Theater - Devised Performance (MFA & Certificate)

The Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Devised Performance, a collaboration between UArts and Pig Iron Theatre Company, is one of the first programs of its kind, marrying ensemble theatre practice with the rigors of graduate education. The program brings together daring and passionate theatre artists from around the globe to train their bodies and imaginations, creating original performance works in response to the world around us. Pig Iron Theatre Company, described by The New York Times as "one of the few groups successfully taking theater in new directions", brings to the program over 25 years of award-winning devised work that is rooted in Lecoq pedagogy. The unique MFA program is directed by Pig Iron co-founder Quinn Bauriedel within the Ira Brind School of Theater Arts. A graduate degree in Devised Performance that combines the groundbreaking programming created by Pig Iron with the collaboration of the Brind School will enable you to not only become a practitioner in the theatre world today, but to define and lead the theater of tomorrow.

A partnership like no other

The University of the Arts/Pig Iron Devised Performance program is poised to change the landscape of American theater. Defined by its restless and fierce students — who, like slingshots, reach back into the origins of performance in order to launch their work into the future — the program trains the total theater artist, who must simultaneously understand all aspects of live performance: writing, directing, performing, designing, producing. Students have the opportunity to study with a leading contemporary ensemble that is internationally known for creating new and exuberant performance works that defy easy categorization, while taking advantage of a large arts-based university in a dynamic and thriving cultural city.

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Resulting in a program like no other

Devised performance is both a process for generating original performance work and an ethos in which collective creation enables a broader and more diverse set of voices to compose new work. The program believes in dialogue over monologue; group authorship and ensemble alignment over the singular, dominant leader; and a hierarchy that privileges some over others. The work that is created, like a Greek chorus, is communal, at times putting a mirror up to society and, in other moments, harmonizing with the world’s movement. The work is not always confined to a traditional stage or a conventional space, but can exist in found spaces, public arenas and hidden sites. Graduates of the program are poised to not only enter the field, but also to reboot the connection between audiences and live performance. The program follows three main curricular paths:


Students train their bodies each day through courses in acrobatics, movement analysis, dance theater, Alexander, movement composition and core training.


Students work each day to develop and harness their skill in writing on their feet through improvisation. The improvisation themes evolve throughout the program, focusing on the actor’s ability to bring life and vibrancy to every moment onstage.

Ensemble Creation

Each week, students work in collaborative teams to develop original pieces based around specific themes/prompts. Ensemble Creation links the movement and improvisation work with an eye toward completing projects for an audience’s viewing. On Friday, students present completed creations for feedback and evaluation.

Students choose from two great options.

MFA in Devised Performance

77 credits, 2.5 years full time
Intensive, physical theater training to accelerate your career as a creator, plus coursework to prepare you as an educator


Certificate in Devised Performance

50.5 credits, 2 years full time
Intensive, physical theater training to accelerate your career as a creator (certificate students do not complete teaching coursework)


And study in the coolest city in the U.S.

Philly is nationally known as a center for experimental, boundary-pushing performance and home to countless theater companies and venues. Explore all the reasons why Huffington Post called Philadelphia the coolest city in the U.S.

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Faculty Spotlight

A headshot of Quinn Bauriedel against a muted brick background.
Quinn Bauriedel

Theater - Devised Performance (MFA & Certificate)
Director, Devised Performance programs
Sarah Sanford, Assistant Professor
Sarah Sanford

Theater - Devised Performance (MFA & Certificate)
Assistant Professor

Contact Devised Theater Program Director Quinn Bauriedel at

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About the Curriculum

MFA Sample Curriculum

The program re-draws the lines of artistic ownership in theater and overturns the traditional norms and power structures embodied by the current regional theater model. Instead of working with pre-established texts, the program advocates creativity as dialogue rather than monologue; actors and directors working together in an improvisational framework in order to create characters and plays wholly “owned” by creative ensembles. Instead of building new work around the written word, the program focuses intensively on the body and a physical approach to creating characters and theatrical ideas. Leveraging a variety of disciplines and focusing on Lecoq pedagogy, several channels of exploration are offered each week structured on the three main arteries of physical theater: movement, improvisation and ensemble creations.

