European Devised Performance Practice (MA | MFA)

We are currently accepting applications for this program for Fall 2020.

Modern theatre is in a time of transformation. Today’s performing artists have adopted a collaborative approach known as devised performance. This approach has produced some of the most innovative and compelling theatre to date. Join this artistic movement by enrolling in one of our graduate theatre programs in partnership with Arthaus Berlin International School (formerly LISPA).

Drawing inspiration from dance, visual arts, and traditional theatre, the programs emphasize collaboration as the main expressive tool for the creation of original work. Devised performance is also known as physical theatre, movement theatre, body-based theatre, or visual performance. The MA and MFA programs are inspired by the ideas of Jacques Lecoq, a central figure in mid-20th-century European physical theatre training.

Columbia College Chicago devised theatre MFA

Devised theatre performers develop the script together, and the work evolves over time as they perform it. Columbia’s programs emphasize artistic development and entrepreneurial skills for launching successful touring companies. Throughout the programs, you’ll work as a playwright, director, performer, designer, technician, and administrator.

All classes are taught in English.

Degrees Available

European Devised Performance Practice, MFA

The MFA is an intensive two-year program requiring a year of training at Arthaus Berlin International School, followed by a year of professional work in Chicago. This program is a good fit for students who want to gain a solid foundation in devised and physical performance from one of the world's leading institutions while also developing business, networking, and research skills necessary for forging a successful career in the field.

MFA Quick Links: See application requirements | View required courses | View program costs (PDF)

Devised Performance Practice, MA

The one-year MA is a good fit if you already have professional experience in devised performance and want to take your craft to the next level by staging productions and sharpening your business and research skills. Ideal candidates will already have training in devised performance, such as a graduate certificate or workshop experience, or the professional equivalent. MA students do not participate in the training at Arthaus Berlin, however a non-required 10-day intensive in London is offered to MA students half-way through the program. As an MA student, you'll develop a thesis project and graduate with business skills and networking experience that will expand your career options.

MFA Quick Links: See application requirements | View required courses | View program costs (PDF)


International Experience


MFA students spend their first year at Arthaus Berlin International School (formerly LISPA). The program was founded in 2003 by Thomas Prattki, former pedagogical director of the Jacques Lecoq School in Paris. He leads an international team of teachers who have varied experience in acting, performing, directing, and teaching. You’ll have substantial time to interact with instructors (about 25-30 hours per week, more than most other graduate programs). Learn more about Arthaus Berlin.

Pictured left: EDEN Studios (an international hub for dance, theatre, performance, music, and film), where much of your creative work will happen in Berlin. Photo: Arthaus Berlin

Program Timeline

First Year

MFA students travel to Berlin and join a cohort of 20 to 30 first-year students from various countries. You’ll spend full days in the studio studying movement, improvisation, voice, rhythm, acrobatics, and mask making. You’ll collaborate with faculty members and fellow students every week. Your work will evolve, leading to a culminating performance for the public at the end of your first year. You’ll also learn from second-year students and immerse yourself in Berlin’s thriving theatre scene, one of the major centers for devised performance practice.

MFA student thesis performance
MFA students perform their original devised work, Manifest(o).

Second Year

The second year for MFA students is based in Chicago, where you’ll learn the theory and history of devised performance. This is where MA students will also join the program. You’ll develop your thesis project, the culminating performance of your degree. In the spring semester, your cohort will use its practice-based research to form an ensemble company and create an original piece of theatre. This original piece will be performed in Chicago with one of Columbia’s collaborative partners, such as the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA). Your thesis must include visual and written documentation detailing every stage of the process, from conception to performance. The research component will be on public display during the performances.

Graduates of devised theatre programs often form companies, teach, lead community work, or pursue advanced graduate study. You’ll find your own path with the guidance of our faculty members, professional mentors, and your peers.

Outside of the Classroom

You’ll spend time in three great theatre cities. You’ll watch renowned international companies and pioneering solo performers at events such as the London International Mime Festival, the performance series at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, the Chicago Puppet Festival, and the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre.

The wealth of theatrical activity in Berlin, Chicago, and London will give you opportunities to form professional connections with artists and entrepreneurs. These relationships will help you better understand how to launch a theatre company and achieve a successful career in devised performance.

Graduate Faculty

Our faculty members and guest artists are leaders in devised performance and collaborative creation. They have research and teaching backgrounds in physical theatre, movement analysis, and Lecoq-based approaches to actor training. At Arthaus Berlin International School, you’ll work with teachers who have performed with companies pushing boundaries in devised theatre. The European Devised Performance Practice program directors at Columbia College Chicago will serve as mentors and provide valuable insight into the entrepreneurial and creative aspects of the industry.

Michael Brown

Program co-director Michael Brown is a graduate of LISPA and taught there for nine years. He has appeared in and directed numerous theatre productions in the United States, United Kingdom, and China. He created a physical adaptation of Jason and the Argonauts for AFTEC theatre company in Hong Kong, China. Brown has also performed in feature films including Dark Shadows and World War Z, and has served as a movement artist and trainer for the international phenomenon War Horse and for the feature film Gravity. He is the co-founder of ShadowApe Theatre, a critically-acclaimed experimental theatre company based in Indiana with whom he devised, produced, and performed over eight seasons.

John Green

John Green, program co-director, is a professional theatre director with extensive experienece as an educator and academic leader. His productions have been staged in the UK, including four productions at the Edinburgh International Festival, and at international theatre festivals in Ireland, France, Slovenia, Russia, and Australia. He has received a number of best director awards at festivals including: The London Student Drama Festival, The National Student Drama Festival of Great Britain, and the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. A published scholar, Green’s research interests focus on theatre and anthropology within a post-dramatic context.