The Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program curriculum is designed in a non-traditional format with a major emphasis on collaboration. This involves both team teaching by the core faculty and extensive writing collaborations among the students. At the heart of the program are the writing labs, which are supported by ongoing seminars in all of the key aspects of musical theatre history and world theatre, with a special focus on American musical theatre in the twentieth century.
Most class time is devoted to these labs, led by the core faculty with special sections taught by master teachers and guest artists. The labs focus heavily on craft; collaboration and communication between artists of different disciplines; storytelling in music, lyrics, and book; and meaningful content. In the first year, students are divided into frequently rotating teams consisting of a composer and a bookwriter/lyricist. Together they conceive, write, and present writing projects for peers and teachers.
Concurrently, in ongoing seminars students learn how creators of theatre and music theatre in the twentieth century and throughout history have treated the same musical-dramatic issues they are grappling with in the writing labs.
During the course of the program, students learn both how to give constructive criticism and how to incorporate feedback that is useful both to them as individuals and to their collaborative teams in the rewriting of their work. Principles of constructive criticism are discussed from the outset and used after each presentation in discussions by fellow students, core faculty, and master teachers.
Besides the opportunity to see and hear what they have written, the collaborative teams experience firsthand the continuous rewriting process that takes place during the rehearsal of a work-in-progress.
Because musical theatre is by definition a highly collaborative art form, the role of directors and actors is key to the creation and revision processes. Throughout the two years, students are continuously exposed to the performance process. All major writing assignments are performed in class by the students themselves, as well as by students in Undergraduate Drama programs at Tisch. Before the thesis musicals, selected shorter projects from earlier phases are rehearsed, performed, revised, and re-performed by actors so students can develop the skills necessary to determine how well their dramatic intentions are being communicated to an audience.
The Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program is coordinated with theatrical life in New York. Taking advantage of the great diversity of the arts in New York, students attend operas, musicals, and plays of all kinds, plus music and dance concerts - in rehearsal, preview, and after the opening. These performances are discussed afterward in relation to classroom themes.