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MFA playwright program moves to theater department

By
Senior Staff Writer
Friday, January 29, 2010

In order to bring playwrights closer to the performance of their work, Brown’s MFA Program in Playwriting has been moved from the Literary Arts Program to the Department of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies.

Erik Ehn, professor of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies and head of the playwriting program, said he endorsed the change because it will enable student playwrights “to hear their work out loud.” Moving the program to the theater department is “putting the chickens closer to the feed,” Ehn added.

The decision was made “after much thought and many conversations with the provost, the dean and the faculty,” said Brian Evenson, professor of literary arts and director of the literary arts program.

“Most of the professors teaching playwriting have moved” to the Department of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies, Evenson said. For students, “the requirements are not dissimilar to what they were before,” he added.

Evenson said the switch was made because, “we realized that the playwrights were spending more time with Trinity (Repertory Company) and with (the Department of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies) than they were with Literary Arts.”

“We were happy to have the playwrights with us,” Evenson said, “but it seemed — administratively — a better idea to make the move, particularly if an emphasis continued to be placed on production.”

Through transferring the playwriting program to the theater department, Ehn said he plans to “put emphasis on the live quality of writing.”

“Playwriting needs the support of the theater community,” he said. “Theater is a live, temporal event.”

Despite the shift, Ehn said he aims to “maintain a close relationship with literary arts.”

“I am in awe of what literary arts does,” said Ehn. “We had a fantastic and nationally recognized program.”

Evenson also emphasized the importance of maintaining interdepartmental relations. 

“We’ve continued to welcome the playwrights into our classes,” he said. “We accept playwriting workshops as work towards a degree in literary arts.”

Ehn intends to “carry that legacy forward” by not making too many significant changes to the program.

“My personality and tastes will affect the mission of the program,” Ehn said. But any change is “not a correction, but evolution.

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