M.A. in Theatre and New Play Development
Summer 2023: June 19 – July 28
New Play Development is the deliberate process of moving from being the caretaker of an inspiration to being the caretaker of an audience’s experience. That process requires empathy, generosity, and training with collaboration at the center, rather than competition. In this unique high-intensity/extended low-residency program students will be able to craft a path of study which suits their individual needs and professional ambitions. In addition to a foundational playwriting course, students may concentrate on adjacent areas of focus such as directing, performance, dramaturgy, and/or arts management. Ideally, the 40-credit hour degree is completed in two summers but, depending on student needs, may be completed over a longer period.
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.
Core program faculty >
Our visiting faculty >
Learn what Hollins playwrights are doing >
What You'll Learn
Students Engaged in the Theatre from Day One
Hollins Playwrights get work done
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.
“Attracted National, Even International, Attention in Theatre Circles”
The Roanoke Times praises the Hollins Playwright’s Lab and Mill Mountain Theatre for their collaboration in bringing global talent and future stars to the region.
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.
No Shame Theatre
No Shame is a weekly venue for new work that’s part of a national network. It has launched some of American theatre’s most important artists and groundbreaking plays. Guest artists and visiting faculty perform with Playwright’s Lab students on the No Shame stage.
“One thing about Hollins is that you find out how important everybody is to the process. You can’t have a new play without a playwright, but you also can’t have a new play without a director, without actors and you also throw into the mix learning how to talk to designers, learning how to create a company together, learning how to do things with each other to create not just a onetime project but a community that you’re going to carry forward with past Hollins.”
Neil David Seibel, core faculty in certificate programs
“Word on the street is that Hollins playwrights write… a lot.”
Nick McCord M.F.A. ’21
“All of a sudden everyone wants you to work for them when you get an M.F.A. Had to turn down two colleges wanting to get me in for the spring semester… I had to turn them down because my play was being directed by Bob Moss and going to New York City.”
Taylor Gruenloh M.F.A. ’14
Meet the Director
Todd Ristau, director of the graduate program in playwriting; M.F.A., Iowa Playwright’s Workshop
Professor Ristau’s work has been performed in theatres across the U.S. and England, including London’s West End. He founded No Shame Theatre in 1986 and oversaw its evolution into a national network of venues for new works in dozens of cities. He has an extensive theatre background, with expertise in acting, directing, and design. He worked with Mill Mountain Theatre for six years as coordinator of their second stage and as literary associate overseeing new works programming. Ristau served as the first artistic director of Studio Roanoke, a storefront theatre space dedicated to new works development in downtown Roanoke. Ristau is an active member of the Dramatists Guild, and member of Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of America.
He has served as chair of playwriting for the South Eastern Theatre Conference, Getchell New Play Award Committee, and KCACTF Region IV’s Chair of the National Playwriting Program.