Graduate Program

The Goldberg Department of Dramatic Writing MFA is a two-year program that trains students in the three mediums of dramatic writing: playwriting, film and episodic writing.

It is the mission of the department to teach students the basics of dramatic storytelling while preparing them for their futures as professional writers. We believe that cross training writers in more than one medium makes them stronger and more flexible writers.

Students in the Goldberg Department of Dramatic Writing MFA program will take core writing classes, text analysis courses, production process courses and pre-professional training courses.


In the first year, all graduate students take introductory writing classes in the three mediums of playwriting, screenwriting and episodic writing. By the end of their first year they will have written two of the following three original, full-length works; a full-length play, a full-length screenplay or a full-length episodic pilot. Students will also take text analysis, production, lab classes and professional training classes that complement the writing classes.


In the second year, students will take advanced writing classes which lead toward a master's thesis (a full-length dramatic work) in one of the three mediums. In addition to the thesis work, students work on a second full-length project in a different medium. Second-year students may also take special seminars, master classes, workshop classes and colloquia in which guest speakers from the industry discuss their own work and current topics in the entertainment business as they relate to writers. Students may take an optional internship for credit, which is encouraged but not required.


*Courses in bold are taken in the semester listed. All other courses have flexibility in terms of when they can be completed.


Graduate Playwriting I 4 Credits
Graduate  Screenwriting I 4 Credits
Graduate TV Writing I 4 Credits
Dramatic Strategies 3 Credits
Graduate Drama Lab 2 Credits
  17 Credits Total


Second Level Writing Course 4 Credits
Second Level Writing Course 4 Credits
Writing Elective 3 Credits
Comedic Strategies 3 Credits
Text Analysis 4 Credits
  18 Credits Total


Advanced Writing Course 3 Credits
Writing Elective 3 Credits
Writing Elective 3 Credits
Professional Training 2 Credits
Elective 3 Credits
  14 Credits Total


MFA Thesis 4 Credits
Writing Elective 3 Credits
Production Course 3 Credits
Elective 3 Credits
Elective 3 Credits
  16 Credits Total

Total Credits Required for MFA Program: 65

Writing Seminars - 27 Credits


This is an introductory class that explores the basic craft and execution of playwriting based in Aristotelean concepts of dramatic structure. The primary goal is to introduce different strategies for creating dramatic conflict and for sustaining the arc of a play through its rising action, climax, and denouement. By experimenting with various tools and ways of thinking about structure, students will develop their own ways of working, their own strategies for creating and revising, and their own personal goals as writers. Many topics will be covered, but the focus will be on the fundamentals.


This is an introductory class that explores the basic craft and execution of feature length screenwriting. The class will focus on the basics of narrative story telling; structure, theme, plot, character development, film language and format. The class is a mix of lectures, workshopping and assigned readings, with emphasis on applying lessons from the lectures and readings to student work.


Students will write a “spec” episode of an existing series. They will learn how to write a script for both the half-hour and hour-long format, going from premise line to outline to a fully executed draft.. The purpose of this class is to understand how a series functions and how writing the episodic form differs from other dramatic forms.


This class is designed to expand on and enhance the concepts and techniques learned in Graduate Playwriting I and to encourage writers to engage the work and the world more critically. While traditional playwriting models will be embraced, alternative narrative modes and avant-garde structures will also be introduced, with further attention to developing the playwright’s unique voice and finding the balance between clarity and subtlety. In addition to completing a full-length play of at least 70 pages, each student is required to read class-wide assignments of dramatic texts, as well as individual assignments suggested by the instructor, tailored to the student’s interests and writing style. Students may, with approval of the instructor, choose to complete or rewrite the play they started in Graduate Playwriting I.


In this class, students will build on what they've learned in Graduate Screenwriting I and apply it to completing an original, full-length screenplay. The course will review the fundamental components of screenplay writing and structure while exploring specific elements of scene, character, dialogue, theme, etc. that apply to feature screenplay writing. Emphasis will be placed on character as the engine of story. This is a workshop class; work will be presented to the class for analysis and discussion throughout the semester.


