MFA in Theater: Contemporary Performance

Contemporary Performance

The MFA Theater: Contemporary Performance program is a home for the next generation of innovators and practitioners of performance. The program is committed to creating a laboratory for the research of new techniques, aesthetics, and pedagogies deeply grounded in somatic training and contemplative practice, providing tools for both the performance and creation of devised work. The 48-credit degree program is the first graduate training program that integrates contemporary physical theater, Viewpoints theory and practice, and traditional contemplative practices. Students are expected to work in a technically and aesthetically extended physical, vocal, and emotional range in service of performance and performance making. Production work and pedagogical research, in a variety of scales are ongoing, especially in the second year. The creation and cultivation of ensemble is at the core of the Contemporary Performance pedagogy in training and production work, as well as research into the integration of contemplative views with training and production values. The program strives to support careers that integrate teaching and service with professional performance, directing, and creation of new performance aesthetics.

The curriculum is based on the following techniques and influences:

  • Contemplative arts and meditation training
  • Psycho-physical acting work of Jerzy Grotowski
  • Viewpoints as performance technique and directing/choreographic method
  • Extended Vocal Technique, based on the work of Roy Hart, applied to speech and new approaches in music theater
  • Somatic physical techniques and contemporary dance/movement forms;
  • Techniques of generating text through ensemble playwriting and self-scripting

Each student completes an integrated thesis project combining production, documentation, creation of syllabi, and an optional practitioner's paper intended for conference presentations or publication. Naropa MFA students have been a consistent presence at the annual ATHE Conference. The integrated thesis project is developed under the mentorship of core faculty.

The meditation practice and view practicum is offered in a three-semester sequence. Substantial course work over the arc of the four semesters is dedicated to the integration of mindfulness/awareness practice into performance technique and creation of devised work.

Because of the professional nature of this training program, students are evaluated on an ongoing basis to assess their readiness for working successfully in an ensemble setting and continuing in the program altogether. The program director may deny a student permission to continue in the program. Although grades are one indication of progress, other criteria for evaluation include how the students interact and work within the ensemble and with faculty and the administration, as well as how they handle obstacles that arise and how they work with feedback based on any of the above criteria. Please see the program handbook for details.