European Devised Performance Practice (MFA)

European Devised Performance Practice (MFA)

Modern theatre is in a time of transformation. The next generation of performing artists is engaging in a collaborative approach to creating new work, resulting in some of the most innovative and compelling theatre in the world. Join the movement of devised theatre in this partnership between Columbia College Chicago and the London International School of Performing Arts (LISPA).

Drawing inspiration from dance, visual arts, and traditional theatre practice, this program emphasizes movement, gesture, and mime as the main expressive tools for devised performance, also known as physical theatre, movement theatre, body-based theatre, and visual performance. Devised performance is inspired by the ideas of Jacques Lecoq, a central figure in mid-20th-century European physical theatre training.

In devised theatre, performers develop the script through collaboration, and the work evolves over time as it is performed. This program marries the process of artistic development with entrepreneurial skills necessary to launching successful touring companies. Throughout the program, you’ll work as a playwright, a director, a performer, a designer, a technician, and an administrator.

You’ll spend the first year of the program at LISPA in Berlin, Germany, working with faculty from around the world in state-of-the-art studios. In your second year, you’ll study at Columbia College Chicago. Additionally, you will have the option to enroll in a short course that takes you to London for a 10-day immersion in the city’s vibrant physical and devised theatre scene. All classes are taught in English.

Application Information

What to Expect Your First Year

During your first week in the program, you’ll travel to LISPA in Berlin and join a cohort of 20 to 30 first-year students who come from countries around the world. You’ll spend full days in the studio training in movement, improvisation, voice, rhythm, acrobatics, and mask making. Every week, you’ll collaborate with faculty members and fellow students to create work. At the end of your first semester, you’ll perform a work for the public, which will lead to a culminating performance at the end of your first year. You’ll also learn from second-year LISPA students and immerse yourself in the thriving theatre scene in Berlin, one of the major centers for devised performance practice.

What to Expect Your Second Year

Your second year brings you to Chicago, where you’ll delve into the theory and history of devised performance practice to gain a rich scholarly foundation. You’ll develop your thesis project, the culminating experience of your degree. During the spring semester, your cohort will bring together all the practice-based research undertaken during the program and use it to form an ensemble company and create an original piece of theatre. This original piece will be performed in Chicago with one of the Theatre Department’s collaborative partners, such as the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA). The thesis project performance will be supported by 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 go on to form companies, teach, lead community work, or pursue advanced graduate study. You’ll determine your own path with the close guidance of our faculty members, professional mentors, and your peers.

Detailed Program Information

For more degree requirements and transfer plans, visit the catalog.

Real-world Opportunities
What experience will I get outside the classroom?

As a student of devised theatre, you’ll spend time in three of the world’s great theatre cities. You’ll experience the work of leading international companies and pioneering solo performers through events such as the London International Mime Festival, the performance series at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, the Chicago Puppet Festival, and the international program at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre.

The wealth of theatrical activity in Berlin, Chicago, and London will also provide ample opportunities for you to form professional connections with artists and entrepreneurs to better understand the complex processes of launching a company or a solo career in the field of devised performance. In this program, you will be more than a student; you will be a practicing artist contributing original work to the field as we expand our ideas of what constitutes live performance in the 21st century.