Undergraduate Programs
John Wells Directing Program

NOTE: Admission to the undergraduate directing program is paused for Fall 2024 & Fall 2025.

The John Wells Directing Program offers undergraduate students the opportunity to study the art, craft, and history 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 the stage, digital platforms and beyond. Rigorous coursework develops creativity, intellectual curiosity, discipline, vision, strong communication skills 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 and beyond.

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 have the option of pursuing a minor outside the School of Drama.


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

Undergraduate director training culminates with a senior year capstone production or project. Capstone productions are fully supported by a team of student 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, professional mentoring and assisting/observing opportunities when possible. Additionally, study abroad programs can also be pursued but require departmental approval.

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 campus to work with students across all disciplines. Recently, guests have also collaborated with students via digital platforms.

The School of Drama Showcase presentations in 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. When conditions warrant, this Showcase may be augmented by virtual online networking events.

`` 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


Daniel Banks

Gab Cody

Will Davis

Kaja Dunn

Adil Mansoor

Melissa Martin

Paul Peers

Kim Weild

Andy Wolk

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.

  • Renee Blinkwolt: Managing Director, Ars Nova, NYC
  • Matthew Gardiner: Artistic Director, Signature Theatre, Washington DC
  • Amy Kaisser: Producing Director, Bristol Riverside Theatre; former Founder and Managing Director, Epiphany Theater Company
  • Andrew Leynse: Former Artistic Director, Primary Stages, NYC
  • Marc Masterson: Artistic Director, City Theatre, Pittsburgh; former Artistic Director, South Coast Repertory; former Artistic Director, Actors Theatre of Louisville
  • 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: Former Artistic Director, American Theatre Company, Chicago; former Artistic Director, Perseverance Theatre, Juneau AL
  • Leigh Silverman: Director; recipient of two OBIE Awards and one TONY nomination
  • 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 Artistic Director Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, NYC; former Managing Director, the Lark Play Development Center

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