MFA in Contemporary Performance at Naropa

Naropa University in Boulder, CO. has just started an MFA in Contemporary Performance program. They are particularly interested in minority recruitment and finding appropriate minority candidates for the program.

The program is designed to support performance and teaching careers in a newly emerging art form which integrates theater, dance, music, and innovative ways of writing for performance. We particularly extend an invitation to mature applicants who have worked in theater, dance, musical theater, or any realm of performance, who have grounding in traditional techniques and have cultivated their own point of view and body of work. Of course, exceptional applicants coming directly from undergraduate programs are also welcome.

The training is ensemble based with a “lab” or experimental orientation. As the director charged with assembling the first year ensemble, I am approaching the process as if I were casting a company. This is a company devoted to innovative research as well as being able to deliver accomplished products ranging from reinvented classics to provocative original work which may be music or dance based. Using the company model, in the best avant-garde ensemble theater tradition, we are most interested in a very diverse group of individuals with a strong desire and capacity to work in ensemble. This commitment to diversity relates to all of the outer forms of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and class; but also to the inner areas of varying aesthetics, areas of expertise and accomplishment, and physical, emotional, and intellectual capacities and proclivities. Difference is what makes ensemble creation viable and on the edge.

Keep reading for more info, also check out or contact the director of the program, Wendell Beavers at

The MFA Theater: Contemporary Performance is a 48-credit degree program designed to train professional performers, creators and facilitators of performance. It is the first graduate training program that integrates contemporary physical theater, viewpoints theory and practice and traditional contemplative practices. Students are expected to work in a technically and aesthetically extended physical, vocal and emotional range, to create original work and to work with the traditional play form and under direction. Considerable production work, in a variety of scales and with particular emphasis on political and social relevance, will be ongoing, especially in the second year.The creation and cultivation of ensemble is at the core of the Contemporary Performance pedagogy in both training and production work. The program strives to support careers that integrate teaching and service with professional performance, directing and creation of new performance aesthetics.

The curriculum is based on the following techniques and influences:

psychophysical acting work of Jerzy Grotowski;
Viewpoints as performance technique and directing/choreographic method; vocal work integrating Roy Hart, world music traditions, traditional speech and bel canto approaches;
somatic physical techniques and contemporary dance/movement forms;
contemplative arts, meditation training, traditional Eastern arts;
techniques of generating text through ensemble playwriting and self-scripting.

Steve Wangh, core acting, holding a joint appointment at Naropa and Tisch School of the Arts, NYU. He is a director, teacher, and writer. As a writer he is most distinguished for his collaboration with Moises Kaufmann on The Laramie Project, The Three Lives of Oscar Wilde, and a new piece on Jonestown. He is the author of An Acrobat of the Heart: A physical Approach to Acting Inspired by the Work of Jerzy Grotowski. He is an internationally renowned director and teacher of psycho-physically based acting technique.

Jonathan Hart-Makwai, core voice, a senior teacher of the Roy Hart Vocal Technique, singer and musical composer for the theater.

Ethelyn Friend, core voice, Naropa faculty, actress and senior teacher of the Roy Hart Vocal Technique.

Wendell Beavers, Naropa faculty, Viewpoints and Movement/Dance/somatic technique; a founding faculty member and Director of NYU’s Experimental Theater Wing (ETW) until being appointed Director of Performing Arts at Naropa in 2003 and Chair of the MFA in Theater: Contemporary Performance.

Barbara Dilley, core Naropa faculty, Founder of dance program at Naropa, member of Merce Cunningham Co. and the Grand Union, originator of contemplative dance forms.

Lee Worley, core Naropa faculty, founding member. actress and director with Joseph Chaikin’s Open Theater,founder of the theater program at Naropa, teacher of contemplative forms and practices, Mudra Theater.

An incomplete list of associated artists include:

Mary Overlie -originator of the Viewpoints
Meredith Monk -composer, director
Lanny Harrison -actress
Anne Bogart -director of the SITI Company
Barney O’Hanlonactor -SITI Co.
Bondo -actor, SITI Co.
Peggy Pettitt -self scripting, actress, performer
Amy Russell-Lecoq technique
Thomas Prattki-Head Pedagogue, Lecoq program
Ami Dayan -director
Peter Goldfarb -actor

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