Students will write an original pilot. In the lecture component of the class, emphasis will be placed on both pilots and the series that emerge from those pilots. Students will be encouraged to think about the arena of the show, the story engine of the series and character goals both in the pilot itself and across a series.


This is an advanced class for students who are serious about developing their playwriting skills. Initial class sessions will be devoted to a series of writing exercises to generate ideas, play with content, experiment with structure, and discover what and how students most want to write this semester. This class is about risk and experimentation. Students may begin something and throw it out; they should strive to build a play that excites them and feels truthful and vital.


In this class, students will build on their experience of writing a full-length original screenplay in Screenwriting II and repeat the process with a higher expectation for a completed screenplay. They will also be expected to write faster and end the semester with a rewritten draft of their original screenplay. The course will review the fundamental components of screenplay writing and structure while exploring specific elements of scene, character, dialogue, theme, etc. that apply to feature screenplay writing. This is a workshop class; work will be presented to the class for analysis and discussion throughout the semester.


Students will come to class with a pilot they’ve written and hope to expand into a full series. They will then write a detailed description of the remainder of the first season, with attention to character arcs, plot mechanics and story goals. The purpose of this class is to teach long-term story and character development while learning how a pilot should establish the components for a successful series.

Thesis in Playwriting

This is a semester-long, comprehensive class where students are expected to utilize all the tools they have developed in the previous three semesters of study to complete an original, full-length work. Students are required to come into this class with a draft of the play, preferably one developed in Advanced Playwriting or Goldberg Masterclass in Playwriting, that they will work on and complete over the course of the semester. Students who did not take Advanced Playwriting/Goldberg Masterclass must come into the class with a full-length play that they have written somewhere else. As much as continuing to work on a full-length play, this class is about developing a rewriting practice; a process for students to assess their own work, determine to what degree the draft matches or does not match their ideal vision for the play, and from there, use that assessment to help devise a plan for how to make their play match their ideal vision. In the course of the semester this class will explore a number of tools to aid that process of assessment and rewriting, including the use of actors and directors in context of developmental readings.

Thesis in Screenwriting

This is a semester-long, comprehensive class where students are expected to utilize all the tools they have developed in the previous three semesters of study to complete an original, full length work. Special attention will be paid to developing dramatic ideas that are viable, structured, and can sustain themselves as full-length work. Students are required to come into this class with a draft of the screenplay, preferably one developed in Advanced Screenwriting, that they will work on and complete over the course of the semester. Students who are not bringing in a screenplay written in Advanced Screenwriting must come into the class with a feature length screenplay that they have written in any other class, or in their free time.

Thesis in Episodic/TV Writing

Students will take what they have learned in previous classes, placing special emphasis on how a pilot generates long-form story and long-term character development, and write a pilot that incorporates all of these elements. They may have the option, at the instructor’s discretion, of writing a later episode of the same series. The goal of this class is for the student to incorporate all they have learned about story generation as well as long-form story and character development into an original work that shows mastery of the form.

TEXT Analysis Courses - 12 Credits


This course examines the essential elements of story telling through the analysis of comedy in theater, film and television and beyond. It is a required class for all first year graduate students. It will focus on comedic works in all mediums of comedy starting after the second world war. The class will demonstrate how comedy is a living, evolving thing that reflects where we are as people. Popular culture is always telling us something; even when it doesn’t know it’s telling us something. This course will include works from not only theater, film and television , but also literature, stand-up, improv, sketch and music. Texts and examples will be analyzed for character, story, plot, structure, theme and technique.


This course examines the essential elements of story telling through the analysis of dramas in theater, film and television. It is a required class for all first year graduate students. Texts from antiquity to the present from each of the three mediums will be read and analyzed for character, story, plot, structure, theme and technique. 


