Literatures, Languages & Cultures

Meet our graduates: JD Stewart

Dramatist and podcaster JD Stewart completed our MSc in Playwriting in 2020 and was one of the National Library of Scotland’s 10 Fresh Ink writers of 2021.

After teaching English in South Korea, JD Stewart gained an MFA in Dramatic Writing from Tisch School of the Arts, New York University before starting an MSc in Playwriting at the University of Edinburgh in 2019.

Despite graduating during the COVID-19 pandemic, and taking up work outside the theatre industry, he has continued to submit to various prizes and organisations, secure commissions, and debut new writing. He also co-hosts a history podcast with writer friend, Frazer Flintham, based on the UK’s first LGBTQ+ march in 1970.

JD has worked with 1623 theatre company on the monologue ‘Here/There’, a response to Mercutio from Romeo & Juliet. His play ‘Daniel Getting Married’ was included in Òran Mór’s acclaimed A Play, A Pie and A Pint season earlier this year, debuting in Glasgow and touring to Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh in April.

He has also written ‘Please Answer Your Phone’ for the National Library of Scotland (NLS), a pandemic-inspired play described by Nadine Aisha Jassat of the Library’s Fresh Ink programme as “a powerful, skilful piece... which brought me everything… [and] will stay with me for a long time”.

Photo of JD Stewart with a painted face against a black background
JD Stewart, Playwriting MSc, 2020. Photo © Jake Lee Smith.

Finding your voice as a writer

“The Playwriting programme at the University was an incredible experience and it put me on the path I am on today”, says JD, speaking about the many things he has achieved in just under two years.

“The programme is an excellent opportunity to meet people in the Scottish theatre industry and establish a place for yourself, along with finding your voice as a writer – Nicola [McCartney, the Programme Director] is brilliant at making this happen.”

“Not only is Nicola’s teaching informative, encouraging and helpful it also assisted in creating a supportive and strong network of writers which I feel honoured to be a part of.”

“The mixture of practical classes and academic study assisted in building my playwriting skills and I frequently review notes made while in class to assist me with my current work.”

The main thing I loved about the programme was having the opportunity to workshop the plays we wrote with professional actors and directors. This is something which as a new playwright on the scene is incredibly valuable. To be in an environment where you can take risks and see what works and what doesn’t only assists in helping build your craft. It is great.

JD Stewart, Playwriting MSc graduate

What does success look like?

Asked what advice he would give someone wanting to study, and or to have a career in, this area, JD says “Work on understanding what success looks like to you.”

“The entertainment industry is built on accolades the world can see: Oscars, BAFTAs, Grammys; these are wonderful things, and there will be a lot of people who ask when you are going to get them - purely because these are things which are ‘seen’ by the world.”

“However, success in this industry comes in many forms: getting a play staged, working with a director you admire, having a theatre read and engage with your work. These things are just as important and are all successes.”

“If you want that Oscar, go out and get it, but don’t downplay everything else - and be kind. To others and yourself.”

Are you interested in our MSc in Playwriting?

Our taught masters programme is a highly practical and immersive introduction to the theatre scene in Edinburgh, Scotland and internationally. It focuses on the craft of writing for performance, and on how a script plays out in real space and time in front of an audience. You’ll be assessed through a combination of portfolio work, essays and your final dissertation - a 100 minute, full-length play. This will be written with the advice of the Programme Director - a professional playwright - and developed through intensive workshops and readings with a professional director and actors.

Applications for 2022 entry are now open.

Find out more and apply for our Playwriting MSc on the University of Edinburgh Degree Finder

Related links

Find out more about JD's Fresh Ink commission on the NLS website [external]

Listen to the The One Fifty Marchers podcast [external]