Award-winning director, choreographer, and Co-Artistic Director of Third Rail Projects


Undergraduate Directing Curriculum


Justin Lucero

Marc Masterson

Jonathan Vandenberg

Kim Weild

News & Alumni

Notable Alumni

The John Wells Directing Program provides students with a professional training that prepares graduates to enter the competitive field of theatrical directing.

  • Matthew Gardiner: Resident Director, Signature Theatre, Washington DC
  • Amy Kaisser: Managing Director, Bristol Riverside Theatre; former Founder and Managing Director, Epiphany Theater Company
  • Russell Kaplan: Artistic Director, New Sounds Theatre, NYC
  • Andrew Leynse: Artistic Director, Primary Stages, NYC
  • Marc Masterson: Artistic Director, South Coast Repertory; former Artistic Director, Actors Theatre of Louisville; former Artistic Director, City Theatre, Pittsburgh
  • Bob McGrath: Artistic Director, Ridge Theatre, NYC; recipient of two OBIE awards
  • Zach Morris: Co-Director, Third Rail Projects; national and international Associate, Dance Theater Workshop; recipient of a BESSIE award for Choreography
  • Alexander Orbovich: Managing Associate, Cherry Lane Theatre
  • PJ Paparelli: Artistic Director, American Theatre Company, Chicago; former Artistic Director, Perseverance Theatre, Juneau AL
  • Jared Stein: Founder and Artistic Director, The Fourth World Laboratory for International Theatre Research; Co-Director, Leon Katz Rhodopi International Theatre Laboratory
  • Daniella Topol: former Managing Director, the Lark Play Development Center; grants review panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts, NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, NY State Council on the Arts, and TCG

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