Directing (M.F.A. and Certificate)

Liz Diamond, Chair

Due to the current and inevitable future disruptions of COVID-19, neither Yale School of Drama nor Yale Repertory Theatre will produce a season of plays in 2020–2021. In service of our mission, the School of Drama is temporarily extending the M.F.A. and Certificate programs by one fully funded year of study. All sections pertaining to production work in this chapter of the bulletin refer to a typical production schedule and are not necessarily applicable for the 2020–2021 academic year.

The Directing department at Yale School of Drama admits a few talented individuals each year who have demonstrated the potential to become professional directors. They bring to the School of Drama a wide range of sensibilities, but they share some crucial qualities. They are generators of ideas and projects. They are not afraid to take risks, and they take responsibility for the philosophical and political implications of their work. They have a deep respect for the artists with whom they work. Above all, they have lively imaginations, an appetite for hard questions, and a robust curiosity about, and respect for, the world beyond their own cultural borders.

The Directing department’s entire aim is the education of the director as creative artist and collaborative leader. Our goal is to train directors whose future work will advance human understanding through the infinitely expressive interplay of image, action, and word unique to our art form. To that end, in course and production work, emphasis is placed on nurturing the director’s unique imagination, developing their ability to transform artistic ideas into embodied theatrical action, and strengthening their capacity for empathic, inclusive leadership. Our graduates go on to play significant roles in communities around the world as independent directors of theater, opera, television, and film; as founders of opera and theater companies; as artistic directors of theaters and community arts organizations; and as arts educators.

Our core courses are (a) the Directing Practicum, which engages the student in a practical exploration of theatrical composition—the relationship of form to content—through studio exercises and projects; (b) the Directing seminars, which teach practical skills in text analysis, directorial interpretation, and production preparation, using a broad range of dramatic writing, theory, and production histories as course texts; and (c) the Labs, where directors, playwrights, and actors develop their ability to collaborate creatively through exercises, scene work, and critical feedback. In addition, throughout the academic year, the Directing department hosts classes and workshops with visiting theater artists from around the world.

Because mastery in directing also requires a deep understanding of all the expressive modes that together embody theater, the Directing department’s curriculum integrates core courses of key collaborative disciplines into its programming. Directors are required to participate in the core acting courses in their first and second years. They take core courses in design, and in dramaturgy and theater management. A variety of courses in these and other disciplines may also be taken as electives.

Hands-on production work involving intensive collaboration with fellow students in all departments of Yale School of Drama is central to our training. Throughout their time at the School of Drama, directors practice their craft in diverse forums, ranging from scene work to full productions in various performance spaces. Through these varied production opportunities, directors develop their ability to respond to a great range of artistic and logistical challenges. Directors participate in collaboratively created projects in DRAM 50a, The Collaborative Process, and direct workshop stagings of new plays by first-year playwrights in the New Play Lab. Next, directors direct one Shakespeare Repertory Project and one new play by a peer playwright. In the culminating year of training, directors direct a full production of their own thesis project and direct a new play by a peer playwright in the Carlotta Festival. In addition, directors are assigned to serve as assistant directors on Yale Repertory Theatre or School of Drama productions.

All directing and assistant directing assignments are made by the chair of the Directing department (pending approval by the dean). Additional projects may be assigned to directors in all years of training, including new works, assistantships, and, on occasion, casting in School of Drama and Yale Rep productions.

Yale Cabaret

Directors are strongly encouraged to direct productions for Yale Cabaret and to participate in the work of the Cabaret in other capacities. Prior approval by the department chair is required and is normally granted, unless the director is in rehearsal for a School production, or is on departmental probation.