The text analysis courses are designed to provide a platform for an in-depth study of how the story is presented. The classes will examine an “anthology” of different works, each selected for a different aspect of storytelling, or it will center around a single storyteller’s (or group of storytellers’) work, exploring how the stylistic choices, themes, and dramatic devices reveal themselves within the body of work. The courses are designed to better help students organize their own narratives by analyzing the techniques employed by various writers in constructing their dramatic works. Courses include Film Story Analysis, TV Story Analysis, and Play Story Analysis. Students may also take relevant courses in the Department of Cinema Studies or the Department of Art and Public Policy, by advisement.

Collaboration: Reloaded

The basis of the course is centered on writers, actors, directors and designers working together and learning to communicate with each other under the tutelage of the Public Theatre’s Artistic Director Oskar Eustis and Suzan­-Lori Parks.



*Students are required to take Graduate Drama Lab and one production elective, which can be one of the courses below or other production courses within Tisch by advisement.


In this course, actors and writers will work in close collaboration with each other. They will develop a series of pieces for the stage, and some for the screen. These will be short pieces, some done within one session, and longer works where their development runs over weeks of rehearsal. The course will cover various modes of creative collaboration: writer- generated material, actor- generated material, adaptations developed by the group, and everything in-between. Roles will blur. We expect concepts, text, and performance, to some degree, from everyone in the room. The class will be broken down into a number of working “‘theater companies’”, each of which will work together throughout the term on various projects. The class will also function as a whole in developing longer, possibly full- length work. At the end of the semester, there will be a public showing of the best work from the Creation Heavy Industries Theater Lab.


This practical workshop is designed to introduce students to the techniques and theory of developing and producing short film ideas that are shot on digital video and edited digitally on computer using FinalCut Pro Software. The course centers on learning elements of visual storytelling through a spectrum of aesthetic approaches. Working in crews of four, students learn directing, shooting, and editing skills as they each direct three short videos (three to five minutes in length). This course is specifically designed to fulfill the major requirements in production of students not majoring in film and therefore, students who need to fulfill this requirement are given registration priority. 


Loving the Living Playwright

This is a production workshop for playwrights, led by The Public Theater's Master Writer and Visiting Arts Professor at the Goldberg Department of Dramatic Writing, Suzan-Lori Parks.  Each week playwrights will present bare-bones staged readings, excerpts of their previously written work.  Writers will be paired off, with one writer serving as "playwright" and the other serving as "director." Working with professional actors, you'll be strengthening your writing chops by getting your work on its feet for class discussion and feedback. "Playwright" and "Director" pairings will change weekly, giving each writer multiple opportunities to explore the possibilities of their own written work and, through directing, expand their understanding of the writing and production process.  Fun, lively, and encouraging feedback in a loving, rigorous, moshpit, sandbox atmosphere.


Students will focus on professional training specific to one of the three mediums of theater, film and episodic TV writing or an otherwise relevant area of career development. Taken in conjunction with the more broad Business of the Business, this class will provide a more in-depth study in a specialized area to better prepare students for professional work in the arts. Recent topics include Teaching Writing, Writing Grants for Theater, Episodic TV Pitching, and Screenplay Pitching.


This course is designed to familiarize students with the basics of the business of writing for theater, film and television.  It will include an overview of the theater, film and television industries; from off-Broadway to Broadway theater, independent to studio film, web to network and cable TV. Case studies and examples from across the three mediums will be used to illustrate financing, development, contracts, rights, unions, production and distribution.  The goal of the course is to give writers a basic understanding of what they need to know to navigate the professional world of the writer.


Below are examples of writing electives we have offered in the past. Course offerings change every semester.

Masterclass in Screenwriting: Scene Study

This class will focus on the art and craft of scene­writing. Students may write new scenes and/or revise existing scenes within the parameters of the class. The class will also include reading, viewing and discussing produced scenes. Students are expected to write at least 6 new and/or revised scenes by the end of the class with a greater understanding of how different kinds of scenes work. 