Total credits: 77
Duration: 2.5 years, full time

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First Year

Devised Performance Ensemble I (9c)
Contemporary Art & Culture (1.5c)
Being a Critical Consumer of Live Art (1.5c)
Music Theory (3c)

Devised Performance Ensemble II (9c)
Thinking Like a Producer (1.5c)
Music Performance (3c)

Second Year

Devised Performance Ensemble III (9c)
History, Theory and Practice of Ensemble  (1.5c)
Foundations of Teaching and Learning Theory (2c)
Visual Art/Non-Performance Studio Elective (3c)

Devised Performance Ensemble IV (9c)
Creating and Leading a Healthy & Fulfilling Life as an Artist (1.5c)
Pedagogies of Performance/Teaching Methods (2c)
Visual Art/Non-Performance Studio Elective (3c)

Third Year

Devised Performance Development/Production (9c)
MFA Thesis Seminar (2c)
Performance Documentation (1.5c)
Teaching Practicum (2c)

Explore the full curriculum

Alumni Spotlight

headshot of jacinta yelland. jacinta is wearing a clay red-orange sweater and has shoulder length brown hair, looking at the camera into bright illumination
Jacinta Yelland

Theater - Devised Performance (MFA & Certificate)
Performer creator, teacher, co-artistic director of inFLUX Theatre Collective
headshot of nathan alford-tate. nathan is wearing a red v neck shirt and is smiling brightly. hathan has short cropped black hair.
Nathan Alford-Tate

Theater - Devised Performance (MFA & Certificate)
Performer creator, member of Almanac Dance Circus Theatre

Alumni Achievements

  • Over 110 students finished the program between June 2013 and December 2021. 

  • Our alumni are performers, directors, composers, writers, designers, teaching artists, visual artists and musicians.

  • Our alumni have founded a total of 15 new companies. Dozens of world premieres have emerged from the school.

  • Our alumni have toured shows to festivals and venues in New York, Maine, New Orleans, Charlestown and Providence, as well as Australia, Canada, Germany, Slovenia, Sweden and Mexico. 

Alumni have performed and collaborated with the following companies and individuals. 

  • The Public Theater

  • Ars Nova

  • Edinburgh Fringe Festival

  • Theatre der Welt (Germany)

  • Teatr Slava (Sweden)

  • Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company

  • Robert Wilson

  • Richard Schechner

  • Geoff Sobelle

  • Wilma Theater

  • Walnut Street Theatre

  • Arden Theatre Company 

  • Theatre Exile

  • InterAct Theater Company

  • FringeArts

  • People’s Light and Theater Company

  • BRAT Productions

  • Shakespeare in Clark Park

  • Orbiter 3

  • The Bearded Ladies Cabaret

  • Tribe of Fools

  • Nichole Canuso Dance Company

  • Advanced Beginner Group

  • New Orleans Fringe Festival

  • Pennsylvania Shakespeare

Alumni have won the following awards and fellowships.

  • Obie Award - Best New American Theater Work

  • Independence Fellowship in the Arts ($10,000 grants for Artistic Development)

  • Barrymore Award

  • Leeway Foundation Grant

  • TCG/Fox Resident Actor Fellowship ($15,000 Award to work as an actor in residence with a company)

  • Pew Fellowship ($75,000 Award for past artistic excellence and future promise)

  • TCG Global Connections Grant

  • Weston Award (Brown University)

  • F. Otto Haas Award (Finalist)

  • Centennial Artist-in-Residence at The Great Smoky Mountain National Park

  • Pew Fellowships in the Arts (3)

  • NET Ten Awards

  • Ruthie Award

  • Movement Research Artist-in-Residence

  • Multiple residencies, grants, fellowships, and other awards

Alumni have taught courses and workshops for the following institutions.

  • Pig Iron Theatre Company

  • University of the Arts

  • Haverford College

  • Roger Williams University

  • Radford University

  • Temple University

  • Colgate University

  • UNC Greensboro

  • Wilma Theater

  • Theatre Horizon

  • Philly Improv Theater

  • Philadelphia School for Circus Arts

  • Theatre Emory

  • Lantern Theater

  • Friends Central School

  • The AntiGravity Theatre Project

  • Buildabridge International

How to Apply

Application Deadline 

Fall 2024 priority deadline: Applications received by March 15 will be among the first considered for admission and scholarship. We will not accept any applications or materials after August 12.

Review graduate tuition, financial aid and scholarship information.

Application Requirements

  • Start or resume your application.

