MFA in Theatre: Lighting Design
Welcome to a World of Change. Economic change and social upheaval on a global scale couple with rapid and radical advances in technology to create an environment of incredible transition. As practitioners of lighting design we must choose to fear the change or to embrace it, to ignore the inherent opportunities or to seize them.
To train thinkers, innovators and designers who positively impact our world, we are focused on the role of the lighting designer as a visual storyteller and specifically on the convergence of theatrical lighting design, architectural lighting design, and media design. While each of the three areas can be a profession itself, we are fostering designers centered on the overlap. These are designers who use theatrical techniques to transform built environments. These are designers who use architectural techniques to bring unprecedented realism to the stage. These are designers who deftly integrate emerging digital media and lighting technologies to increase the emotional impact of live stories on stage.
These are convergence lighting designers.
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The Graduate Lighting Design Program at Illinois State University is a three-year professional training program which combines rigorous course work with consistent opportunities for realized designs. The plan of study for graduate lighting design candidates is tailored to meet the needs of the individual student. Students participate in a graduate lighting design seminar every fall semester with rotating topics, including theatrical performance, architecture, digital media, environment transformation, opera and dance. MFA lighting design students also receive training in computer drafting, rendering (both in traditional media and digital imaging), technology, research and portfolio development. Non-design courses may include history, theory and director/designer collaboration. Students are also encouraged to take advanced coursework in scenic, costume and sound design.
More detailed information on program requirements and course descriptions can be found in the Graduate Catalog.
A major goal for the program is to develop a strong portfolio of realized production designs and project work related to the courses in the plan of study. Design assignments are made every semester, with students given the opportunity to work in different styles and periods. Multiple venues provide proscenium, thrust and arena configurations. The graduate lighting design student can expect to design two shows per year, as well as work as a master electrician or assistant lighting designer on other productions. Students also complete realized environment transformation design work as part of their lighting coursework. Graduate students may also assist faculty on School of Theatre and Dance productions or outside professional projects.
To apply to the MFA program, first fill out 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. Please review program-specific admission requirements and the application process on our graduate program pages or in the Graduate Catalog.
Prospective students must meet with head of the Graduate Design program or another designated representative for an interview before entrance will be granted. Interviews are regularly held at U/RTA sites in Chicago and New York or on the Illinois State University campus.
Specific questions may be addressed to David Warfel, Professor of Lighting Design.
The Illinois Shakespeare Festival offers MFA students the opportunity to assist accomplished professional designers from around the country. Graduate students may also seek out internship possibilities in professional theatres and shops nationwide. Students are encouraged to pursue professional work during the summers to gain new insights and build networks.
Illinois State University admits a limited number of graduate students to the lighting design program every year. The School of Theatre and Dance seeks candidates with strong artistic ability, disciplined intellectual drive, and a desire to work in a collaborative atmosphere.
Success for Recent Graduates
Recent graduates of the design program at Illinois State University hold positions with Arena Stage, Barbizon Lighting, the State University of New York/Oswego and Coastal Carolina University. With more than a decade of teaching in graduate programs, Professor Warfel has a growing network of former students working in theatre, spectacle, corporate performance, architecture and museums across the country. For more information about School of Theatre and Dance graduates visit our alumni page.