Plan of Study: Directing

Class of 2024

Required Sequence

Year one (2020–2021)
Course Subject
DRAM 3a/b Toward Anti-Racist Theater Practice
DRAM 6a/b Survey of Theater and Drama
DRAM 108b Fundamentals of Music Literacy
DRAM 110a/b First-Year Directing (Part 1)
DRAM 180a Rehearsal Practicum (Part 1)
DRAM 191b Managing the Production Process
DRAM 330a/b Directing Practicum
DRAM 390b Opera Practicum
DRAM 410a/b Topics in Directing
DRAM 503a Acting Technique
DRAM 563a Activated Analysis I: Reconnaissance of the Mind
Electives (subject to approval by chair of Directing)
Year two (2021–2022)
Course Subject
DRAM 50a The Collaborative Process
DRAM 51b New Play Lab
DRAM 103a Acting I
DRAM 110a/b First-Year Directing (Part 2)
DRAM 112b Scenic Design: Background and Practice
DRAM 113a Voice I
DRAM 147a Writing for the Ensemble
DRAM 153a New Games
DRAM 180a Rehearsal Practicum (Part 2)
DRAM 330a/b Directing Practicum
DRAM 380b Introduction to Shakespeare for the Director
DRAM 390b Opera Practicum
DRAM 403a Stage Combat and Intimacy I
DRAM 410a/b Topics in Directing
Electives (subject to approval by chair of Directing)
Assignments as director for School of Drama productions
Possible assignment as assistant director at Yale Repertory Theatre or Yale School of Drama
Year three (2022–2023)
Course Subject
DRAM 120a/b Second-Year Directing (Part 2)
DRAM 124b Introduction to Lighting Design
DRAM 203a Acting II: Shakespeare
DRAM 217a Langston Hughes Tutorial
DRAM 224b Introduction to Projection Design
DRAM 232a Advanced Discussions in Directing and Scenography
DRAM 248a Sound Designers and Directors Workshop I
DRAM 248b Sound Designers and Directors Workshop II
DRAM 290a/b YSD Show Proposal Tutorial
DRAM 330a/b Directing Practicum
DRAM 340b Directing Lab on Greek Tragedy
DRAM 350b The Choreographic Imagination
DRAM 390b Opera Practicum
DRAM 410a/b Topics in Directing
Electives (subject to approval by chair of Directing)
Assignments as director for School of Drama productions
Possible assignment as assistant director at Yale Repertory Theatre or Yale School of Drama
Year four (2023–2024)
Course Subject
DRAM 130a/b Third-Year Directing
DRAM 140a/b The Director’s Thesis
DRAM 207b Carlotta Tutorial
DRAM 360a/b Bridge to the Profession
DRAM 410a/b Topics in Directing (production discussions only)
Electives (subject to approval by chair of Directing)
Assignments as director for School of Drama productions

Class of 2023

Required Sequence

Year two (2020–2021)
Course Subject
DRAM 3a/b Toward Anti-Racist Theater Practice
DRAM 120a/b Second-Year Directing (Part 1)
DRAM 124b Introduction to Lighting Design
DRAM 210a Mingling Voices: Shakespeare Lab for Actors and Directors
DRAM 232a Advanced Discussions in Directing and Scenography
DRAM 310b Second- and Third-Year Directing Tutorials
DRAM 330a/b Directing Practicum
DRAM 390b Opera Practicum
DRAM 410a/b Topics in Directing
Electives (subject to approval by chair of Directing)
Year three (2022–2022)
Course Subject
DRAM 120a/b Second-Year Directing (Part 2)
DRAM 124b Introduction to Lighting Design
DRAM 203a Acting II: Shakespeare
DRAM 217a Langston Hughes Tutorial
DRAM 224b Introduction to Projection Design
DRAM 232a Advanced Discussions in Directing and Scenography
DRAM 248a Sound Designers and Directors Workshop I
DRAM 248b Sound Designers and Directors Workshop II
DRAM 290a/b YSD Show Proposal Tutorial
DRAM 330a/b Directing Practicum
DRAM 340b Directing Lab on Greek Tragedy
DRAM 350b The Choreographic Imagination
DRAM 390b Opera Practicum
DRAM 410a/b Topics in Directing
Electives (subject to approval by chair of Directing)
Assignments as director for School of Drama productions
Possible assignment as assistant director at Yale Repertory Theatre or Yale School of Drama
Year four (2022–2023)
Course Subject
DRAM 130a/b Third-Year Directing
DRAM 140a/b The Director’s Thesis
DRAM 207b Carlotta Tutorial
DRAM 360a/b Bridge to the Profession
DRAM 410a/b Topics in Directing (production discussions only)
Electives (subject to approval by chair of Directing)
Assignments as director for School of Drama productions

