MFA Theater performance

Theater: Contemporary Performance

"Being an artist is not an occupation; it is your life,
your whole being."
—Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

The Master of Fine Arts in Theater: Contemporary Performance is Naropa University’s interdisciplinary studio-based performance degree.

This rigorous laboratory program has been created by a faculty of first-generation innovators to encourage the next generation of pioneers in performance.

Rooted in performance techniques that emphasize the body, mind and voice as source, our training explores the structures that underpin contemporary performance. 

Naropa’s Contemporary Performance MFA is the first training program of its kind to explore the intersections of performance-making with contemplative arts.

Creating vital and relevant new work is only part of the equation; the engaged artist must also be able to speak and write about their work. We value practice as research and dissemination; allowing students to actively test pedagogical and methodological propositions. 

Theater and performance are multidisciplinary arts, and we are invested in building a multidisciplinary cohort. Whether your background is in acting, directing, design/visual arts, writing, performance theory, dance/movement, music, film/media, or performance art, you will engage in intensive ensemble-based training using your body, mind, and voice to create work that is unique in form and content.

We seek students from the United States and all corners of the world to create a truly diverse international cohort where collaboration is informed by intercultural and multilingual dialogue.

Contemporary Performance MFA Degree Highlights

  • Develop and create original work as part of a closely connected ensemble, while at the same time being supported in your individual journey of discovery in the best traditions of student-centered teaching and learning.
  • Complete a thesis project related to production, service learning, activism/social justice, teaching, or research.
  • Immerse yourself in intensive studio training and rehearsals.
  • Work with nationally and internationally respected faculty and guest artists

Discover More

  • Guest Artist Residencies

    Learn from visiting guest artists, brought in annually to inspire and collaborate with Naropa Theater students. See who we've worked with.



Program Learning Outcomes

  • Contemplative Training:
    Students relate and appraise their commitment to contemplative principles as performers in contemplative arts meditation and training.
  • Performance-Making:
    Students experiment and demonstrate use of diverse performance-making techniques and approaches to creative arts enquiry.
  • Originate Texts for Performance and Scholarship:
    Students compose and produce written works for performance and scholarship that reflect awareness of alternative modes of generating text.
  • Artist as Social and Cultural Entrepreneur:
    Students formulate, design and set off vocational pathways as social and cultural entrepreneurs in the arts.
  • Global Engagement, Social Justice, Sustainability & Intercultural Performance:
    Students integrate global engagement, sustainability, social justice, and intercultural performance to theatrical productions.


Credits Required


The Master of Fine Arts program in Theater: Contemporary Performance is a two-year twelve-student cohort. At any given time, there are twenty-four students in residence, including both cohorts.

Degree Requirements


Caitlyn Tella

Student Highlight

“Naropa is giving me an opportunity to uncover my own artistic process under the mentorship of amazingly loving and brilliant artists and teachers. The essence of contemplative practice and ensemble support that are the foundation of my study at Naropa will serve my artistic path and career. I can trust my instincts, breathe, and let my heart lead the way.”

— Caitlyn Tella
MFA '16

More Student / Alumni Voices
Hands holding

Faculty Spotlight

“Naropa is a place where someone can come to reinvent themselves in a different way because it is also reinvestigating what it is to learn, what it is to teach; there is a consciousness about it. There is a continual education environment. In that sense, I think it is placing itself outside of what is happening at a lot of universities in the United States, which is they are playing this school game in which students come for a degree and sometimes that is all they’re left with; not necessarily a way of learning. Once you learn, I say part of learning is being a continual learner. I think that Naropa is a place that gives you those tools. Not where you are just learning, but reinvestigating and reinventing what you have learned continually.”

— Lorenzo Gonzalez, Chair and Associate Professor
MFA Performance Program

All Faculty

Naropa is a founding member of the UNESCO-ITI Network for Performing Arts in Higher Education. As the only affiliated graduate program in the US, we’re leading the way in global engagement through the arts.