MA in Theatre: Writing, Directing and Performance

Workshop in the Black Box



This MA offers a distinctive combination of analytical and practical methods for the creative investigation of plays and performance texts. Its historical range is wide and students should be ready to research and trouble-shoot plays from different eras, whether classical Greek and Roman, medieval, early modern or contemporary.

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.

Paul Birch

Traditional formats of discussion groups and seminars are coupled with workshops and problem-solving sessions which address all the negotiations involved in transferring words on the page into a fully realised performance. The main emphasis of the MA is on the interpretation of text through the consideration of acting and directing processes, production conditions, historical context, and institutional and cultural politics. The MA incorporates masterclasses by leading theatre professionals which are part of an integrated visitor programme.

The MA in Theatre: Writing, Directing and Performance is unique in that it is designed to accommodate both students who may wish to pursue further academic study and students who wish to go into the theatre or media industries. We aim to produce graduates with a sophisticated understanding of how plays in performance work, and to develop high-quality researchers and theatre practitioners who understand the practical dynamics of process and production. Applicants may have a range of academic backgrounds and extensive practical experience is not a prerequisite for the course, but students must be willing to enter into the spirit of practical experiment whatever their particular strengths.



  • To promote cutting-edge interdisciplinary thinking and collaboration
  • To provide analytical and practical methods for the creative investigation of play and performance texts
  • To offer in-depth analysis of the dynamics of the processes of writing, acting and directing
  • To provide an understanding of the need to conduct investigation within historical, political, institutional and cultural frames
  • To develop high-quality theatre researchers and practitioners

Teaching and assessment

Seminars and workshops

In terms 1 and 2 Directing Early Modern Plays and Case Studies in Writing, Directing and Performance are examined by 2,500 word essays. In Term 1 Writing into Performance is examined by a scriptwriting assignment. In term 2 Directing Modern Plays is examined by a combination of seminar performance and a 3,000 word essay. Storytelling for Theatre, Film and Television is examined by a 3,000 word project in each term. An ambitious programme of masterclasses given by leading practitioners is an important part of the MA.


During terms 1 and 2 there will be screenings of relevant film and television material relating to specific performances, plays and productions under discussion.

Dissertation or practical project

In term 3 students prepare for their dissertation or practical project work. Students are assigned dissertation/project supervisors and receive individual supervision through the period of research. Assessment is by 20,000 word dissertation or by a substantial practical project such as a production, performance or piece of creative writing, supported by a 4,000 word essay mapping the project's planning and evolution. All final projects are subject to the approval of the convenors of the MA.


Up to date information on Postgraduate fees and funding are available from the central university website.


Employment prospects

Because of the innovative emphasis on acquiring a wide range of analytical and practical skills centred around the performance and production of theatre texts, students are highly employable.

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.

Dan Rollings

An in-depth understanding of narrative structures and their visual, technical, performative and political dimensions is of paramount importance to the entertainment industry and a significant number at the top of these businesses support this programme because it plugs an increasingly serious gap in the skills market. Recent students from the BA and MA Writing and Performance (a forerunner of this MA) have benefited from placements with theatre, film and television companies, and the MA in Theatre: Writing, Directing and Performance builds on that ethos. Placements have been informally arranged subject to student interest and industry availability from year to year.

Past graduates have gone on to study PhDs and also to conservatoires to continue their practical training. Many are now working as screenwriters, playwrights, actors, directors, designers, producers, technicians, literary managers, dramaturges, and literary agents. A significant number of graduates have set up their own theatre companies. Others work in theatre-in-education initiatives, arts funding organisations, youth theatre, journalism, publishing, and dramatherapy. Past students are also employed by major animation companies, and have gained work as script editors and production assistants.

Related information

These skills will make you suitable for graduate jobs in many areas of work. To see where our graduates get jobs, see our Graduate Achievements page.

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Who to contact


Graduate prospectus

How to apply

You can apply for this course using our online application system.

If you've not already done so, please read the application guidance first so that you understand the various steps in the application process.