MFA in Theatre: Directing
The Graduate Directing Program at Illinois State University offers three years of intensive study in the artistry and craft of the theatre director. The program features a broad-based curriculum, offers extensive production experience, and affords opportunities for internships with professional companies, including the Illinois Shakespeare Festival.
The School of Theatre and Dance trains directors to be creative artists and collaborative leaders. To that end, in coursework and in production work, the director's focus is two-fold:
- Developing, exploring, and challenging the artistic impulse through the study of drama theory, history, and criticism.
- Dealing with the practical aspects of production through thorough text analysis, research, and effective rehearsal techniques.
Over the course of three years, directors practice their craft in diverse forums, ranging from scene work in the classroom to full productions in a variety of performance spaces.
More detailed information on program requirements and course descriptions can be found in the Graduate Catalog.
M.F.A. Directing students take on a variety of production responsibilities each year. First-year students in the fall semester direct a one-act play in an intimate space with the emphasis placed on the actor-director collaboration. In the second semester, the students direct a realistically-based full-length play with an emphasis on story-telling as well as the actor-director collaboration. All first-year productions receive only minimal technical support.
In the fall semester of the second year, students direct two exploratory productions utilizing two distinct found spaces and the emphasis expands to include aesthetic concerns. The second semester production is produced in the Westhoff Experimental Theatre, which is configured in a thrust format, and receives design and technical support. Either this or the third-year production must be a Shakespeare or “language” play.
In the third year, students direct a full-length production in either the Center for Performing Arts or the Westhoff Experimental Theatre. This production receives full design and technical support.
Third-year M.F.A. students in Directing are required to complete a one-semester internship with a professional urban or regional theatre. Former students have worked at such prestigious theatres as the Guthrie Theatre, Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, the Manhattan Theatre Club, and such Chicago theatres as the Goodman, Victory Gardens, and Steppenwolf.
M.F.A. Directing students may also apply to intern with the Illinois Shakespeare Festival during the summer, working as assistants for professional directors from across the country.
M.F.A. students at Illinois State University receive training and gain experience in teaching at the college/university level. Graduate students in Directing are required to engage in supervised instructional experiences, including teaching a beginning undergraduate directing class. M.F.A. Directing students may also teach a variety of other courses and participate in the educational outreach program of the Illinois Shakespeare Festival.
The Graduate Directing Program at Illinois State University accepts two candidates each year who have demonstrated the potential to become professional directors. Successful candidates are passionate about their work, have a deep respect for text and storytelling, and are curious about the world around them.
Preference is given to mature individuals with well-developed personal aesthetics and demonstrated leadership abilities. Candidates who have recently matriculated from an undergraduate program are encouraged to gain additional professional experience before applying.
Application to Illinois State University may be made on-line using the Graduate Admission Application. Also, at the Graduate School web site, you will find information about required transcripts and fees that should accompany your application.
Prospective students must also apply to the School of Theatre and Dance for admission to the M.F.A. Directing Program. This can be done directly or through U/RTA. Candidates are asked to submit a resume, letter of intent, and statement of purpose, addressing why they make theater, professional and artistic goals, and appropriateness of training at this time. These written materials should be submitted, no later than January 1, directly to:
School of Theatre and Dance,
Campus Box 5700,
Normal, IL 61790-5700
Specific questions may be directed to Professor Don LaCasse, Head of the Directing Program.
Success for M.F.A. Directing Alumni
Graduates from the directing program at Illinois State University work in a wide range of academic and professional positions. M.F.A. directing alumni include:
- Gary Griffin – Associate Artistic Director of the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre and director of The Color Purple on Broadway.
- Nancy Robillard – New York and regional theatre director.
- Stephen Alexander – Producing Artistic Director of the Painted Maniac Theatre in Portland, Oregon, and freelance director/composer/lyricist.
- Mace Archer – Chair of the Theatre Department at Randolph College and former Artistic Director of Venture Theatre in Bozeman, Montana.
- Eric Bramlett – Creative Arts Director at Community Christian Church in Naperville, Illinois.
- Steve Young – Assistant Professor at Texas Woman’s University and freelance director/writer/actor.
- Tricia McDermott – Artistic Director of Airmid Theatre Company in New York City.
- Deb Alley – former head of the M.F.A. Directing Program at Illinois State University and former Artistic Director of the Illinois Shakespeare Festival.
- Bill Osetek – Artistic Director at Drury Lane Theatre-Oakbrook in Chicago, Illinois.
- Rachel Chaves – Assistant Professor at Young Harris College and founder of Brasstown Repertory Theatre Company in Hiawassee, Georgia.
- Bill Jenkins – Chair of the Theatre Department at Ball State University and freelance director.
- Peter Sullivan – Artistic Director at Boho Theatre in Chicago, Illinois, and freelance director.
- Rebekah Scallet – Producing Artistic Director at the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre.
For more information about School of Theatre and Dance alumni please visit our Alumni page.