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MA in Dramaturgy and Writing for Performance

  • Length
    1 year full-time or 2 years part-time
  • Department
    Theatre and Performance

Course overview

A unique programme for dramaturgs and playwrights.

This highly successful programme offers specialist pathways in Playwriting and Dramaturgy. We concentrate on the process of writing for live performance, together with an ongoing evaluation of the work in process. Through practice and reflection, we enable you to establish a distinctive, individual approach as both a writer and dramaturge. Projects include site-specific work, writing for a specific audience, verbatim theatre and interdisciplinary collaboration.

We support the development of texts for performance, alongside intellectual understanding of the diverse forms and contexts in which live performance can be made and the writer/dramaturge’s role in this. We examine texts from a wide range of periods and cultures. We engage with work that is innovative, or which challenges established notions of practice.

Distinguished professionals

Permanent staff are joined by distinguished professionals. Visiting tutors include Ian Rickson (former Artistic Director of the Royal Court), Sarah Clifford, Duncan Macmillan, Penny Black, and Philip Osment.

Opportunities to collaborate

Dramaturgs and playwrights study side by side, and examine creative and dramaturgical issues from various perspectives as writers, spectators and creative collaborators. There are opportunities to collaborate on an Interdisciplinary Project with MA Performance Makers and composers from the Department of Music. Final project texts, performed and directed by industry professionals, are presented at the Soho Theatre in London, attended by key industry representatives. Graduates are highly successful in obtaining commissions, dramaturgy posts and artistic directorships. Recent successes include:

  • Tena Štivičić (Three Winters National Theatre 2015)
  • Finn Kennedy (Artistic Director, Tamasha Theatre Company 2015)
  • Melissa Bubnic (Beached at Soho Theatre 2015)

All students receive Professional Orientation and support towards career development.

Why study in London?

London continues to be a major world centre for a staggering range of arts activity. It is world-leading in new writing and contemporary performance. A city that generates innovation, there are many platforms for emerging artists and opportunities for making professional and other creative contacts.

We have strong links with a large number of London-based practitioners, international networks and organisations, individuals and venues in the field of new performance writing (see our Key Associate Organisations). Many of these contribute directly to the teaching of the programme.

Contact the department

If you have specific questions about the degree, contact Fiona Graham

Modules & structure

Autumn term 

All students take the Writing Projects module: you will work on three diverse, short playwriting projects. Each addresses particular generic issues that relate to writing for live performance, and you will engage with the specific challenges and demands of differing circumstances of text development and production. These will vary from year to year, but they are likely to be selected from the following:

  • Theatre as Event – site-specific performance
  • Authenticity and Live Performance – verbatim theatre
  • Writing for Specific Audiences – children’s/young person’s theatre project
  • Creative Collaboration – multimedia collaboration with MA Performance Making and Studio Composition students from the Department of Music

You will also take the Dramaturgy module, which has two main elements: analysis of dramatic text (these will include classics and modern classics, as well as new plays); and analysis of live performance seen by the group (including some visual, environmental or non-text-based work). During the module you will assemble a portfolio of critical analyses and creative writing projects for assessment.

You will also take one contextual module alongside students from other Masters programmes, to be selected from a list of options that will vary from session to session.

Spring term 

You will develop your work on Dramaturgy with the term-long practical workshop module Creative Intervention in Text. This will examine: translation; adaptation of work from other media for live performance; and the re-writing and/or adaptation of extant plays; planning and curating seasons of performance work. You will assemble a portfolio of creative projects for assessment.

You also start work on your Final Project the personal Dissertation-equivalent project that will be the core of your work for the next six months). Weekly seminars and workshops will examine themes relevant to the range of projects chosen, and a first draft or outline will be produced. Each project will be the focus of individual tutorials, and then a class workshop led by a guest dramaturg, director or playwright as appropriate. You will then plan the next phase of the research or development of your project.

You also take another option from the list of contextual modules shared with students from other Masters programmes.

Summer term 

You will present the second draft of your project for another phase of tutorials and group workshops.

