An MFA Director’s journey begins…

Every year, Indiana University’s Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance accepts one, and just one, new Directing MFA student. For the first time ever, we invite you to embark on a journey with the most recent addition to our program, as he shares his three-year adventure at IU.

But first, a few words about our current MFA directors. In the past two years, we have been joined by Cincinnati native Katie Horwitz, now in her final year, and Liam Castellan, from Rose Valley, PA, who is starting his second year of the program.

Horwitz is most well-known at IU for her brilliant re-imagining of Jean Anouilh’s Antigone in the 2015-16 Season. She will be bringing that same innovative spirit to John Webster’s macabre tragedy, The Duchess of Malfi, coming to the Wells-Metz in February, 2017. Horwitz also appeared on stage in this past summer’s professional repertory theatre productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Sense and Sensibility.

Castellan’s first main stage production, opening December 2nd, also in the Wells-Metz, is The Exonerated by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen. It tells the stories of six average Americans who are wrongly accused of murder and put on death row. This production will also feature recently arrived Associate Professor of Acting and Directing, Ansley Valentine.

This year, we welcome first-year MFA directing candidate James Nelson, who hails from Kansas City, MO, and has spent the last four years as a freelance director in the San Francisco Bay Area.

We invite you to follow James for an ambitious, well, blog-umentary of his next three years as an MFA Director. Stay tuned as he shares his experiences and introduces you to the world of theatre and all of its players from the aspiring director’s chair.

To start you off, we want to share the article that inspired this series, and that will allow you to go back in time and begin the journey in the spring of 2015, before finally being accepted to one of his top picks…when James was, in his own words, “recovering from a six-month failed grad school campaign.”

We give you…the first installment of The J-Files:

Jfiles6Applying to MFA Directing Programs? Seven Things I Wish I’d Known

From Theatre Bay Area – Friday, April 24, 2015
By James Nelson

Ever since I finished my undergraduate degree and began working as a theatre director, I’ve set my sights on getting an MFA. For years, I’ve explored websites and sized up programs, striving to become a strong enough artist to land one of one of the few coveted spots. MFA Directing programs typically accept only one or two students a year—if any—so the competition is intense. Late last year, I decided that I was finally ready to give it a go. I selected a dozen programs, got my transcripts and letters of recommendation in order, and began the application process.

Ah, how young and innocent I was back then.

It’s now five months later, the smoke has cleared, and I wish that I could travel back in time and have a few words with that naive version of myself. “Oh, you poor sap,” I would tell him. “You still have stars in your eyes and a small amount of money in your bank account. Let me tell you what you’re getting yourself into.”

“I don’t have much time to listen to you,” he would reply. “I’ve got a lot of statements of purpose to write. Can you keep it to, let’s say, seven things? The seven things you wish you had known before applying to grad school?”

“Yes. Yes I can…”

read more of James’s sage, specific and sometimes hilarious advice to his younger self…

And stay tuned to the 7th & Jordan Blog for more episodes of the J-Files!


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About IU Theatre Department

Welcome to the 7th & Jordan blog. This blog is a peak behind the curtain at the Indiana University Theatre Department productions and student work.
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