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Directing MFA for 2018 - Let's connect

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Hey folks! I just cracked my knuckles this morning, and decided to get started on my 2018 grad school apps. I didn't apply last year because I was opening a show early February and couldn't manage the workload, but applied for fall 2016 to Yale, Brown, Columbia, Calarts, and CMU. Got interviews with Brown, Calarts, and CMU. 

This year, I'm currently considering Columbia, Brown, UCSD, UW, Northwestern, Yale, and CalArts.

Other schools that seem interesting, but I'm not sure about applying to: UMass Amherst, Penn State, UT Austin, DePaul

So what's up with you?

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Thanks for starting this thread! 

I applied to Brown, Yale, UTAustin, and Columbia last year. Looks like I'll be applying to same ones this year plus maybe UCSD and Carnegie Mellon. 

I'm also putting up a few big things as I apply. We'll see how it goes. 

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Hello!

This will be my first time applying for directing programs, although I do also have an MA in acting! I'm applying for programs in the UK- MFAs at Birkbeck and East 15 and MAs at Guildford School of Acting and Mountview. I'm also applying for courses in Training Actors at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and Guildhall. If I were to get accepted at/ go for the MA options I'd then be applying for a PhD as I have a keen interest in teaching as well!

I'm visiting everywhere in September and October and have some meetings lined up with course leaders, which I'm very excited (but nervous) about!

Trying to be as organized as possible... made an application spreadsheet I was very proud of.

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Hello everyone!

This is my first time applying to grad programs.  I've got my list narrowed down - this time I'm going to apply to Yale, Boston, and UT Austin.

I'm pretty comfortable with the idea that I'm not going to get accepted this time, but I'm set on trying my hardest to make a great impression.

The biggest thing I'm afraid will work against me - I graduated with a BFA in Acting in 2014.  Since then I've done some acting work, a decent amount of voice work, but have not been able to do much in the way of directing outside of my own projects (audio dramas, two staged performances, small things in general). This is a result of a few factors, but mostly the fact that I moved states for personal reasons (from NY to TX) and the theatre scene here has been smaller and much harder to crack than I'm used to.  I know this is going to count against me, so I'm trying to figure out the best way to really showcase myself.

Overall I'm nervous and excited! Even just the thought of filling out these apps and dreaming about these programs has me excited!

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Hey all! 

It seems crazy that this process is already starting back up again! Im back again with crazy process for year two of applications... After spending the summer at La MaMa Umbria, I feel extremely inspired, refreshed, and ready to tackle this insane process again! 

This year I'm definitely reapplying to DePaul, Yale, and Carnegie Mellon— my top three schools.  I'm still debating on what other programs to apply for (I'm thinking 6 max!)... it's a busy year with a few projects going up, so I don't want to push myself too thin. 

Northwestern, Washington, Brown, Columbia, Boston, and UCSD are the others I'm considering; with UCLA, CalArts and Texas are also on my list.... but if I had to choose three more to add right now, it would be Northwestern, UCSD, and Washington.  I love Columbia and CalArts' program but I don't think I can justify the debt I'd go in at either school....

Depending on what programs are at URTA this year will be the ultimate factor in how many schools I apply for.  I didn't do URTA last year but thinking I should this year. 

@Squidpunk Penn State isn't recruiting anyone this year... they recruit two candidates every other year. It's a bummer, it's one of my favorite programs and I wish I could apply again this year. I made it to round 3 of apps this year but didn't make it to the final callback on campus. I fell in love with that program! 

 

 

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Hi all,

 I'm interested in applying - but am worried my background isn't strong enough to be seriously considered. I've been a high school theatre teacher for six years (directing 12 full lengths there). Outside of school I have also directed three productions, assistant directed another, and directed at three 24 hour play projects. I do have a Master's in Production and Design. 

If anyone has any advice or insight on what schools are most likely to be open to my background, applying in general, or how to market myself better I'd appreciate the help.

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Hey all,

Applied to one school last year, testing the waters I guess. I'm definitely looking forward to getting started this year... but feeling behind...

Recently relocated to Chicago from mid-Michigan, and considering the URTA's. I've had actor friends with experiences from that perspective, but no directors. Anyone have any info to share on the URTA experience?

Best of luck to everyone applying this year. 

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Hi gang!

Getting all my stuff in order to apply to Yale, BU, Columbia, and Northwestern for sure. Also considering UT Austin and Brown... my biggest challenge is trying to find that sweet spot where I'm not limiting my options too much, but also not going to kill myself with application fees. This is my first time applying for any MFA program, so I'm all ears for any tips from those who've been down this road before. 

Best of luck to everyone! 

