Writing for Performance, BA

Writing for Performance, BA

Your work will thrive in a workshop environment that is supported by experienced faculty mentors and your fellow writers. You’ll gain a solid background in script analysis and play production. You’ll also dive into all aspects of theatre creation as you build a portfolio of work in various playwriting forms. You’ll develop your voice as you experiment with character development and story structure.

You’ll begin with short scenes then progress to longer, fully-developed scripts. As you near graduation, you’ll complete 60- to 120-minute works. After your script has been table-read, rewritten and developed, you’ll be ready to collaborate with a student director on a concert reading or a workshop production in front of an audience. Our goal is for you to leave Columbia with at least one full-length script “up on its feet” that you can take to theatres and introduce to the outside world. 

What to Expect Your First Year

Theatre students from all disciplines and majors come together in a first-year Theatre Foundation course. In Theatre Making, we’ll explore the artistic processes of theatre making within the contemporary landscape of the discipline. You’ll be part of a small cohort of students from all backgrounds working together in a collaborative atmosphere.

You’ll also dive into your major with Playwriting I in your first semester. You’ll be able to choose from several writing and theatre courses as well, including Text Analysis, Theatre History, and Writing and Rhetoric. 

What to Expect Your Last Year

In your last year, you’ll take an advanced playwriting course and will choose specific electives that support your professional interests. You’ll participate in the One-Act Play Festival, a class in which your work is rehearsed and developed over two weeks with a professional director and with Columbia actors. It is capped with live staged readings in one of our theatres. You’ll also be invited to submit a full-length play to be fully produced as part of our Playwriting Senior Showcase. 

You’ll choose electives that meet your interests. You’ll find writing courses in departments such as Television, Radio, Creative Writing and English. By your last year, you’ll be part of a vibrant community and will join workshops of talented, diverse writers across campus. You’ll explore new themes with deep resonance to your artistic voice. You also may choose to intern at a theatre or other organization to get a sense of your professional opportunities after graduation.

Detailed Program Information

Download a Four-Year Plan

For More Degree Requirements and Transfer Plans, Visit the Catalog

Real-world Opportunities

What experience will I get outside the classroom?

By studying Theatre in Chicago, one of the great theatre cities of the world, you’ll immerse yourself in the scene, network and see productions regularly.

You’ll have the opportunity to enhance your education by choosing a complementary minor and pursuing an internship. If you want a well-rounded understanding of theatre, you’ll also be able to work on multiple theatre productions during your time on campus.

You’ll also have ample opportunities to see your work and the work of your peers onstage. You could see your work performed for events like Two Chairs and a Light Bulb or our 24-Hour Play Festival, in which participants write, rehearse and perform plays in one day. You’ll also have the opportunity to enter the Fresh Play Prize competition or submit your work to Manifest, Columbia’s annual urban arts festival. 

What are my internship options?

Internships are strongly encouraged for juniors and seniors. Internships emphasize having you in a professional theater and expanding your awareness of the industry by doing behind-the-scenes work, such as administrative duties, fundraising and outreach.

We host two internship fairs each academic year, with attendees ranging from prominent theaters from Steppenwolf and the Goodman to small storefronts and everything in between. Writing for Performance students have landed internships with literary managers and dramaturgs at Chicago Dramatists and Victory Gardens Theater. 

Our faculty’s strong connection to the Chicago theatre scene and their work with companies throughout the city helps us continually build internship opportunities.


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