MFA in Theatre: Scene Design
The Graduate Program in Scene Design at Illinois State University is a three-year program dedicated to the development of the individual student to reach their professional goals within the field of theatrical scene design. Graduates of the program work successfully in regional, commercial and university theatres nationwide.
A plan of study for graduate scene design candidates will be tailored to your individual needs. You will work with your graduate committee to choose courses that may include advanced studies in stage design, computer graphics, rendering techniques, or scene painting, along with specialized seminars in Theatre architecture and technology. We invite you to name another area of technical design as a secondary emphasis and complete courses in that specialty. Further enrichment of your design skills are available through course work in the School of Art and in the Industrial Technology Department.
More detailed information on program requirements and course descriptions can be found in the Graduate Catalog.
Scene Design candidates will be assigned design and/or production assignments in the School of Theatre production program each semester. It is our goal to aid you in developing a strong portfolio of realized production designs while in residence at Illinois State and you can expect to design a minimum of four realized fully supported productions here. Through these assignments you will be given the opportunity to work in a variety of styles and periods. There are also two different theatre spaces for you to work in. You also have the opportunity to produce design or work as an assistant in your secondary design emphasis.
Scene Design candidates often collaborate with working faculty designers as their assistants either at ISU or in their professional work around the country. Our design faculty will work closely with your to obtain appropriate placements in the field during the summer. One such opportunity is our very own Illinois Shakespeare Festival. Recent graduate candidates have worked at the festival as assistants to guest USA designers, paint charge artists, prop artisans and carpenters.
Graduate students may also seek out internship possibilities in professional theatres and shops nationwide. Past internships have been granted for The Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, The Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, The Manhattan Theatre Club, Santa Fe Opera, Disney World, and various Chicago theatres such as the Goodman and Steppenwolf. Students are also supported in the appropriate pursuit of other professional design opportunities while studying at Illinois State.
The Master of Fine Arts is a terminal degree and is a requirement for most university teaching positions. Therefore M.F.A. students at Illinois State University receive training and gain experience as classroom teachers at the college/university level. Scene Design candidates will be assigned to one teaching assignment as part of their individual program. Each student will supervise laboratory sessions in either the prop or scene shop as well. Professional practice credit is given for teaching assignments.
M.F.A. scene design students are regularly awarded Graduate Assistantships with a full tuition waiver and a monthly stipend to aid them in defraying a portion of their educational expenses. Graduate assistantships usually require a minimum twenty-hour work week commitment to the School, which may include work in the scene or prop shop and supervision of undergraduate laboratory classes. Information about additional financial aid is available through the Financial Aid Office.
Illinois State University admits a limited number of graduate candidates to the scene design program every year. The School of Theatreand Dance seeks candidates with strong aesthetic sensibilities and a disciplined desire to succeed as an artist/teacher.
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 Scene 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 John C. Stark, Head of the Graduate Scene Design Program.
Success for Recent Graduates
Graduates of the scene design program at Illinois State University have found successful careers in both professional and academic venues. Recent graduates work as freelance scene designers, technical directors, and props artisans in New York, Boston, Chicago, St. Louis, and throughout the country. They also teach at institutions of higher learning, such as The University of Northern Colorado, the State University of New York/Oswego, Coastal Carolina University, St. Mary's College, Smith College and Chadron State College. For more information about School of Theatre and Dance alumni, visit our alumni page.