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Here we go again! Wooooooooo!

I got tantalizingly, frustratingly, maddeningly close to a couple programs last year (wait lists are fun!) so I'm taking one more shot. I'm going the URTAS rout for the first time to simplify things. Think I'll do the Chicago days. 

My list: University of Washington, Carnegie Mellon, Arizona State, DePaul, Indiana, CalArts, UCLA, UT Austin.  I've had previous interviews at several of them the past two years.  Might throw in Yale because I haven't yet and YOLO!

My background: Raised in the Northwest, educated in the South, professionally based in DC. Got started late, didn't study in undergrad beyond the occasional elective. My first professional gig was sweeping the floors for a Diane Paulus show. My training and professional background are in journalism and public relations.  I've got about ten years of new play development experience. Working directly with playwrights is my passion. I do a lot of interactive works. Founded my own production company, which has done 6 world premieres and a few 2nd productions. My most recent gigs were directing a one-man show at the local Fringe festival over the summer and a workshop at the Kennedy Center a couple of weeks ago. Been an arts fellow for the District of Columbia the past two years. Spent last year a guest editor for an arts magazine. A couple of my commissions have spread through the regional circuit. I'm a founding member of the 2020 Jubilee National Committee.

Would love to hear more about y'all's work!

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Hi again! 

Curious about the prevailing opinions about sources for letters of rec. 

I've got one from my undergrad theatre department head, and another from a playwright whose work I've directed in a workshop setting with the writer collaborating. (She's coincidentally a university professor as well.) 

Most programs require three, however, and I'm stuck on who to ask for the third: Another undergrad professor (I'm now four years out of school but have kept in touch with several former profs) or a second professional reference? I'd definitely go professional but because I've been running my own small company as artistic director for the last several years, any collaborators who could really speak to my work are freelance artists not affiliated with any specific theatre company or school. (The downside of starting a company is not having any direct "superior" to use as a reference!) 

I'd love to know what the hive mind thinks! 

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On 9/26/2017 at 8:49 AM, MadamDirector said:

Hi again! 

Curious about the prevailing opinions about sources for letters of rec. 

I've got one from my undergrad theatre department head, and another from a playwright whose work I've directed in a workshop setting with the writer collaborating. (She's coincidentally a university professor as well.) 

Most programs require three, however, and I'm stuck on who to ask for the third: Another undergrad professor (I'm now four years out of school but have kept in touch with several former profs) or a second professional reference? I'd definitely go professional but because I've been running my own small company as artistic director for the last several years, any collaborators who could really speak to my work are freelance artists not affiliated with any specific theatre company or school. (The downside of starting a company is not having any direct "superior" to use as a reference!) 

I'd love to know what the hive mind thinks! 

My gut says to go with the freelance artist (especially if there are any that you've worked with multiple times). Have them explain their connection to you and their qualifications in brief. I would think that those three options gives a wide breadth of information about you, your working style, etc. 

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Hello all - 

I am a current first year MFA director at a reputable school. Currently, I'm worried that I chose the wrong school. It is very clear that the department's priority lie within the amazing playwriting program and the directors are here to support their needs until our 2nd year directing project and thesis. There is a lack of formal "curriculum" besides a weekly directing lab, but our education is in the ability to direct a new play every semester. I was expecting more of a "get up and create" approach rather than a read and discuss academic study. Quickly realized that I'm not a new play director (unless it's a piece I LOVE), but more a visionary auteur (not unlike Ivo Van Hove) who puts my creative stamp on pieces, re-imagines operas/musicals and self-generated director driven work. This program is more suited for a dramaturgical director who can find passion in bringing someone else's idea to life.

So I'm wondering is it better to stick with this program that will allow me to direct a re-imagined opera, a big budget thesis of my choosing, 3 years of teaching experience, meet playwrights, but be creatively frustrated for 3 years? I'll also mention this program will not put me in any major debt. Or should I apply again to programs that will not be so focused on serving the playwrights visions? Are there any programs I should look at? Probably not applying to Yale for the 3rd time. Or should I just shut up, be grateful for this opportunity and make the best of it? 

Thoughts? 

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UnhappyMFA, that's a tricky question. Did you get offers at other schools when you were accepted to your current school? That would inform my decision. I guess another question is would you rather risk that you don't get in to another program or would you be okay not getting in as opposed to toughing it out? Obviously, there's a reason you chose to accept in the first place, but if you're not going to be happy there, it's a lesson that may not be worth it to continue. 

This is coming from someone who hasn't applied to grad school and is currently considering applying next year but is doing reconnaissance. 

