Achievements by Playwriting Students and Alumni

Our graduates and students are accomplished dramatic writers who run their own theaters, produce their plays all over the country and Off Broadway and win prestigious national awards including:

Arwen Mitchell, (’12), was recently awarded the Nord Family Foundation Playwright Fellowship, which is associated with the Cleveland Public Theater. 

Catherine Rush, (’12), TheaterWorks production of The Loudest Man on Earth Directed by Pamela Berlin. 2013.

Shawna Casey, (’12), received 2nd place in The Ebell of Los Angeles Playwright Prize for Night Becomes Day, the play that started as her thesis for Spalding MFA. See

Current student Jeffrey Fischer-Smith’s short play Reservations has been chosen to be included in The Apron Strings Project the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall, Riverhead, New York. The play was published in The LIC One Act Festival 2014, Vol. 2.

Other achievements by our playwrights:
Edgerton Foundation New American Plays Award
FringeNYC Encore Series
Southeastern Theatre Conference’s
New Play Award
1st place, Canadian Jewish Playwriting Contest

About Our Playwriting Program

At Spalding, we offer individual tracks in Playwriting or Screenwriting, with an opportunity for optional interdisciplinary study for the student interested in acquiring a mastery of writing for both screen and stage. The playwriting faculty is composed of professional working artists with a wide range of expertise in areas including

  • musical theatre (specialization in the creation of book and lyric-writing),
  • theatre for puppets,
  • experimental theatre,
  • adaptation,
  • site-specific plays,
  • theatre for young and family audiences,
  • TV writing,
  • and the production of one’s own work.

Our faculty have garnered awards from the Princess Grace Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Edgerton Foundation, a Kesselring Prize, as well as the Charles MacArthur Award, and have produced their work Off-Broadway, in many regional LORT theatres, and internationally.

MFASPres14foreblastStudents can choose to study on-campus in Louisville, KY, or abroad in an international residency. Each residency experience lasts ten days. Upon returning home (where writers actually do their writing), students work, usually by email, in a way that is both  intense, individually tailored, and one-on-one with their mentor. Guest lecturers, screenings, group discussions, workshops and one-on-one mentor correspondence focus on issues of craft and the wider professional arena. Basic fundamentals of dramatic writing are emphasized along with highly individualized courses of study.

Playwriting students are expected to write two full-length plays and several one-acts. They are encouraged to both read and attend performances of classical plays (Shakespeare / Sophocles / Shaw), modern plays (Tennessee Williams / August Wilson / Paula Vogel) and alternative works (Ping Chong / Charles Mee).

Playwriting students take a pro-active approach to getting work produced in their own communities by engaging in student-produced stage readings in consultation with their mentor. Because theater and film making are uniquely collaborative art forms and the act of hearing a script read aloud is crucial to its development, all students receive a professional reading of a play or screenplay with local actors in Louisville and gain valuable exposure to visiting theater and film professionals connected with the Actors Theater of Louisville, Stage One, The Kentucky Film Lab, and an ever-widening network of writers, artists, filmmakers, and producers from Los Angeles, New York, and other locations in the US and abroad.

Acceleration for Professionals

For already produced professional playwrights who wish to earn a terminal degree, the Spalding MFA offers the perfect course of study. Students who have had a play produced may wish to inquire about completing the program in three semesters instead of four.

Our award-winning faculty include

  • David-Matthew Barnes (playwriting, screenwriting) And The Winner IsAre You All Right in There?CleanPensacola 
  • Larry Brenner (playwriting, screenwriting) Saving Love vs. Throw, Godversations, The King and the Condemned
  • Gabriel Jason Dean (playwriting, screenwriting) Javaaneh (In Bloom), The Transition of Doodle Paqueno, Terminus
  • Helena Kriel (playwriting, screenwriting) Pigs on Passion, Arachnid and I Can’t Wait To Tie You To The Sofa
  • Kira Obolensky (playwriting) Why We Laugh, Lobster Alice, Hate Mail (with Bill Corbett), Dirt Sticks, Raskol 
  • Eric Schmiedl (playwriting) Plainsong, Ghosts of Treasure Island, Eventide, and more.
  • Charles Schulman (playwriting, screenwriting) The Goldstein Variations, The Fartiste, Angel of Death, The Birthday Present, The Ground Zero Club, The Apollo Comedy Hour
  • Sam Zalutsky (screenwriting) How to Make It to the Promised LandYou Belong to Me, SuperStore, Stefan’s Silver Bell, Boy’s Briefs, Smear)

Download a brochure about the playwriting program.

What Our Graduates Say

Arwen Mitchell (’12), recent winner of the Nord Family Foundation Fellowship: Spalding gave me an exceptional, versatile education in writing.  The multi-genre flexibility, devoted faculty and staff, compelling and life-changing residency experiences, and strong curriculum makes it a one-of-a-kind program.  Spalding is not just a stop along the way for a writer as they work toward achieving their goals; Spalding becomes an ever-ready and always-welcoming home for friendship, inspiration, and excellence.  I made the best possible choice in choosing to get my MFA at Spalding.

Larry Brenner, (’10), New York, Saving Throw Versus Love: I’ve learned a lot from my mentors about story structure, character development, and dialogue. Since enrolling in the Spalding MFA program in playwriting, I’ve had a successful production in the 2010 New York International Fringe Festival that is in development for an Off-Broadway run. I’ve also won two screenplay competitions (the Final Draft Big Break Screenplay Competition and the Back in the Box Screenplay Competition). This program has transformed my writing and my career.

Tommy Trull, (’11), North Carolina, Honeyboy (Charles M. Getchell New Play Award) and Wake-Walking: The two and a half years I spent in Spalding’s MFA in Playwriting program were without a doubt the most intensely instructive and formative years of my professional life. The atmosphere at Spalding somehow manages to be both challenging and nurturing. If your sensibilities are New York or Chicago theatre, they’ve got you covered. If your sensibilities are regionally focused, or experimental, or something-as-yet-unlabeled, they’ve got you covered. Spalding’s instructors vary wildly in their philosophies and teaching styles, except on one point: they want you to be a better writer. They want you to succeed.

Tara Goldstein, (’06), Toronto, Lost Daughter: One of the most important things that I took away from my experience at Spalding was learning how to make playwriting a top priority, an important skill and one I have kept working on after graduation.

Brian Hampton,  (’06), New York Checking In andThe Jungle Fun Room: MITF, FringeNYC, and Audience Favorite Award Winner of Penobscot Theatre’s Northern Writes New Play Festival: The Spalding MFA program has been essential in my playwriting career. It was as if I knew how to make a cake when I started the program, but I didn’t know how the ingredients could be mixed, refined, flavored. . . . Attending Spalding immediately put me in a world of the best writers in the country, and a group of friends who will be livelong pals and professional peers. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Complete faculty information

Contact us: MFA Office: (502) 873-4400 or (800) 896-8941, ext. 4400
FAX: (502) 992-2409

MFA in Writing
Spalding University
851 South Fourth Street
Louisville, KY 40203

updated 7-7-14