Masterclass in TV: Animation

This television workshop course takes students step by step through writing their own spec script for an ongoing half­hour animated TV series. The course will focus on adult animated series and on kids’ series. A half­hour animated drama may be allowable. The influence of anime – along with a mandatory anime viewing list – will be considered and discussed.

The course will go from premise line, to 1­-page outline, to pages, through revision and classroom workshop critiquing. Everyone will be expected to complete a full story and a script. In the latter weeks of the class, many students will start an animated pilot breakdown, which may be revised in a high­level TV class such as Advanced or Thesis. 

Writing Workshop: Late Night Comedy Writing

Joke writers aren't allowed to wait until they feel funny. This intensive introduction to the craft of writing topical jokes exposes students to the rigors of producing news­driven jokes and short comedy pieces on demand. Students will be required to keep abreast of the news and come to class prepared to write jokes and desk­pieces on subjects selected by the instructor. They will create material appropriate for different programs and hosts, including Colbert, Stewart, Fallon, Letterman. Occasional guests from late­night comedy shows may critique student work. The goal is to get fast and steady at joke­writing, while compiling a late­night writing packet to be used to seek work in the field. 


This course is a sketch-writing workshop that culminates in a production of the work from this class. A survey of sketch genres and approaches will be integrated with writing assignments keyed to those genres. (The Cold Open, Hi-and-Welcome-Back-to-Another-Episode-of…, desk pieces, remotes, The 2-Minute Short Comedy Film, etc.) along with rewrites of your own original sketches: rewrites that will be done both privately and sometimes collaboratively. The goal is for each student to emerge from the class with several polished sketches. For this class, it helps to have a good sense of humor that you want to get even better at putting down on the page. There will be a lot of group critiquing and occasionally group rewriting. So it helps to stop thinking that your first draft is perfect. Because it isn’t. This can be a pretty wild class, so it also helps not to worry about comedy that goes “too far.” The course may be visited by occasional guest professionals. Improv and stand-up will not be ignored.


From superheroes to talking puppets, television aimed at children and teens continues to capture the hearts of boys and girls around the world. How do these series continue to endure, both in a practical and creative sense? This class will explore writing for kids' programs ­ both animation and live­action for different age groups ­ across the genres of action and comedy. Students will analyze series bibles, premises, outlines, and scripts for existing shows, and ultimately develop and complete a spec from concept to script. 


A 2021 study of more than 10,000 people ages 16-25 revealed that “over 50% of the participants felt sad, anxious, angry, powerless, helpless, and guilty about climate change.” Meanwhile, The USC-Good Energy Project study on Climate Silence reports that “less than 0.56% of scripted TV and film between 2016 and 2020 mention the term ‘climate change.’ Storytelling is one of the most powerful tools the activist has. Writing the Climate-Change Script is an elective writing course for graduate and advanced undergraduate students in which participants write a script (minimum of 75 pages) for film, television, or theater on a topic related to climate change (e.g., climate science, climate justice, animal endangerment, indigenous knowledge resources, sea level rise, etc.). In addition to their own project, students will engage in text and film/play/television analysis and evaluate and workshop the work of their peers. Greta Thunberg once said, “Hope is taking action.” This course is an opportunity for storytellers to take action.



In this course, we will explore the properties of theatricality with the goal of becoming more stage conscious readers and makers of plays. This is a course about listening to a medium and building stories that take meaningful advantage of that medium’s unique properties. The course is a laboratory for exploring how the stage represents the world which means that you will regularly be called upon to perform, direct and design your own original work.


Any additional courses including writing electives, production courses, or internship (description below).


Students experience the profession of the dramatist from “the other side of the desk” by working in a professional organization that develops and or produces the work of dramatists. Graduate students are strongly encouraged to complete an internship and can do so for credit at any point after the first semester. An internship packet will be sent out after registering for DWPG-GT 2300.