Edited by ctbck

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Hello all! I also began my grad school applications this week, and I'm melting my brain about writing the personal statement of goals, especially since of of the colleges I'm applying to is my father's alma mater. I know I'm most likely over stressing about it, but it's one of the most important things I will have ever written and I'm stuck as to where to begin. Any advice wold be much appreciated.

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On 8/22/2017 at 11:58 AM, Squidpunk said:

Hey folks! I just cracked my knuckles this morning, and decided to get started on my 2018 grad school apps. I didn't apply last year because I was opening a show early February and couldn't manage the workload, but applied for fall 2016 to Yale, Brown, Columbia, Calarts, and CMU. Got interviews with Brown, Calarts, and CMU. 

This year, I'm currently considering Columbia, Brown, UCSD, UW, Northwestern, Yale, and CalArts.

Other schools that seem interesting, but I'm not sure about applying to: UMass Amherst, Penn State, UT Austin, DePaul

So what's up with you?

I'm also applying to Brown and UMass Amherst! 

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@carabrokes96 I'm in my first year of applying to grad school, so I'm certainly no expert here, but I do feel your pain about the challenge of these damn letters! I find writing about myself to be very challenging, especially when I'm trying to express my passion for directing without sounding like a total cliche. The best advice I've been given is to focus on two major questions: Why you? and Why now? In other words, what do you bring to the table to no one else can? And why do you think grad school is the right move for you at this point in your life/career? If you can answer those questions for yourself, even really informally, then you have the starting point to edit that into a great letter. And as far as your dad's connection to one of the schools, try to look at that as an asset rather than something scary... does having that added knowledge about the school give you more specific reasons for why you think it's a good fit for you? Most of all, just write something to start with. It can be total garbage--you can edit it later! Just start really pinning down why you want to do this, at this time, at these schools, and go from there. Good luck!

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@UnhappyMFA Sorry to hear you're in such a difficult spot. You mention, though, that you feel as though the directing program is there to support the playwrights until the second year, when it sounds like some more opportunities will open up for you to do more of the work that interests you.  If you're committed to at least finishing the current year of study, it sounds like things might get significantly better for you from there on out, anyway. But I also feel your pain... three years does seem like a very long time to be frustrated, if you do in fact think the frustration will continue beyond this first year. I agree with @ctbck that it really boils down to whether you'd rather stay in a program that's not your ideal, or go back to the application process, knowing there's always a chance (as there is for all of us, of course) of not getting accepted to another school. Again, sorry to hear about your frustrations. Best wishes that things get better for you, one way or another!

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@UnhappyMFA, I'll also say that I just talked to a friend who is getting his MFA in sound design who had a rough first year and was trying to decide whether or not to stay. Over the summer, he got some work at another theatre where he really started to see the impact of his studies when applying what he'd learned in his first year at this summer gig. That experience really reinforced for him that he was in a good place and it was worth it for him. 

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On 10/29/2017 at 11:14 AM, UnhappyMFA said:

Hello all - 

I am a current first year MFA director at a reputable school. Currently, I'm worried that I chose the wrong school. It is very clear that the department's priority lie within the amazing playwriting program and the directors are here to support their needs until our 2nd year directing project and thesis. There is a lack of formal "curriculum" besides a weekly directing lab, but our education is in the ability to direct a new play every semester. I was expecting more of a "get up and create" approach rather than a read and discuss academic study. Quickly realized that I'm not a new play director (unless it's a piece I LOVE), but more a visionary auteur (not unlike Ivo Van Hove) who puts my creative stamp on pieces, re-imagines operas/musicals and self-generated director driven work. This program is more suited for a dramaturgical director who can find passion in bringing someone else's idea to life.

So I'm wondering is it better to stick with this program that will allow me to direct a re-imagined opera, a big budget thesis of my choosing, 3 years of teaching experience, meet playwrights, but be creatively frustrated for 3 years? I'll also mention this program will not put me in any major debt. Or should I apply again to programs that will not be so focused on serving the playwrights visions? Are there any programs I should look at? Probably not applying to Yale for the 3rd time. Or should I just shut up, be grateful for this opportunity and make the best of it? 

Thoughts? 

Hey!

Sorry to hear that you're school isn't what you thought it would be. Now as someone who has not been to an MFA program (yet!) but who has been a working freelancer for some time now, I am not sure how much weight my 2 cents have...

