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Home>Study at York>Postgraduate>Courses>Theatre, Writing, Directing and Performance (MA)

Overview From words on the page to a fully-realised performance


1 year full-time,
2 years part-time

theatre rehearsal surprise

On this distinctive course you'll be introduced to a combination of analytical and practical methods for the creative investigation of plays and performance texts. You'll be able to explore a wide range of historical eras including classical Greek and Roman, medieval, early modern and contemporary.

As you study texts you'll consider the historical, political, cultural and institutional contexts in which the work was written. You'll also gain experience as an interdisciplinary and collaborative researcher and practitioner. Towards the end of the course you'll have a choice between a dissertation or producing your own practical project, such as a play script a performance or a production.

You'll graduate with a sophisticated understanding of how plays work and the practical dynamics of the production of performances. Our students and graduates have an enviable range of achievements and we're also proud of our links to industry.

theatre overview image

We have excellent purpose-built facilities available to you.

» Black Box: a large double-height space for shoots, events and performances 
» 200-seat theatre: well-equipped theatre, with superb lighting and sound facilities 
» Rehearsal rooms: large or small rooms suitable for many purposes 
» 3Sixty: innovative room that allows a fully immersive presentation 
» Other facilities 

Course content What you’ll study


This intensive course will equip you with a wide range of analytical and practical skills based around the production and performance of theatre texts. You'll gain an in-depth understanding of narrative structures and their visual, technical, performative and political dimensions.

During the course you'll work with students studying alongside you on this MA and may also choose to work with students on the undergraduate degree and actors and directors from outside the department. You'll learn to work collaboratively with people in a wide range of roles and across disciplines.

This Masters allows you to tailor your experience with the extended practical project/dissertation meaning you'll develop relevant skills whether you intend to do further research or you want to go on to a career in theatre.


You'll study a total of 180 credits. 80 of these will be through taught modules in the first two terms. You'll then go on to study a further 100 credits as part of an extended research project in the third term.

Term 1

Writing into Performance (20 credits)

You'll investigate the structure and dynamics of a range of texts, examining the principles of writing for performance. You'll explore the relationship between scripts and performance as well as learning to manipulate the structure, subtext and dynamics of stage dialogue.

Directing Early Modern Plays (20 credits)

You'll investigate, by analysis and experiment, the demands of staging early modern performances both in their contemporary settings and on a modern stage. You'll gain experience in directorial troubleshooting.

Term 2

Directing Modern Plays (20 credits)

You'll explore modern theatre directing, focusing on particular theoretical developments and practice. You'll identify and develop key skills in directing and learn to critically examine your own directorial practice.

Case Studies in Writing, Directing and Performance (20 credits)

You'll build upon your experience in Writing into Performance, using your research skills to plan and prepare a revival of a classic play.


The final term and summer vacation is dedicated to the design and development of individual project work. You'll choose to be assessed in one of four different ways depending on where your interests lead:

  • Assessed on a performance as a director
  • Assessed on a performance as an actor
  • Assessed on a script as a scriptwriter
  • Assessed on your dissertation as a researcher.

When you make your choice you'll submit a proposal including a rationale and timetable for the work.

If you opt to submit a dissertation you'll write 20,000 words on your chosen area. For the other options you will produce your work to a professional standard and support it with a piece of reflective writing that demonstrates your understanding of your work in relation to contemporaries. Performances would normally be between 20 and 30 minutes. There's no prescribed word count for scripts: depending on the writing between 50 and 100 pages would be a full length script.

The visitors programme gave us the opportunity to meet actors, directors, writers, academics, comedians, and more. I finished my MA with a three-week placement at the Stephen Joseph Theatre where I worked in the Education Department. My MA gave me the confidence to go for a career in theatre.

Teaching and assessment How you’ll be taught and assessed

MA TWDP teaching image

Teaching format

You'll be taught with a range of different teaching styles. You'll attend lectures for most modules which will give you a fundamental understanding of the subject. This will lead on to practical work where you'll apply your understanding to the practice of performances. You'll also attend discussion groups, seminars and problem-solving sessions that will give you an insight into the negotiations involved in taking a script from print to performance.

This course incorporates masterclasses from industry professionals in theatre. You'll have the opportunity to attend talks, productions and festivals, and you'll also be able to attend screenings that relate to performances being discussed in your course.

You'll be assigned a member of our teaching staff who will act as your personal supervisor. They are there to give advice on academic matters as well as other areas of University life. For your project or dissertation you'll also be assigned a supervisor who may be a different member of staff.

MA Theatre assessment image


You'll be assessed throughout your course. Some modules have an early assessment that contributes a small amount to your final mark and gives an opportunity to check your progress.

Types of assessment vary depending on the module and include the following:

  • Producing a script that is equivalent to a 30 minute performance
  • Website article of 1,000 words
  • Essays of varying lengths from 1,000 to 4,000 words
  • Practical assessments in the class
  • Research presentations in class
  • Reflective essays of 4,000 words if submitting a practical project
  • Play script or directorial/acting performance if submitting a practical project
  • Dissertation of 20,000 words if submitting research
The high standard of teaching from the university lecturers and the visiting theatre practitioners meant that I was pushed well beyond my comfort zone. A highlight was performing in Caryl Churchill's 'Far Away' at the York Theatre Royal and getting onto the West Yorkshire Playhouse's new playwriting scheme. The course inspired my theatre in education work.

Careers Where you’ll go from here

This course develops a range of analytical and practical skills in the performance and production of theatre texts, making our graduates highly employable. Because this masters is flexible enough to offer both practice-based and research-based paths you'll find there’s a wide variety of career paths open to you across theatre and academia.

Career opportunities

A significant number of graduates have set up their own theatre companies. Many graduates work in the following areas:

  • Screenwriters
  • Playwrights
  • Actors
  • Directors
  • Designers
  • Producers
  • Technicians
  • Literary managers
  • Dramaturges
  • Literary agents.

Graduates have also gone on to further research, at PhD, or practical training with conservatoires.

Transferable skills

While you train to be a professional in theatre you'll also develop skills that are useful in any industry.

  • Collaborative working
  • Problem-solving
  • Investigative and historical research
  • Time-management and organisation
  • Critical evaluation
  • Reflective learning

Entry requirements How to get here

Course entry

You should have, or be about to complete, a 2:1 undergraduate degree or equivalent qualification, although we will consider applications from students with lower qualifications.

You're expected to show a commitment to theatre but extensive experience is not a prerequisite. You should provide evidence of any professional experience. Our students come from a range of academic backgrounds: if you're unsure about studying at masters level please contact our admissions team to find out more.

International options

International equivalents for degrees can be found on our country specific pages.

English language

If you're a non-native English speaking applicant you must provide evidence of your English language ability.

  • IELTS: 6.5, with no less than 6.0 in each component
  • PTE: 61, with no less than 55 in each component
  • CAE and CPE (from January 2015): 176, with no less than 169 in each component
  • TOEFL: 87, with a minimum of 21 in each component
  • Trinity ISE: level 3 with Merit in all components.

Full details of all acceptable tests and relevant exemptions.

Enquire Contact our admissions tutors if you have any questions

Next steps

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