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 20 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, which is led by David Howey. 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 theatre. Defined by its restless and fierce students - who, like a slingshot, reach back into the origins of performance in order to launch their work into the future - the program trains the total theatre artist who must simultaneously understand all aspects of live performance: writing, directing, performing, designing, producing. Students have the opportunity to study with one of the leading contemporary ensembles, who are 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, in public arenas and in hidden sites. Graduates of the program are poised to 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 theatre, 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 their completed creations for feedback and evaluation.

Students choose from 2 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 America.

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 America.

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Quinn Bauriedel, Director Devised Performance
Quinn Bauriedel

Theater - Devised Performance (MFA + Certificate)
Director, Devised Performance Programs
Emmanuelle Delpech
Emmanuelle Delpech

Theater - Devised Performance (MFA + Certificate)
Assistant Professor
Sarah Sanford, Assistant Professor
Sarah Sanford

Theater - Devised Performance (MFA + Certificate)
Assistant Professor

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.

MFA Sample Curriculum:

Total Credits: 77
Duration: 2.5 years, full-time

Year One

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

Year Two

Devised Performance Ensemble III (9c)
History, Theory and Practice of Ensemble Physical Theater (1.5c)
Foundations of Teaching/Learning Theory (2c)
Visual Art Studio

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

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

Year Three


Devised Performance Ensemble V (9c)
MFA Thesis Seminar (2c)
Performance Documentation (1.5c)
Teaching Practicum (2c)
Visual Art/Non-Performance Studio Elective (3c)



To explore the full curriculum, click here.

Certificate Curriculum:

Total Credits: 50.5 
Duration: 2 years, full-time

Students complete the first four terms as above, but do not complete the teaching and pedagogy courses. For complete course descriptions and program requirements, please visit the course catalogue website.

Featured Alum:

Jenn Kidwell

Theater - Devised Performance (MFA + Certificate)
Performer & Creator
Scott Sheppard, graduate from Pig Iron Theatre School
Scott Sheppard

Theater - Devised Performance (MFA + Certificate)
Performer, Creator & Co-Director of Lightning Rod Special

Alumni Achievements

  • 53 students finished the program between June 2013 and December 2016. 
  • Our alumni are performers, directors, composers, writers, designers, teaching artists, visual artists and musicians.
  • Our alumni have founded a total of 10 new companies to produce original work, and have premiered 19 pieces since 2013.
  • 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 Theatre
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 Theater
Arden Theater
Theatre Exile
InterAct Theater Company
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

Alumni have taught courses and workshops for the following institutions: 

Pig Iron Theatre Company
The University of the Arts
Haverford College
Roger Williams University
Radford University
Temple University
Colgate University
UNC Greensboro
Wilma Theatre
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: Applicants who submit the application form and all required supporting materials before March 15, 2020 will be prioritized for scholarship funding opportunities from the University. Students may continue to apply on a rolling basis after the March 15 priority deadline and will be considered for admission and scholarships on a space-available basis. Please review Graduate Tuition, Financial Aid and Scholarship information here.

To apply, the following materials are required:

  • Application Fee of $60 (nonrefundable; submitted with your application)
  • Official Transcripts
    • Official transcripts from all prior undergraduate and graduate schools attended are required. Transcripts should be issued directly by the Registrar's Office at the college(s) attended and sent to the Office of Admissions, The University of the Arts, 320 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102 or via email to For transcripts from outside the United States, please refer to the instructions provided below for international students.
  • 3 Letters of Recommendation
    • Letters of recommendation may either be requested through the online application form, or mailed to the Office of Admissions. At least two must come from professors or professional in your field familiar with your capabilities and credentials. The third may be from a colleague, collaborator or a peer.
  • Statement of Intent, Resume & Headshot
    • Your Statement of Intent, Resume & Headshot are uploaded and submitted as part of your online application. Statements should be a two-page written statement expressing 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. Please use specific examples from previous collaborative experiences, noting work for which you have been a leading artistic voice. Please address your capacity to change, your openness to new ideas and receptiveness to criticism, again using specific examples from past theatre experiences.What do you hope to gain by your studies at the graduate level? Your resume should highlight all of your professional accomplishments including employment, internships, honors, exhibitions and publications. Please also include a headshot.
  • Work Sample
    • Applicants should be prepared to submit a work sample that highlights an artistic project - preferably a performance - in which you were a leading artistic voice. An example might be a video of a theatre 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. Work may be submitted via Get Acceptd.
  • Audition
    • In-person auditions are required unless an exception for extenuating circumstances or distance is granted. Please indicate your audition date on your application form, or if you have not yet started an application, contact the Admissions Office to register.
      Available Dates:
      • Off-Campus Auditions (URTAs):
        Devised Performance off-campus auditions are being hosted by URTA. To participate, please complete URTA's application, and indicate that you'd like to participate in the satellite auditions.

        January 17-2, 2020 – New York
        January 25-28, 2020 – Chicago

      • On-Campus Auditions:

        Saturday, November 23, 2019
        Held in conjunction with Open House

        Monday, January 6, 2020

        Monday, February 17, 2020

        Saturday, March 21, 2020
        Held in conjunction with Open House

  • Personal Interview
    • After the application has been processed, each applicant is contacted for a personal interview conducted by a member of the core faculty. For applicants who cannot interview at the university, interviews can be conducted via telephone or Skype.

International Applicants

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

  • Official Transcripts and Transcript Evaluation
    • All applicants with transcripts from outside the United States are required to submit transcripts officially translated into English. A transcript evaluation by a NACES-approved evaluator is required in order for an application to be complete, and a decision made. A Course-by-Course report is required and it is the applicant's responsibility to contract directly with the agency for this service and provide the necessary documents. While applicants may use any NACES-approved accredited evaluating agency, the University recommends World Education Services (WES) or Educational Credential Evaluators (ECE).
  • Proof of English Language Proficiency
    • International applicants whose primary language is not English must submit the results of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). A minimum TOEFL score of 92 (iBT) or 580 (PBT) or higher, an IELTS score of 6.5 or higher is required for unconditional admission.

Applicants who meet the academic and creative requirements for admission but whose scores do not meet the English proficiency requirement for degree study may receive an offer of conditional admission that first requires enrollment in the University of the Arts' English as a Second Language Institute (ESLI). Applicants who successfully complete Level 9 of ESL study in ESLI will then be able to begin their degree program studies.

In special circumstances, applicants who have not taken the TOEFL or IELTS can request a waiver of this requirement. The request should be submitted in writing and include the reason for opting not to take the TOEFL or IELTS exams. Requests will then be reviewed on a case-by-case basis and may require an interview.

I20/F-1 International Student Visa Information: Upon acceptance, students will be contacted by the 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, International Student Programs, with any questions regarding your I20 or F-1 visa.

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