Sunday, April 21, 2019

Grad School Advice: Questions from a prospective student

When I made the decision to apply to get my MFA in Theatre for Youth, I had no idea that that would be the easiest part in the entire process. Between researching the programs, studying for the GRE, completing applications, and preparing for interviews, it almost feels like I have another full time job.

When getting acquainted with MFA in Theatre for Youth programs, the questions I have for the prospective schools sometimes seem endless. The questions vary from inquiries about the department, faculty, financial aid and assistantship opportunities, to outside opportunities and the cost of living in program or school locations. I want the best program that is going to fit my long-term goals and will best fuel my growth as an educator/artist.  I also want to find a place where I will enjoy living and working for the next two to three years of my life. Not the easiest task. But luckily, with faculty members and current students making themselves easily accessible for these inquiries, it relieves some of the stress brought upon by the application process to my prospective programs. To be honest, most of these conversations have made me realize that there is no doubt in my mind that graduate study is the next step I want in my career.

So, now I am left finishing my application materials with the stress, nervous excitement, and anticipation for interviews growing every day. With all that in mind, my supervisor at the Omaha Theater Company thought it would be a good idea for me to kick off a discussion here on the blog about things candidates want to know about graduate programs and the admission process. Here are some of the things that I spoke about with prospective programs and will continue to be important in making my graduate program decisions.

1.     What is the diversity academically and professionally of the current faculty? What kind of professional affiliations or connections do they have within the TYA community?

2.     Are assistantships available?  How much do they contribute financially? What different work study options are accessible to students? (TA, administrative, research based, etc) Also, if accepted, do you offer any other financial assistance for students?

3.     My experience is varied between performance, administration and recently I have been growing my teaching artist/education experience, but I DO NOT have my undergraduate degree in theater (I have a BA in Communication Arts). Will this lack of an undergraduate degree in theater be an issue during my admission process?

4.     What are some of your alumni doing now?

5.     What kind of materials would you like to see in a candidate’s portfolio?

6.  How much does your GRE score matter in the admission process? Do you have a required score?

7.     How flexible is the course of study? Are there any new courses you are currently developing or looking to add in the next two to three years?

8.     What qualities are you looking for in incoming students? What do you think makes for a successful student in your program?

Jennifer Guhl  is currently a teaching artist intern at the Omaha Theater Company.  She received her BA in Communication Arts from Marymount Manhattan College and worked previously for the Orlando Repertory Theatre as their Marketing Manager.  She is considering applying for an MFA program in TYA for the fall of 2013

TYA/USA has invited grad students and graduate professors to write blog entries with advice for prospective students.

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    0 Response

    1. Hi Jennifer,

      I have just recently arrived back to UHM (where I received my MFA degree) as the new director of the TYA graduate program (formerly named “Youth Theatre”). One of our students directed me to your blog and I’m so happy to respond. Since I’m relatively new to the program as an instructor, I will provide some general information on our program here and then do some research on your other questions.

      I’ve attached a recent advertisement for our TYA program that should be going in to ArtSearch soon along with a simple program description from our website. There are several specialties that students may choose from in our TYA program, including playwriting, directing, curriculum development, scenic design, and puppetry. In addition, UHM is known as THE PLACE to go for Asian Theatre training and many of our TYA folk dive into this training while they are here (in addition to TYA stuff).

      Our department has just gone through a major website update.  Some things are still not quite in place.  However, that is probably a good place to start (GRADUATE REQUIREMENTS:; TYA: I can also put you in touch with several current TYA grad students who may be able to offer their perspectives on the program.

      I think we have a very unique program and I’m very excited about the possibilities for future growth and improvement. Let me know how your search is going and I’ll start researching some of your questions!


      Mark Branner
      Director, TYA Graduate Program
      (808) 956-2931


      GRADUATE YOUTH THEATRE OPPORTUNITIES – UNIVERSITY OF HAWAIʼI-MANOA, Department of Theatre and Dance, seeks students for MFA training in TYA programs (Theatre for Young Audiences). Active, multi-cultural, theatre-training program provides exposure to, and opportunities to act/direct in multiple venues for: Western Theatre, Asian Theatre, TYA, and Dance. Assistantships, available to qualified students enrolled in program, pending availability of funds. Personalized program emphasizes hands-on training, varied performance and teaching opportunities, individualized mentoring with professionally active faculty, and performance opportunities with area theatres. For more program information visit: . Inquiries: contact Director of Youth Theatre, Mark Branner,; for applications: call 808-956-7677 or visit . Deadlines: 1/15/12 – for Fall 2012 admission; 8/1/12 – for Spring 2013 admission.


      TYA • Theatre for Young Audiences
      Cultivating Wonder
      The TYA program encourages the development and pursuit of wonder, combining a foundational emphasis in drama education and curriculum development with the bold theatrics of puppetry, masks, clowning, and dance. TYA faculty have backgrounds in standards-based curriculum development, theatre for social change, dance, and circus arts and teach a variety of classes, including Puppetry, Masks & Giant Puppetry, Creative Drama, and Creative Dance. Within the flexible framework of the program, students can specialize in a wide variety of disciplines – acting, directing, playwriting, puppetry design, and more – all with the goal of capturing the imagination of young audiences.

      Production Highlights
      The TYA program celebrates the wonder of live performance by producing breathtaking performances for families and young audiences. Each year over thousands of children and young adults arrive at the doors of Kennedy Theatre to be ushered into magical worlds beyond. Graduate students have directed productions in the Earl Earnst Lab Theatre, organized performance tours to local schools, developed K-12 classroom residency programs, and more. Productions have ranged from classic fairy tales, to adaptations of children’s literature, to new works by students, faculty, and guest playwrights. These offerings are often filled with adventurous theatrical designs and styles – often combining elements of musical theatre, dance, puppets, masks, and Asian and Pacific theatre techniques.

      What’s after Graduation?
      Alumni of the TYA program work as faculty in such places as UCLA and the University of Malaysia; others teach in community colleges or high schools. Students have placed first in Disney’s ‘Imagineering Competition,’ served on the Jim Henson Foundation board, and worked as puppeteers on Sesame Street. Others have authored children’s books, directed programs for cruise lines and programmed children’s television (Pakistan). Graduates work as actors, writers, and directors in such professional theatres as HTY (Honolulu), Images (San Diego), and the Cleveland Play House (Ohio).

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