Jul 15, 2024  
2021-2022 University Catalog 
2021-2022 University Catalog [Archived Catalogue]

Devised Performance, MFA

Quinn Bauriedel, Program Director



The MFA program in Devised Performance will train and launch the next generation of theater professionals, adroit in creating original theater with a rigorous attention to quality with all the materials at their disposal: their bodies, voices, imaginations and skills in collaboration and in creating surprising and arresting moments of live performance. The mission of the program is to expand and nourish the local, national and international communities of forward-thinking theater artists, and to encourage the creation of groundbreaking original work.  

The Devised Performance program erases the lines of artistic ownership in theater and subverts the traditional norms and power structures central to the current regional theater environment. Instead of working with pre-established texts, the program advocates creativity as dialogue rather than monologue; actors and directors working together in an improvisational framework in the creation of characters and performance texts wholly “owned” by creative ensembles. Rather than building new work around the spoken or written word, the program focuses intensively on the body and physical approach to creating characters and theatrical ideas.

The five-semester curriculum leverages a variety of disciplines, including Lecoq pedagogy and offers several channels of exploration in movement, voice, improvisation, and ensemble creation.  Weekly seminars include master classes with theater leaders, as well as poets, sculptors, videographers, and artists who work in a range of disciplines.

Generally, studio coursework focuses on four primary strands of theater:

Movement:  Students train their bodies daily through instruction in acrobatics/gymnastics, movement analysis, dance and movement improvisation, movement composition and core training.

Voice: Students train weekly in voice that encompasses breathing, choral singing, listening, vocal improvisation and work on accessing a pre-verbal “primitive voice”.  Vocal work complements the movement training in several key ways, allowing students to develop and integrate these two creative tools. The curriculum recognizes a distinction between the socialized voice that comments, asserts, judges and conveys ideas and the authentic uncensored “vertical voice” that connects to nature, to illogical and artistic impulses and to emotional registers that can be utilized in performance. 

Improvisation:   Students work on a variety of improvisational themes that vary in length, some lasting a week, others lasting up to a month or longer.  There is a strong emphasis on improvisational activity in the program that reinforces the central significance of “play”. Students are introduced to physical exercises, masks and contemporary performance that help to define the distinction between playing and being.

The daily improvisational work trains performers to trust the impulses that emerge in the midst of performing. The performer’s body and mind collaborate to learn how to be an actor-writer, deeply aware of the moment-to-moment choices of the performer as well as the arc of the scene or play.

Ensemble Creation:  Through collaborative and playful exercises each week students learn to function together spontaneously and intuitively around a theme or themes to devise bold and courageous new performance work as an ensemble. Exercises provide the opportunity for students to develop the necessary ensemble skills that include leadership, vision, shared vocabulary, artistic alignment, listening, performance sensitivity, play and trust.

Program Objectives

Graduates of the program will:

  • Utilize a strong, versatile physical and vocal core in the creation of story and character
  • Construct vibrant, engaging theater in a collaborative ensemble
  • Identify contributions ensemble-devised theater can play in the international conversation about art and society
  • Utilize the vocabulary, themes, values, techniques and skills of ensemble-devised
  • theater to construct original performance.

Program Requirements (77 credits)

Devised Performance Tool Kit Coursework (9 credits)

  • See advisor to determine your academic need related to interest and current ability. Coursework should draw from Music Theory or History, Music Performance (including private lessons), and non-theater performance or visual arts practice.

General Electives (6 credits)

  • Complete 6 credits. This requirement is satisfied by 500, 600, or 700 level courses.