Northwestern offers one of the best dramatic writing graduate programs in the country – a fully-funded immersion in the art, craft, and business of playwriting and screenwriting in one of the most exciting and creative cities in the world. Over two years, you will write multiple full length scripts for screen + stage, collaborate with MFA actors, directors, and designers, connect with industry professionals in New York, LA, and abroad, and see your own work produced at our brand new downtown Chicago theatre center. Your time at Northwestern will be tuition free and provide you with health insurance and a living stipend so you can focus entirely on your creative work.
In our workshops, you will study with some of the best writers in the country – our full-time faculty, guest artists, and the small group of talented MFA writers in your cohort. We have no “house style” at Northwestern – each faculty member, and each student, is encouraged to pursue an individual aesthetic and approach to the craft. Our goal is not to teach writers how to write like us, but to help each writer realize the best version of their own unique voice and talent.
And every member of the MFA writing faculty is also a working writer – creating television shows, writing and directing independent features, working in writers rooms and on studio development deals, and seeing their plays produced in Chicago, New York, across the country, and internationally. At Northwestern, you’ll learn not just the art and craft of media writing, but also how to build a real career to support your vocation. You will have access to our first-class facilities including cameras, lighting, sound, and computer labs, as well as the performance and media spaces in our new downtown center. And in addition to guaranteed play readings and productions, you will receive a $5,000 grant in your second year to produce new work for stage or screen.
Northwestern also offers the opportunity to work across disciplines – not just writing for the screen and stage, but through partnerships in our sister programs – the Theatre MFAs in Acting, Directing, and Design; the MFA in Documentary Media; the MA in Sound Arts and Industries; and the PhD in Screen Cultures. As a graduate student, you will be able to take elective classes in any department at Northwestern – from Creative Writing to Comparative Literature, from Anthropology to Art History. And in your second year, you will teach introductory screenwriting to undergraduates and earn valuable college teaching experience
Along the way, you will meet artists and executives from TV, stage, film, and new media – recent mentors include industry veterans from HBO, Verve, NBC, Anonymous Content, Playwrights Horizons, and the Sundance Film Festival. Recent guest artists include Tony Kushner, Stacy Osei-Kuffour, George R.R. Martin, Todd Solondz, Kia Corthron, Wallace Shawn, Asghar Farhadi, John Logan, Doug Wright, Maria Bamford, Norman Lear, and Young Jean Lee.
Founded by Professor David Tolchinsky, the program’s initial faculty included Tolchinsky, Rebecca Gilman, and Bill Bleich. Our graduates have had their plays produced at The Goodman Theatre, The Alliance, Victory Gardens, Steppenwolf, Playwrights Horizons, and at theaters across the country. They have written for TV shows including Better Things, The Dropout, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, I Love Dick, The Bridge, Chicago Med, Pico da Neblina, The Late Show with Seth Meyers, and Late Night with Stephen Colbert. Their films have screened at Sundance, the Berlin Film Festival, the London Film Festival, and the New York LGBT Film Festival. And they’ve been hired as professors at Northwestern, Notre Dame, Kenyon College, The University of Wisconsin, and Seoul Institute of Arts. Recent MFAs include winners of the Kendeda Prize, the Whiting Award, Residencies at New Dramatists and the Playwrights Center, and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama.
We’re excited to receive your application. In the meantime, please get to know the program via our website. Whether you’re looking for an MFA in screenwriting or an MFA in playwriting, we think you’ll find that our program combines the best of both worlds. If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Zayd Ayers Dohrn, Director & Erin Courtney, Associate Director
MFA in Writing for the Screen + Stage