Class of 2022

Required Sequence

Year three (2020–2021)
Course Subject
DRAM 3a/b Toward Anti-Racist Theater Practice
DRAM 130a/b Third-Year Directing
DRAM 310a/b Second- and Third-Year Directing Tutorials
DRAM 330a/b Directing Practicum
DRAM 360a/b Bridge to the Profession (Part 1)
DRAM 390b Opera Practicum
DRAM 410a/b Topics in Directing
Electives (subject to approval by chair of Directing)
Year four (2021–2022)
Course Subject
DRAM 140a/b The Director’s Thesis
DRAM 207b Carlotta Tutorial
DRAM 360a/b Bridge to the Profession (Part 2)
DRAM 410a/b Topics in Directing (production discussions only)
Electives (subject to approval by chair of Directing)
Assignments as director for School of Drama productions

Elective Requirement

Directors are required to take elective courses as their schedules permit. Courses may be selected from other departments within Yale School of Drama, and elsewhere within the University, subject to approval by the chair of Directing.

Courses of Instruction

DRAM 3a/b, Toward Anti-Racist Theater Practice This course meets both within individual departments and across disciplines, with students and faculty members as fellow learners, using readings, viewings, and discussions in pursuit of these goals: to identify the roots and branches of racism and white supremacy in the structures and practices of theater-making in the United States, including at Yale School of Drama and Yale Repertory Theatre; to interrogate where the practices do harm and hinder; and to invest in the future by inviting students and faculty to imagine and uplift systems and cultures that do not depend upon or promote supremacy, to build a more just and equitable field.

DRAM 6a/b, Survey of Theater and Drama See description under Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism.

DRAM 8a/b, The Artist as Citizen This course offers theater artists and managers a forum for reading, writing, and discussion, which may be guided or self-directed. Each student has an opportunity to consider personal responsibility to collaborators, the audience, and the broader society, with specific reference to each artist’s personal history and identity. What ethical and practical frameworks should shape our art form and its professional sphere? How might they align with personal practice and with value systems of the wider world? With an individual’s culture of origin? Or with the culture(s) in which we choose to work? What are the obligations and privileges of national and/or global citizenship? How can love and joy be centered when the artist embraces the role of citizen? This course is offered in person in both fall and spring terms and may be taken no more than eight times during a student’s enrollment. James Bundy

[DRAM 50a, The Collaborative Process A three-week laboratory introduction to theatrical collaboration and creation designed for first-term actors, designers, directors, dramaturgs, and playwrights. How can theater artists bring the skills of their separate disciplines and the ideas of their individual imagination to bear in a creative rehearsal process that addresses all aspects of the art form? What strategies are most effective for proposing and responding, for testing and critiquing, for researching and selecting material? How does decision-making evolve in a horizontal devising model? Using sources from literature, painting, music, and other media as dramatic texts, students explore these and other questions as they make short compositions together in weekly lab sessions. Not offered in 2020–2021]

[DRAM 51b, New Play Lab See description under Playwriting. Not offered in 2020–2021]

[DRAM 103a, Acting I See description under Acting. Not offered in 2020–2021]

DRAM 108b, Fundamentals of Music Literacy See description under Sound Design.

