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MA/MFA Programs / Opportunities

Apply Today For A Tuition Free MFA Fellowship in Directing Theater and Contemporary Performance at Carnegie Mellon University

Apply Today For A Tuition Free MFA Fellowship in Directing Theater and Contemporary Performance at Carnegie Mellon University

John Wells Fellowship
MFA in Directing at Carnegie Mellon University
DEADLINE: January 1, 2019
Apply Online –>

The School of Drama John Wells Directing Program is a three-year graduate directing MFA. It is designed for directors who wish to expand and develop their skills and join a think tank to envision the future of theater and contemporary performance.

The John Wells Directing Fellows are encouraged to think critically and adventurously about their work in a generative environment. The program admits two highly motivated directors as John Wells Fellows each year who demonstrate the ability and drive to articulate their own vision for theater and performance. 
 Directing skills are honed in workshops and performances, as well as through theory, history, and studio classes.


The John Wells Graduate Directing Program MFA provides Fellows with the opportunity to pursue both rigorous classical training, new technologies, and experimental approaches to contemporary performance. As the boundaries of performance and theater continue to expand, it is critical that directors develop the tools, vocabulary, and vision to not only thrive in this new environment but to envision its future. The program includes unique courses such as Future Stages, MFA Director’s Lab, Digital Devising, and the MFA Generator Lab.

Future Stages is an innovative class that integrates video, technology, and new media into theater in a laboratory environment. Working collaboratively across disciplines, John Wells Fellows investigate innovative approaches to contemporary theater, foster creative ways of storytelling and communication, and strengthen their ability to articulate artistic goals. Communication with collaborators and integration of design are considered critical tools for all directors and design classes are emphasized in our curriculum.

MFA Director’s Lab is a core curriculum, program-long modular laboratory focused on emerging performance techniques and hybrid research, exposing directors to the disciplines and tools they need to create contemporary and relevant work in the field of theater and performance. Conducted one semester each year for the entirety of the program residency, the course investigates rotating topics with semester-long studies in Socially Engaged Art, Performing Materiality, and Choreographic Strategies. The lab provides collaborative opportunities to work across disciplines with other departments in the University and with the greater community.

Digital Devising s spring semester class each year Lab focused on current post-internet strategies for generating solo or group performance. The Digital Devising lab looks at the internet and how it both reflects and shapes social relationships and poses strategies for generating work that utilizes its frameworks or reflects its aesthetics.

MFA Generator Lab is spring semester class each year Lab focused guiding directors through exercises and feedback in developing a text or script from a non-theatrical source. These sources have included literature, radio shows, music, documentary strategies. These works can then be proposed as second or thesis year productions.

The John Wells Graduate Directing Program also includes the study of theater theory, history, dramaturgy, and design classes, as well as electives from departments across the University. A key component of the program: John Wells Fellows direct at least one production per semester, progressing from smaller projects to larger productions and finally to an MFA thesis production. In the second and third year productions, John Wells Fellows work with students from Acting/Music Theater, Design, Dramaturgy and Production Technology and Management. Final MFA Thesis productions are presented as part of the School of Drama’s Subscription Series.

How To Apply–>
Online Application–>

Curriculum (PDF) –>


Caden Manson is the graduate directing option coordinator of The John Wells Directing Program; the artistic director of New York-based, new media performance ensemble Big Art Group, curator of the annual Special Effects Performance Festival in NYC and the editor in chief of

Manson has co-created, directed, set- and media-designed 22 Big Art Group productions over the last 19 years which have toured nationally and internationally to theaters and festivals such as Festival d’Automne à Paris, Theater der Welt, Wiener Festwochen, Hebbel am Ufer, Kaai Theater, Usine C, Sommerszene, PS122, the Kitchen NYC, and many others in Europe, US, Australia, and Aisa. Manson has lectured and shown in Austria, Germany, Turkey, NYC, Portland, Berlin, Singapore and Vietnam; has taught in Berlin, Rome, Paris, Montreal, NYC and Bern; and his ensemble has been co-produced by the Vienna Festival, Festival d’Automne à Paris, Hebbel Am Ufer, Rome’s La Vie de Festival, PS122 and the Wexner Center for The Arts. His writing has been published in PAJ, Theater Magazine and Theater der Zeit. He is a Pew Fellow, a Foundation for Contemporary Art Fellow, and a MacDowell Fellow.

Apply Online –>


Additionally, through the Visiting Artists Program, nationally and internationally recognized guest directors and performers visit the school to discuss and give feedback on student productions. The students also travel to festivals and symposiums each year.

Recent artists and curators have included:

  • Miguel Gutierrez
  • Angela Mattox (Vienna Festival 2018)
  • Thaddeus Philips
  • Erin Markey
  • Anna Gallagher Ross (Fusebox Festival)
  • Miranda Wright (LA Performance Project)
  • Janie Geiser
  • Yehuda Duenyas
  • Dan Hurlin
  • Diane Rodriguez (Associate Artistic Director at Center Theatre Group)
  • George Lugg (Showbox LA)
  • Anne Bogart (Siti Company)
  • Richard Maxwell (NYC Players)
  • Tina Satter (Half Stradle)
  • Mark Russell (Under The Radar Festival, Public Theater)
  • Erin Boberg Doughton (Portland Institute For Contemporary Arts)
  • Jay Wegman (Abrons Arts Center)
  • Paige Evans (Lincoln Center 3)
  • Kate Valk (The Wooster Group)
  • Erik Ehn
  • Linda S. Chapman (New York Theater Workshop)
  • Annie Dorsen
  • John Collins (Elevator Repair Service)
  • Leigh Silverman
  • Shawn Sides (Rude Mechanicals)
  • John Jesurun
  • Brain Bauman

Recent fellows trips to:

  • TBA Festival in Portland, OR
  • Bard Live Arts Festival in Upstate NY
  • Crossing The Line in NYC
  • Weird Reality VR Symposium
  • APAP January Festivals in NYC (Under The Radar, Coil, Prototype, and American Realness festival )
  • Philly Live Arts Festival in Philadelphia, PA


The third year of the program offers the student the opportunity to spend one semester outside of the university. This semester away allows the student to assist a recognized director in the field, to create a broader network of contacts, and, most importantly, to “observe” a John Wells project in production.

Recent opportunities for third-year graduate directors generously offered by John Wells included observing Wells direct the filming of the USA series Animal Kingdom on location in LA,  the filming of August: Osage County with Meryl Streep on site in Oklahoma, and the filming of the series Shameless.

Other recent semester-away activities have included working as an assistant director to Neal LaBute, The Wooster Group, John Collins/Elevator Repair Service and others; and pursuing possible job opportunities for post-graduation. Graduate directors have also been able to ‘transfer’ their productions begun at CMU to professional venues post-graduation.

Apply Online –>

To Apply

All graduate applicants must submit the following materials by January 1st.

  • A graduate application form
  • A personal statement of your educational and professional aspiration which addresses why you are pursuing this line of study, what you hope to gain from graduate school, and your artistic influences, interests and professional goals.
  • Current CV
  • Three letters of recommendation from people who are familiar with your work
  • Transcripts from previously attended educational institution(s)
  • $100 application fee (payable to Carnegie Mellon University)

Final applicants in The John Wells Directing Program will be invited to the School of Drama to meet the directing faculty in a workshop weekend. At that time directors will also be asked to provide more visual material and discuss specific productions at length.

Sign Up To Be Reminded Of Deadlines:


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