Playwriting projects will then be prepared for some form of public rehearsed reading or scratch performance, in extract form – with the writers involved in all aspects of the work.

Dramaturgy projects will be given practical support of an appropriate, equivalent kind. You will further develop your work, with tutorials and workshops and public presentation of work as appropriate, before writing and submitting the finished project.

Throughout the year, various seminars and workshops will examine diverse issues that affect writers today, and these will be led by visiting professionals as appropriate.

Assessment

We deploy a range of assessment approaches, each appropriate to the module taken. Students taking Writing Projects will submit three short playtexts for assessment. Dramaturgy is assessed by a portfolio of analytic reviews, and Creative Intervention in Text by a series of short creative writing projects and writing exercises. Each of the contextual option modules is assessed by a 4,000 word essay. Final Project leads to the production of a playtext (Playwriting), or a Dissertation or equivalent practical project (Dramaturgy). 

Download the programme specification, relating to the 2017-18 intake. If you would like an earlier version of the programme specification, please contact the Quality Office.

Please note that due to staff research commitments not all of these modules may be available every year.

Department

The Department of Theatre and Performance offers a vibrant interdisciplinary learning environment, supported by distinguished staff and outstanding facilities

Theatre and Performance

Study in a department that fuses theory and practice, where you can study diverse subjects, and benefit from our industry links. We're ranked 22nd in the world for performing arts.**

Theory and practice

We balance academic study with creative and technical practice, so you’ll explore hands-on theatre making while developing your knowledge of theatre history and culture.

Diverse subjects

We cover diverse subjects from classical texts and new writing to contemporary writing and performance, and from physical and applied theatres to multimedia/live art.

Distinguished staff

Teaching staff include distinguished researchers and professional theatre-makers.

Industry links

We have international networks in the industry, with regular visits from professionals, and links with associate organisations in London including:

Facilities

Our excellent facilities include a 160-seat theatre, four performance studios, new scenic workshops, sound studio, and open-access media lab. All supported by an outstanding team of technicians and scenic designers.

Find out more about the Department of Theatre and Performance.

*QS World University Rankings by Subject 2017

Staff

Who teaches on the programme?

The programme uses a core team of highly experienced agents, dramaturgs, directors and playwrights, led by the programme’s Convenor Fiona Graham, as well as a wide-ranging roster of predominantly London-based theatre professionals.

Recent contributors to the programme have included

  • Penny Black (freelance dramaturg, translator and playwright).
  • Sarah Dickenson (freelance dramaturg)
  • Gabriel Gbadamosi (playwright, poet, novelist and cultural critic)
  • Fin Kennedy (Artistic Director, Tamasha, playwright)
  • David Lane (playwright, dramaturg)
  • Nicholas McInerny (playwright, radio writer, formerly Chief Writer on The Bill)
  • Ian Rickson (Artistic Director Royal Court 1998-2006)
  • Hannah Silva (poet, playwright and theatre maker)
  • Lily Williams (Curtis Brown Agency)

Skills & careers

Skills

Playwriting specialists will become skilled in:

  • the use of a range of techniques for the development and structuring of original material for live performance
  • working to a brief in diverse professional circumstances
  • evolving an individual creative vision

Dramaturgy specialists will become:

  • familiar with a diverse range of techniques for generating and developing new work
  • skilled in analysis of dramatic text and live performance
  • skilled in formulating a distinctive contribution to policy and practice in one or more fields of new writing

Careers

Numerous playwrights completing this programme receive high-level professional development opportunities, commissions, awards and full-scale productions of their work at major new writing centres in the UK, USA and in continental Europe. Many also work for at least part of the time in the fields of script development (for theatre and television), and in theatre publication.

Recent playwriting alumni include:

  • Ben Musgrave, whose Pretend You Have Big Buildings won the Bruntwood Prize (2006) and received a main house production at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester
  • Allia V Oswald, whose Dirty Water won the Alfred Fagon Award (2007) and was given a rehearsed reading at the Royal Court Theatre
  • Adam Brace, whose play Stovepipe was a High Tide Festival winner (2008), and was staged recently by the National Theatre and published by Faber

In each of these cases the award-winning play was the writer’s Final Project from this programme.