DRAM 110a/b, First-Year Directing The course, subtitled “Foundations of the Art and Craft of Directing,” is designed to develop directorial skills in rigorous close reading of the text, associative imagining, and detailed production scoring. Through a series of analytical and creative encounters with a play, research, individual and group assignments, and scene work, directors develop methodologies for reading for events and action, thematic focus, production and performance style, and personalized theatricalism. In the spring, the focus expands to investigate the director’s role in bold contemporary interpretation and reimagining of the theatrical canon. The spring term also focuses on the role of the director as a leader of the acting ensemble and the director’s practical work with actors on activating the play’s central dramatic conflict. The course examines plays in the modern realist tradition, including the major works of Anton Chekhov, Lorraine Hansberry, Henrik Ibsen, Lynn Nottage, Tennessee Williams, August Wilson, and others. Yuri Kordonsky

DRAM 112b, Scenic Design: Background and Practice See description under Design.

[DRAM 113a, Voice I See description under Acting. Not offered in 2020–2021]

DRAM 120a/b, Second-Year Directing This course continues the development of the director’s analytical, interpretive, and imaginative abilities through an examination of the artistic and technical demands of verse drama. Emphasis is placed on the role of verse in determining action and shaping character and on the art of developing and articulating a directorial vision that will give new life to these texts. In the fall term 2020, in tandem with the Shakespeare Lab for Actors and Directors, students investigate the relation of script requirements to acting processes. In the spring term 2021, directorial approaches to Greek tragedy and related contemporary dramatic works are examined through weekly seminar discussions and presentations. Karin Coonrod, Carl Cofield

DRAM 124b, Introduction to Lighting Design See description under Design.

DRAM 130a/b, Third-Year Directing A practical course on directorial approaches to modern and contemporary nonnaturalistic drama. Emphasis is placed on the further development of interpretive skill through close reading and research, and stylistic orchestration of one’s reading of a play in production. Plays and landmark productions from the twentieth-century and contemporary avant-garde are the course texts. Students’ production strategies for these works, as well as for their current School of Drama productions, are presented and discussed in weekly sessions. In the spring term, the course also examines the work of influential directors of the modern and contemporary period. Liz Diamond

DRAM 140a/b, The Director’s Thesis The primary project of the third year in directing is the thesis, normally a full production of a major work of classical or contemporary dramatic literature, or a new or original work, proposed by the student director and approved by the dean in consultation with the department chair. The written component of the thesis is a production casebook documenting the student’s preparation, rehearsal, and postproduction evaluation of the thesis production. The class meets weekly as a group and in individual consultations with the instructor to be arranged throughout the year. In 2020–2021, due to the limitations on production imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Director’s Thesis will be undertaken only by those third-year directors who have elected not to undertake a fourth year of training. The thesis will be comprised of a capstone project designed in consultation with the department chair and thesis supervisor, and class sessions will be scheduled at the discretion of the thesis supervisor. Ethan Heard

[DRAM 147a, Writing for the Ensemble See description under Playwriting. Not offered in 2020–2021]

[DRAM 153a, New Games See description under Acting. Not offered in 2020–2021]

DRAM 180a, Rehearsal Practicum: Meeting the Play This course focuses on the director-actor collaboration in the early stages of rehearsal. In this lab, first-year actors and directors develop the ability to rigorously analyze the text of the play in order to discover its dramatic structure, given circumstances, and characters’ objectives, and finally to activate the central dramatic struggle of a scene or a play. The course examines in a practical way the communication tools and rehearsal strategies outside of the old-fashioned “director-actor hierarchy,” finding ways that most effectively engage the shared creative energies of all collaborators as they work to articulate, through bold and specific choices, the story unfolding on the page. Taught in conjunction with DRAM 563a. Yuri Kordonsky

DRAM 191b, Managing the Production Process See description under Theater Management.

