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Theatre Directing (MFA)

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  • Objectives
    This degree offers a professionally recognised training for theatre directors. It is the result of a unique collaboration between Birkbeck and the National Council for Drama Training, Arts Council England, Equity and the Theatrical Management Association. The degree has been planned in close co-operation with a wide range of distinguished theatre practitioners.
  • Entry requirements
    Entry requirements Either a minimum second-class honours degree from a UK university (or a directly comparable qualification from a non-UK university), together with some significant experience of professional or professional-level theatre; or an undergraduate- or postgraduate-level diploma from a recognised UK drama school (or a directly comparable qualification from a non-UK drama school), together with some significant experience of professional or professional-level theatre (normally three years); or extensive professional experience. Considerable importance will be attached to your ability to demonstrate commitment to professional theatre directing. If you are considered to be initially qualified, you will then be interviewed. If English is not your first language, an IELTS score of 7.5 or equivalent is
  • Academic Title
    Theatre Directing (MFA)
  • Course description
    Year 1 enables you to acquire an informed experience, knowledge and understanding of the work of the professional director with key collaborators such as actors, writers and designers. You will also be introduced to the current structural and financial realities of working as directors in the industry. This year includes a term’s fieldwork spent exploring the training of the professional actor through regular attendance at an appropriate drama school, and an academic module provided at Birkbeck.

    Year 2 enables you to develop your skills as a director through secondment to a theatre company or companies. During the secondment you are given a number of opportunities to work as a director with actors and other appropriate collaborators in the creation of theatre pieces. In the final term of the degree, students reassemble as a group to produce a final presentation that encapsulates their personal understanding of the role and function of a professional theatre director.

    One term is largely spent at a recognised drama school, learning how actors are trained for today’s theatre. Intensive units with leading professionals will concentrate on: the director’s relationship with the designer and the writer; a practical understanding of theatre management and other related issues.

    Much of the teaching will take place in drama schools and design studios and will include a full-time six-month placement in a professional theatre. In addition, there will be more conventional lectures and seminars.

    A combination of presentations by the student (with supporting material), a series of practical exercises, the student’s practice as a director within the degree, a written exercise and a portfolio submission.

    The Master of Fine Arts in Theatre Directing is intended to provide its students with the opportunity to acquire a practical training and education that can enable them to become professional theatre directors. It offers an integrated programme of professional practice and theoretical, critical and contextual study, allowing its students to acquire a comprehensive practice-based awareness of the work and functions of the professional theatre director under current conditions. The Course aims to further the creative and intellectual development of its students as independent creative artists by enabling them to

    -develop their directing abilities to a professionally acceptable level
    -understand and be able to communicate the nature of the professional practice of directing
    -develop themselves as autonomous, reflective and self-aware artists.

    The Course has been developed through close co-operation between Birkbeck College and the National Council for Drama Training, which is the body charged by the theatre industry with overseeing and safeguarding professional theatre training provision and standards for actors, stage managers and technicians in the UK. The Course, and NCDT’s new responsibility for director training, has been developed in collaboration with a large number of professional theatre directors and other experienced professional practitioners. The Course is intended to realise the industry’s long-maintained aspirations for a professionally acceptable directing course, as recommended by two major Gulbenkian Reports in 1989 and 1995. These Reports believed that such a course should

    -be at postgraduate level
    -derive from a collaboration between the university, drama school and professional theatre sectors; and
    -incorporate a meaningful amount of work for the student with professional actors in a professional context.
    The design of this Course incorporates these specific points and very many others contained within the two Reports.

    Special features of the Course include

    -a six-month industrial secondment to a professional theatre company or companies
    -specific production opportunities under professional conditions within that secondment
    -an extended mentoring relationship between the student and a professional director centring on that professional secondment
    -an opportunity for the student to establish a relationship with a professional drama school offering a course or courses accredited by NCDT
    -regular observation of the Course by a highly experienced group of professional directors under the umbrella of NCDT
    -participation in the teaching of the Course by a substantial number of experienced theatre practitioners.

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