Dramaturgy alumni work in professional literary management for mainstream and fringe building-based companies, as well as on freelance script development programmes in the UK and internationally. These include:

  • David Lane, who now has an extremely busy career as a freelance dramaturg, teacher and playwright
  • Francesca Malfrin, who is currently developing translation projects of Italian plays with a range of agencies, including the National Theatre Studio

Find out more about employability at Goldsmiths.

Student profiles

Ana

"Something that I recall from Goldsmiths is the spirit of the college, and I must say that living near Goldsmiths is one of the main reasons I am still based in London"

"When I applied for the MA I was willing to receive feedback on my work, to be criticised, to know what my work was about and what I could do with it. This was fully achieved during the MA. To me, this was most important, because the voice of an author is what we carry through a career, all the rest we can improve, by working and having experience. Besides, it was very challenging to deal with people's reactions to my writings. I was fully surprised... Another very important aspect for me was to learn how to write plays based on research, because until then I used to rely on my own imagination. This amplifies the range of work that one can develop. It's a huge difference.

Something that I recall from Goldsmiths is the spirit of the college, and I must say that living near Goldsmiths is one of the main reasons I am still based in London. Whenever I need to hire someone, I always pick up a Goldsmiths student. I think it's not only about the quality of the work, but it's also about the type of students that you select. They are always good people with a nice attitude. I have never seen this elsewhere in London.​"

Rene

"What I love about Goldsmiths is that it's a quirky place where I was able to be a square peg."

"What I love about Goldsmiths is that it's a quirky place where I was able to be a square peg. It never tried to mould me, it just fitted around my ideas - no matter how strange they were. My plans now I've graduated? World domination." 

Entry requirements

You should have (or expect to be awarded) an undergraduate degree of at least upper second class standard in a relevant/related subject. 

You might also be considered for some programmes if you aren’t a graduate or your degree is in an unrelated field, but have relevant experience and can show that you have the ability to work at postgraduate level.

Equivalent qualifications
We accept a wide range of international qualifications. Find out more about the qualifications we accept from around the world.

English language requirements
If English isn’t your first language, you’ll need to meet our English language requirements to study with us.

For this programme we require:

IELTS 7.0 with a 7.0 in writing

If you need assistance with your English language, we offer a range of courses that can help prepare you for postgraduate-level study.

How to apply

You apply directly to Goldsmiths using our online application system. 

Before submitting your application you’ll need to have:

  • Details of your education history, including the dates of all exams/assessments
  • The email address of your referee who we can request a reference from, or alternatively an electronic copy of your academic reference
  • personal statement – this can either be uploaded as a Word Document or PDF, or completed online

          Please see our guidance on writing a postgraduate statement

  • If available, an electronic copy of your educational transcript (this is particularly important if you have studied outside of the UK, but isn’t mandatory)

It is important that your application makes clear the nature of your commitment to work in some field of live performance; and the nature of your creative/professional interests.

Applicants to Playwriting should also include a specimen of their recent original writing for live performance – a complete play is best, even if it is a relatively short one.

Applicants to Dramaturgy should include a 1,500 word analysis of a live performance that they have seen recently.

You'll be able to save your progress at any point and return to your application by logging in using your username/email and password.

When to apply

We accept applications from October for students wanting to start the following September. 

We encourage you to complete your application as early as possible, even if you haven't finished your current programme of study. It's very common to be offered a place that is conditional on you achieving a particular qualification. 

Late applications will only be considered if there are spaces available.

If you're applying for funding, you may be subject to an earlier application deadline.

Selection process

Admission to many programmes is by interview, unless you live outside the UK. Occasionally, we'll make candidates an offer of a place on the basis of their application and qualifications alone.

Find out more about applying.

Fees, funding & scholarships

Find out more about tuition fees.

Find out more about funding opportunities for home/EU applicants, or funding for international applicants. If you're applying for funding, you may be subject to an application deadline.

AHRC.

Students can apply for the Harprit Sekhon Bursary which provides £1,000 each year to support students from a low income background.

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