[DRAM 203a, Acting II: Shakespeare See description under Acting. Not offered in 2020–2021]

[DRAM 207b, Carlotta Tutorial See description under Playwriting. Not offered in 2020–2021]

DRAM 210a, Mingling Voices: Shakespeare Lab for Actors and Directors The purpose of this course is to build confidence and ease between actors and directors in approaching Shakespeare. Student actors and directors learn together practical approaches to activating the actor’s voice in the manifestation of character through exercises that viscerally unleash the language. All voices are at the table: Shakespeare’s, the actor’s, and the director’s are activated in discovering the personal, political, and philosophical resonances in the texts. An underlying principle of this course is that when actors make Shakespeare’s language their own, anything can happen, and that a primary task of the director is to create the conditions that enable that process. Karin Coonrod

[DRAM 217a, Langston Hughes Tutorial See description under Playwriting. Not offered in 2020–2021]

DRAM 224b, Introduction to Projection Design See description under Design.

DRAM 232a, Advanced Discussions in Directing and Scenography This course seeks to cultivate and reinforce the creative relationship and professional-level processes between directors and designers. The class concentrates on in-depth analysis of twentieth- and twenty-first-century plays and operas, with emphasis on unearthing visual landscapes and mise en scène from the given texts and scores. The class is offered jointly with the Design department. Oana Botez, Liz Diamond, Riccardo Hernandez, and guests

[DRAM 248a, Sound Designers and Directors Workshop I See description under Sound Design. Not offered in 2020–2021]

[DRAM 248b, Sound Designers and Directors Workshop II See description under Sound Design. Not offered in 2020–2021]

[DRAM 290a/b, YSD Show Proposal Tutorial The YSD Show, produced in the director’s final year, and the director’s accompanying production casebook, comprise the Master’s Thesis in Directing. This tutorial course is designed to provide individual and group coaching to second-year directing students as they generate a list of potential thesis projects; workshop potential projects; and write and revise two compelling production proposals. In the drafting and presentation of these proposals, students are challenged to explicate why these projects are meaningful in this present cultural moment for the director, for fellow YSD students in training, and for the public. The course consists of group and individual meetings and involves substantial independent work on the part of the student director, beginning in the summer before the second year. The course culminates in the spring of the second year with the presentation by the student director of two proposals to Directing department faculty, the department chair, and the dean. Not offered in 2020–2021]

DRAM 310a/b, Second and Third-Year Directing Tutorials During academic year 2020–2021, while in-person production work is suspended, directors engage in independent study and preparation of their capstone project: the Director’s Thesis. In consultation with the instructor, third-year directors (fall and spring terms) design their own course of study, setting goals for themselves and developing their thesis project through independent research, readings, workshops, and other related investigations. Second-year directors (spring term only) begin reading and researching potential projects for their YSD shows. Ethan Heard

DRAM 330a/b, Directing Practicum As the core course of the Directing department, the Directing Practicum is designed to develop the student director’s artistic and practical ability to assume the complex of responsibilities required of the professional director. Over three years, the Directing Practicum explores topics in staging dramatic action and conflict, manipulating the elements of composition, and leading artistic collaborations on text-based plays and other forms of live performance. Work in the Directing Practicum includes but is not limited to scene study, exercises in composition, open rehearsals, practical study of prominent directors, and the creation of devised work. Lileana Blain-Cruz, Liz Diamond, Yuri Kordonsky, and guests

[DRAM 340b, Directing Lab on Greek Tragedy This is a practical course for directors and actors to explore how the contemporary theater artist approaches Greek tragedy. Issues of directorial interpretation, translation, design, and performance style of selected plays are addressed in a series of practical projects and scene work. Required of second-year directors and first-year actors. Open to students in Design, Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism, and Playwriting with permission of the instructor. Not offered in 2020–2021]

[DRAM 350b, The Choreographic Imagination This course exposes students to choreographic practices in order to expand the possibilities for what can be imagined and thus composed in theater. We explore means of generating movement, activating space, manipulating timing and dynamic, effectively composing individual and group activity, and juxtaposing movement and language. Practical investigations in class develop physical instincts and movement literacy. No prior experience with dance required—merely openness to learning in motion. Not offered in 2020–2021]