To me, the pros (free school, good school, and new playwrights -- major bonus there!) out weight the current woes. I believe that graduate school is meant to do two things: stretch your artistry and at the same time focus your voice. So it seems good that the classes - so far - are built around a different school of thought than your current one. And with that, who is to say that those foundation courses in a year 1 aren't going to help you when you produce the type of work you want to create. And if you want to teach at university, having a wide range of experiences will make you more marketable and will allow you to help your students achieve what they want, be it the more "traditional theater" you are learning now or the more experimental style you prefer (and everything in between!) I would say don't think of it as "creatively frustrated" but "creatively widened" - we all have to learn things we don't want to but who knows if those other ideas sneak into one's process at some point. When it comes the classes outside of director's lab, do you just take electives in a sense from the other disciplines? Maybe find classes taught by faculty members who follow your dogma, or at least support you in your efforts. Sometimes you have to go beyond the class syllabus to get the most out of a class.

Have you talked to any alumni who are more aligned to your artistic ideas? How are they? Do they have insight? And with that, are there a lot of working alumni from your program? That reputation can of course help you after graduation as you start to direct your own work. And to circle back to previous paragraph, knowing different styles make you more marketable as a freelancer, which means your bills are paid. I've directed fluffy American classics because I have to pay rent, and from those gigs, I end getting the opportunities to do the work I personally prefer. You may not want that career path, but it is a bonus of having a wide range of skills/coming from a reputable school (especially how to develop new work!)

Have you looked at the alumni from schools/programs that focus on more experimental work? How are their alumni? What are they doing right now? Do they carry the same weight? That said, are there maybe summer programs/intensives that you could do to help supplement the education you feel is lacking thus far? SITI or Pig Iron's summer intensive are great examples (and yes, there are many more.) A lot of universities even offer grants and funding for students to do just that.

It seems like they aren't telling what kind of director you should be if you can do your thesis in the way you want, which to me means you're in a pretty great program. And maybe meet up with with your other MFA students (if there are MFA actors in the program or even talk to the playwright students) and start creating on your own art for summer Fringe festivals or even for after graduation.

My vote is so stick with the program, learn as much as you can, and then enter the working world with as many tools in your tool belt. No program is perfect, but yours seems to be pretty awesome by my standards.

Cheers! And with everything aside, hope you're school year is going well!

Edited by LittleViking131

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Hey guys! Just checking in.  I've submitted all of my applications, and interviewed at 3/5. Got another interview coming up on the 12th, and been doing some audition coaching as well so it's been getting pretty busy.

How's the process been for you guys?

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@ctbck @LittleViking131 @MadamDirector Thank you so much for your insight. I have decided to apply to a couple programs just to see what comes my way.

If I don't have any doors open, then it isn't meant to be. I can make this program work if I ask/beg for what I need/want to learn and hopefully get funding for summer programs in physical theatre/devising. This truly is an amazing program and while it may not have the infrastructure or curriculum that I want, I can make my own path. Plus, no other program let's me direct a supported show every semester, nor the opportunity to direct a re-imagined opera. They accepted me for a reason and the faculty have been amazing at finding ways to fulfill my needs thus far. Plus I'll have minimal debt. 

Wishing you ALL luck as you head into interviews. PLEASE realize that you are interviewing the schools just as much as they are interviewing you. ASK QUESTIONS! 

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23 hours ago, UnhappyMFA said:

@ctbck @LittleViking131 @MadamDirector

Wishing you ALL luck as you head into interviews. PLEASE realize that you are interviewing the schools just as much as they are interviewing you. ASK QUESTIONS! 

What questions do you wish you had asked when you were interviewing? 

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Oooooooh boy. Anyone else have a pounding headache right now?

Got my Columbia and Yale apps in last Thursday, and I feel half dead. My UCSD application is almost done.

I'm also applying to Brown, Northwestern, UW, and CMU. I'm on the fence about DePaul because honestly I don't know that I have the bandwidth to write ALL THOSE DAMN ESSAYS. I feel lame for pulling my application for that reason, but with as many projects as I have going on, I have no idea how I'd manage it.

How's the fight ya'll?

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5 hours ago, Squidpunk said:

Oooooooh boy. Anyone else have a pounding headache right now?

Oh yeah. I've gotten Yale and Northwestern in, should have UT Austin done by the end of tonight... just have to upload all my supplemental materials. That just leaves Washington, BU, and UMass Amherst hanging over my head still. And don't feel lame for pulling an app if you don't feel you have the time and energy to make it a good showing. I knocked Columbia off my list because I didn't have enough filmed material to make the video they wanted, and I figured I would rather focus my energies on other apps rather than kill myself trying to cobble together a video that wouldn't represent my work as strongly as I'd want it to. 

Meanwhile, seriously considering making the seven-hour round trip to confront my third recommender, who has yet to submit a single letter, and has gone totally incommunicado. At the end of my rope with this one. 

Edited by MadamDirector

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