Master of Fine Arts in Dramatic WritingLearning Objectives

Upon successful completion of the Master of Fine Arts in Dramatic Writing (MFADW) program, the student shall have gained proficiency in designated learning objectives. The student should gain a level of mastery of the central concepts of dramatic writing, including:

  • Expertise in character development, including desire, the multidimensional elements of character, and the “geography” of mapping character; and the ability to tackle the “unanswerable” – the problems and questions that cannot be merely quantified or completely described or finished – on stage through the actions and consequences of the characters.
  • Expertise in story development including an understanding of progressive action and the nature of conflict.
  • Ability to cultivate a distinctive and authentic voice and vision.
  • Ability to research dimensions of character and story in order to authenticate dramatic representations.
  • Ability to write dramatic dialogue and discern the distinctions between dialogue and conversation including the ability to use all the dimensions of language to enhance the expression of the sensory and emotional life of the play.
  • Ability to comprehend and utilize metaphor and imagery to expand the subtext and the deeper implications of the dramatic work. Awareness of dramatic writing’s capacity for connecting to all disciplines in the investigation of the critical questions of humanity.
  • Ability to understand and utilize stage time as something other than real time, as something to be foreshortened or elongated as well as elevated, depending on event and point of view.
  • Ability to reflect the world through the prism of the play, so that the writing is suitably and deliberately questioning and open-ended, allowing for colloquy between artist and audience that can change and adapt over time.
  • Ability to think in terms of total theatre – utilizing music, dance, media, sports, and other elements – to create a world on stage all its own; and own the courage to explore form with intelligence and creativity.
  • Ability to understand the process of presentation and production, and the responsibilities of the writer as a collaborator in that process, including the ability to absorb and apply constructive criticism and revise and refine the work towards greater professional excellence as well as the ability to adapt, learn, initiate, and be proactive creatively and intellectually.
  • Ability to initiate pathways into film and television via designated courses in the USC School of Cinematic Arts
  • Cultivation of new media interests with regards to the manifestation of writing in myriad ways, professional transition to cultivate professional relationships and opportunities.

The student also should:

  • Be able to think critically about issues challenging society and the global community via critical studies in theatre and to mine these issues for subject of humanistic significance including the ability to articulate the significance of theatre as a “smart power” means for contributing positively to human survival.
  • Be able to operate as a good citizen in the profession and in society, exhibiting integrity, a sense of ethics, good character, and morality.
  • Be able to plan, develop, and complete a professionally promising thesis project that speaks to mastery of craft in dramatic writing.

Culminating Assessments

The evidence used to determine that successful graduates have achieved program objectives include: capstone courses THTR 596ab: Thesis Attainment & Development, annual reviews of student progress by faculty, and the USC School of Dramatic Arts’ New Works Festivals: Year One, Year Two and Year Three; and the New Theatre for Right Now Initiative.

  • In THTR 596ab, students plan, develop, research, write, and refine their thesis plays utilizing knowledge gained over their first two-thirds of their participation in the program.  Toward the end of their third and last year in the program when THTR 596a and 596b have been completed, students submit their thesis for review (thesis submission dates are designated by the University).  After this submission, the THTR 596b instructor reviews learning objectives with each student, and the strengths and weaknesses of the student in preparation for their readiness for graduation from the program.
  • The USC New Works Festivals allow faculty to observe firsthand the student’s comprehension of learning objectives and ability to apply that learning to their work.  The USC New Works Festival:  Year Three utilizes professional dramatists that includes responders who are producers, artistic directors, literary managers, or dramaturges. Their evaluation of the students’ work provides an external review that augments evidence to determine achievement of learning objectives. Exit interviews are requested from external dramatists to gain deeper insights to the process and with regard to student engagement in that process.
  • Annual reviews of each student occur at the ends of the first and second years of the program. The MFADW faculty assesses each student individually, focusing on learning objectives, strengths and weaknesses, and continued refinement of the thesis.
  • New Theatre for Right Now is a festival of 10-minute plays written on a chosen theme for performance by the Master of Fine Arts Acting cohort under the direction of David Warshofsky. Students’ work is evaluated by instructor of record for THTR 500, fall semester.

Interpretation of Evidence

  • MFADW full-time faculty is responsible for interpreting the evidence.
  • This process is actualized in discussions of student performance curricular and extracurricular, which includes discussions with part-time faculty, but particularly with regard to the meetings conducted with the graduating class in the middle of their final year in the program.
  • In addition, the full-time faculty reviews each graduating student’s thesis by reading, analyzing, and discussing its merits among themselves. If it is determined that learning objectives have been achieved, the thesis is approved. Taken into consideration in this process is the feedback provided to faculty by the external responders who participate in the New Works Festival Year Three.

How Findings Are Used

The findings are used to determine the quality of the student’s mastery of craft and their readiness for the profession. In addition, findings are used to improve approaches to teaching and approaches to assessment of learning.