Beginning in the 2018–2019 academic year, Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, will provide scholarship funds to cover the full cost of tuition for all returning and future students enrolled in the Brown/Trinity Rep master of fine arts programs in acting and directing.
The mission of the move is to diversify the pool of actors and directors in training by encouraging artists from low-income backgrounds to apply for the MFA programs. The ultimate goal, says Patricia Ybarra, chair of Brown’s theatre arts and performance studies department, is to encourage innovation and experimentation in art-making and help redefine the kinds of stories we see onstage.
“In the theatre world, diversity is often hampered by the inability of low-income artists and artists of color to afford to be creators,” said Ybarra in an online statement. “As one of the premier MFA programs in the country, we produce future leaders and innovators in the field. By expanding access to our program, we expand access to theatre world more broadly — ultimately redefining in really important ways whose stories are being told and by whom.”
The master’s programs, established in 2002 in partnership with Rhode Island's Trinity Rep theatre, provide students with three years of professional training and education. Students in each program work directly with Brown faculty and Trinity Rep professionals, and study and collaborate with students in Brown’s MFA program in playwriting and doctoral students in Brown’s Department of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies.
In addition to full tuition support, MFA acting students are eligible for stipend support to cover living expenses. Students earning an MFA in directing will be offered teaching assistant and proctor positions, through which they will receive the same level of stipend support as students in Brown’s two other MFA programs, playwriting and literary arts.
“You cannot take risks and choose your own path when hampered by debt, and I am hopeful that we will see riskier and more innovative work as a result of this change,” said Ybarra.