DRAM 360a/b, Bridge to the Profession This course, meeting for ten sessions per year in academic years 2020–2021 and 2021–2022, prepares directors for entry into a rapidly changing professional arena. Its primary aim in Year 1 is to help students identify the personal and artistic values and aspirations upon which to develop short- and long-term professional goals. Meetings with directors in theater, film, television, and education expose students to diverse models of career paths. Workshops offer students training in résumé and portfolio management, project development and fundraising, interviewing, networking, and personal finance. In Year 2, visits with artistic leaders, agents, union and foundation heads, and others are arranged in relation to the student’s goals. The building of a project to take into the field comprises the major portion of the course work in the second year, with readings and short exercises assigned throughout the course. Lileana Blain-Cruz

[DRAM 380b, Introduction to Shakespeare for the Director This course begins the directing student’s yearlong exploration of Shakespeare’s work by introducing the key tools of Shakespearean text analysis (scansion, rhetoric, sonics, linguistic and lyrical “height,” imagery, wit, and wordplay) and by guiding students as they prepare two proposals for their Shakespeare Repertory Project (SRP) to be directed in the second year. Assigned reading, analysis exercises, seminar discussion, and simulated rehearsals introduce students to the ideological and lyrical scope of Shakespeare’s plays, and to techniques for guiding actors toward fully embodied, textually specific, and innovative performances. Not offered in 2020–2021]

DRAM 390b, Opera Practicum An introductory course in opera direction, offered in collaboration with singers from the Yale School of Music’s M.F.A. program in opera. This laboratory course focuses on the director/singer dialogue, while exploring opera’s defining characteristic as an integration of the arts. By examining the structures and styles of operas from a range of eras, the class explores a variety of approaches to creating work fulfilling the primary demands of the music at once faithful to the spirit of the work and vitally alive for a contemporary audience. Weekly sessions feature practical scene work, research assignments, and open rehearsals. The core text is the repertoire chosen by Yale Opera for its annual projects. Guest artists from the field are regularly invited to provide insights and to respond to the work in class. Patrick Diamond, accompanist/coach Jill Brunelle, and guests

[DRAM 403a, Stage Combat I See description under Acting. Not offered in 2020–2021]

DRAM 410a/b, Topics in Directing This course gathers all student directors for a weekly discussion on topics curated collaboratively by faculty and students. Over the course of each term, sessions are dedicated to meetings and workshops with visiting artists; discussions of student, Yale Rep, and other significant productions; and roundtables on issues relevant to the field. This year, the course will host DRAM 3a/b, Toward Anti-Racist Theater Practice. Liz Diamond, Yuri Kordonsky, and guests

DRAM 420a, Making Stories Online In a world where traditional theaters are closed, how can theater makers tell stories in virtual space? Part theory and part practice, this course invites students to study existing methods and create new models of online collaboration, making, storytelling, and interacting with audiences. The course consists of a weekly seminar/laboratory, individual team tutorials, and self-scheduled afternoon/evening rehearsals. Students wear lots of hats throughout the term—devising, designing, writing, producing, and performing, often across traditional theater disciplines. An elective course, open to directors, designers, and first-year actors by permission of the instructor. Ethan Heard

DRAM 430b, JUSTtextsMOVING In this project-based course, students collaborate with instructors in the creation of an original work of text-based, movement-driven theater for the online space. Drawing on texts that span antiquity to the present and represent a wide range of historical, cultural, and geographic perspectives, students create short movement and spoken-word studies, guided by prompts from the instructors. These form the basis for the development of a devised work that traces themes of justice through time, to be shared with members of the Yale community at the end of the term. This course is a practical learning opportunity for students interested in devising works from nondramatic texts. An appetite for moving, performing, and collaborative devising is required. Prior experience as a dancer, actor, devisor is welcome but not required. The course is inclusive and open to all physical abilities. Offered as an elective to students from YSD and undergraduates by permission of the instructors. Emily Coates, Karin Coonrod

DRAM 503a, Acting Technique See description under Acting.

DRAM 563a, Activated Analysis I: Reconnaissance of the Mind See description under Acting.