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Applied Theatre and Public Dialogue

(A revision of the former Directing and Public Dialogue program, with an expanded focus on the functional relationship of theatre with community) M.F.A. in Theatre


What do we mean by Applied Theatre and Public Dialogue?

Applied theatre is a form of artistic practice that uses theatre techniques and principles to address real-world issues, engage communities, and promote positive social change. It involves collaborations between artists and specific groups, using drama as a tool to explore, analyze, and transform social, cultural, or political challenges. It’s a versatile approach that can be adapted to the contexts and objectives of a variety of concerns.

Applied theatre recognizes that all communities are in constant dialogue about themselves, with themselves and with others.  The many forms of public dialogue are ways people experience a sense of belonging, commitment, and social health.  Applied theatre is designed to engage theatrical practice and experience with public dialogue, activating individual and community involvement in addressing pressing societal issues.

Program Overview

Our program is a comprehensive professional training curriculum in applied theatre that builds graduate students’ abilities to integrate theatrical techniques with community engagement strategies in order to activate individuals and communities as participants in addressing local and global challenges. Participants will have opportunities to develop skills in the following areas:

  • Expressing ideas and building individual capacities through foundational aspects of theatre such as improvisation, deep listening and awareness, storytelling, embodiment, analyzing and developing text, and facilitating collaborative creative experiences,
  • Develping and refining a personal artistic vision,
  • Developing, maintaining and leading equitable collaborative project groups,
  • Negotiating and maintaining partnerships with individuals and organizations,
  • Creating and performing original and established aesthetic expressions,
  • Forming and facilitating creative community partnerships,
  • Designing and curating experiences that lead to community engagement projects,
  • Tracking impact through participant surveys, community feedback, and the tangible results of community engagement projects.

all within the context of the artist as an engaged citizen.

Why choose this program?

  • Our program has more than thirty years of experience in one-on-one mentoring of emerging artists interested in applying theatre aesthetics, skills, and techniques to the collaborative work of community building, social justice, and public dialogue,
  • Each student makes work in collaboration with community partners, with guidance and mentoring from a team of experienced faculty every semester,
  • An individualized Plan of Study - based on the opportunity of a practical project assignment each semester, carefully selected to serve the needs of the individual student - supports the examination of a wide range of aesthetic styles, techniques and organizational structures in the context of collaborative processes and public dialogue.  These practical assignments integrate aesthetics and theatrical techniques with community engagement practices.

What You'll Study

To complete the degree, successful completion of a minimum of 60 credit hours is required. The program is designed to be completed in three years. Practical, hands-on projects form the foundation of the program, challenging students to think critically, problem solve, and respond creatively.

Each student admitted will work with a primary advisor in a one-on-one studio environment over the three-year period.

The one-on-one studio format provides a weekly forum for visioning, planning, reflection, and guidance in the context of engaged theory, skills development, and collaborative art making practices,

Each student participates closely with a required graduate committee every semester of enrollment to evaluate work done, assess progress, and plan future projects and experiences.

Never before have I been so busy or worked so hard or learned so much in such a relatively short amount of time. This department provided the space and time necessary for me to continue my research and develop my work. My committee, Bob Leonard, Ann Kilkelly, Patty Raun and Randy Ward provided thoughtful, diverse articulated feedback as well as creative stimulation and inspiration every step of the way. Bob Leonard challenged me to take full responsibility for my education and my creative growth while encouraging me to expand my definition of theatre to include the community outside of the buildings in which we work. Thanks to the attention of my committee I am leaving this grad department a more articulate, impactful, and socially engaged theatre artist than when I came in a few short years ago.

-Vince DeGeorge, 2014 M.F.A. in Directing and Public Dialogue

  • Minimum GPA 3.0 (4 Scale)
  • TOEFL/ IELTS score required  (if applicable)

Learn more 

Each student accepted into the program receives a full tuition scholarship and out-of-state fee waiver. Each student accepted also receives an assistantship of approximately $18,700 for the first academic year, with increasing amounts in the second and third years. To maintain assistantship support, students must be enrolled in at least 12 credit hours each semester.

Find out what loans are available as a graduate student and other opportunities.

Download Plan of Study

Jan 15 for consideration for funding

Robert (Bob) Leonard, Applied Theatre and Public Dialogue Area Coordinator
320 Henderson Hall

Robert (Bob) Leonard, Applied Theatre and Public Dialogue Area Coordinator
320 Henderson Hall


Robert (Bob) Leonard, Appliec Theatre and Public Dialogue Program Leader
320 Henderson Hall