  • $60 nonrefundable application fee

    • If the cost of the application fee is a barrier, contact Admissions to request a fee waiver code.

  • Official undergraduate transcript

    • Official transcripts must be sent directly from the college where you have earned, or will earn, your undergraduate degree by mail, email or a secure electronic document-delivery service. 

    • If you have earned, or will earn, your undergraduate degree outside the U.S., see our transcript requirements for international graduate applicants below.

  • Two letters of recommendation

    • Two letters of recommendation from professors or professionals in your field, who are familiar with your capabilities, are required. In the case that these recommenders are not available, you may request letters from colleagues, collaborators or peers, if necessary.

    • Applicants must enter contact information for their recommenders on the application. An email will be sent to recommenders providing a link for them to upload their letter. Letters of recommendation may also be submitted by the recommender via email to

  • Statement of intent

    • Statements should be a minimum of two pages and express your interest in physical and devised theater training; how you intend to engage in the work; and how this study will influence your future work and artistic career. This essay should also include a summary of your self-assessment (strengths and weaknesses) as a creator, collaborator and performer. Use specific examples from previous collaborative experiences, noting work for which you have been a leading artistic voice. Address your capacity to change, your openness to new ideas and receptiveness to criticism using specific examples from past theater experiences. What do you hope to gain by your studies at the graduate level?

    • Your statement of intent may be uploaded during the application process or added after submission via your applicant status portal. 

  • Résumé

    • Your résumé should highlight all your professional accomplishments, including employment, internships, honors, exhibitions and publications.

    • Your résumé may be uploaded during the application process or added after submission via your applicant status portal. 

  • Portfolio 

    • Applicants must submit a headshot and a sample of work that highlights an artistic project, preferably a performance, in which you were a leading artistic voice. An example might be a video of a theater piece in which you were a core creator, a series of photographs of a production with an accompanying narrative to help explain the project, a clip of a performance in which you performed or directed, or a creative writing sample.

    • The portfolio may be uploaded during the application process or via your applicant status portal after submission. You must confirm when your submission is complete via the linked electronic form before your portfolio can be reviewed for admission. 

  • Audition

  • Interview

    • In addition to the audition, after the application has been processed, each applicant is contacted for a personal interview conducted by the program director or a member of faculty within the program. Interviews may be conducted on campus or by phone or Zoom.

International Applicants

In addition to the requirements listed above, international applicants or those with foreign credentials must submit

  • Official undergraduate transcripts

    • Applicants who have academic documents from institutions outside the U.S. are required to provide original, attested or certified true copies of academic records from the institution where they have earned, or will earn, their undergraduate degree. These records should be in the original language in which they were issued.

    • For postsecondary school records that are not in English, applicants must also submit an official translation of all their academic documents. Translations must be a complete, literal, word-for-word translation in the same format of the original academic document. Transcripts cannot be translated by the student or any members of their family. Acceptable translators include English teachers or other school officials, professional translators, or a local EducationUSA office

    • Admissions might request that students obtain a course-by-course credential evaluation if we are not able to confirm the equivalent level to a U.S. undergraduate degree.

  • Proof of English proficiency

    • For international applicants whose primary language is not English, and who have not completed two semesters of college-level English in a college/university where the language of instruction is English, proof of English proficiency is required. 

    • Recommended minimums for English proficiency exams are as follows. 

      • TOEFL iBT: 79
      • TOEFL essentials: 8.5
      • IELTS: 6.5
      • Pearson PTE Academic: 53
      • Duolingo: 100
    • Applicants who meet the academic and creative requirements for admission but whose scores do not meet the English proficiency requirement for degree study might receive an offer of conditional admission that requires enrollment in the university’s English as a Second Language Institute (ESLI). Applicants who successfully complete ESLI will then be able to begin their degree program studies in the fall semester.

    • In special circumstances, applicants who do not have access to the TOEFL, IELTS or Duolingo English tests can request a waiver of this requirement. The request should be submitted by email to Requests will then be reviewed on a case-by-case basis and might require an interview.

  • I-20/F-1 international student visa information: Upon acceptance, students will be contacted by University of the Arts’ International Student Programs office, regarding visa counseling and all materials required to create an I-20 in order to obtain an F-1 visa. Contact Mara Flamm, director of international student programs, with any questions regarding your I-20 or F-1 visa.

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