Unique Shakespeare Master’s Program at Mary Baldwin Now Official

December 5, 2000

Mary Baldwin University’s faculty voted Friday to approve the curriculum for the Master of Letters (M.Litt.) in Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature in Performance, which will be offered by the college in partnership with Shenandoah Shakespeare. Some courses will be available as early as the fall of 2001. At the same time, the faculty voted to approve the curriculum for a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree, which will be implemented subsequently to the M.Litt. Completion of the M.Litt. will be a prerequisite for admission into the MFA program. Recruitment of students for the M.Litt. program will begin soon.

Mary Baldwin’s M.Litt. curriculum is unique in the world. No other degree program combines the academic study of Shakespeare and Renaissance theatre with the practical aspects of teaching, acting in, and directing plays of that period. Also unique is Mary Baldwin University’s partnership with Shenandoah Shakespeare, whose Blackfriars Playhouse is currently under construction in Staunton just a few blocks from Mary Baldwin’s campus.

Dr. Frank Southerington, recently appointed director of the M.Litt./MFA Program, and a faculty committee at Mary Baldwin University have been working for nearly a year on the development of the master’s program. Dr. Ralph Cohen, executive director of Shenandoah Shakespeare and professor of English at James Madison University, serves on the committee and is involved in the planning process as a consultant. Shenandoah Shakespeare has been instrumental in the concept development and curriculum planning and will continue to work in partnership with Mary Baldwin to implement the program.

Once fully implemented, the M.Litt. Program will require a full-time student 15-18 months to complete. It will employ a modular course format, with intensive courses that incorporate visiting scholars, actors, and directors. There are three tracks within the program: teaching, directing, and acting.

Recently, the Jessie Ball duPont Fund awarded Mary Baldwin a $200,000, two-year grant to support the planning and pilot testing of courses for the M.Litt./MFA Program.

Mary Baldwin University is a multi-faceted liberal arts college with three residential programs for women–the traditional program, the Program for the Exceptionally Gifted, and the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership–as well as the coeducational, non-residential Baldwin Online and Adult Programs and 2 master’s level programs. Mary Baldwin offers the B.A. and/or the B.S. in 32 majors and the M.A.T. degree with K-8 emphasis. Starting in 2001-02, Mary Baldwin will offer the M.Litt. in Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature in Performance. The oldest women’s college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., Mary Baldwin was also the first women’s college to be granted a circle of the national leadership honor society Omicron Delta Kappa. It is one of only 255 colleges and universities to house a chapter of the prestigious Phi Beta Kappa honor society.

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