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Indiana University Bloomington
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Master of Fine Arts, Lighting Design

Allen Hahn Allen Hahn
Head of Lighting Design
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The M.F.A. program in Lighting Design is taught by working professionals and with the additional engagement of guest artists on a regular basis. The rigorous sixty-credit program, focuses on training the aspiring designer’s eye and building a robust set of technical and communication skills that together form the core of a flexible and creative approach to lighting design for the stage.

At the foundation of the training is a strong curriculum which mixes studio and classroom instruction with considerable practical experience in the context of realized productions in the department’s three state of the art theaters. The program offers in-depth mentorship in the context of production, a design practice that hews closely to professional standards, and a close-knit community of peers within the M.F.A. design and technology area.

Among the program’s core values are collaborative and communication skills, expansive aesthetic influence, mature professional process and a rich understanding of the breadth and depth of lighting and the visual language of culture past, present and future. The Department’s full production calendar coupled with its modest population of graduate students is designed to provide students with multiple opportunities to design fully-produced theater and dance productions over the course of their three years in the program. In addition, students are given multiple opportunities to serve in support roles for productions both within the department and at the University’s Jacobs School of Music in conjunction with their Opera and Ballet Theater program, which produces a full season of opera and ballet in the campus’s Musical Arts Center performance facility.

Beyond the work within the Department, faculty members are engaged professionally as lighting designers at the national and international levels and seek opportunities to involve gradate students in that work wherever possible. Additionally, faculty are engaged in research—also at the national and international level—in the development of theater for an era not bound by traditional ideas of performance. As theatrical storytelling develops in ways that extend beyond traditional theatrical spaces and eschew conventional passive modes of audience experience for more active and technologically-facilitated experience, entire performance genres are being re-imagined for new generations. Training young artists in the conception and execution of these new forms is a highly-valued emergent trend in theatrical pedagogy at which the Design and Technology area of the department seeks to stake its claim as a leader. This effort reflects a concerted effort to be part of fulfilling the university’s mandate as an important center of research and interdisciplinary collaboration.

To ensure a deep understanding of related specializations, a student will also earn a minor selected from Scenic Design, Costume Design, Theatre Technology, Sound Design or successfully complete an approved sequence of courses from at least three of these areas. Additionally, students are exposed to diverse ideas about the application of lighting design to architectural, interior and museum lighting design, built upon the professional stage lighting process and in affiliation with the Indiana University Center for Art and Design in Columbus. The goal of M.F.A. Lighting Design program is to foster a student’s artistic ability, intellectual capability and professional practice at the start of a lifelong career as a theater artist in the lighting design profession.


Students are admitted into the program after proving competency as shown by their portfolio, statement of goals, and required on-site interview. Applications are evaluated by members of the Design and Technology Faculty Committee for quality of portfolio, writing quality, and professional potential.


Each year students are invited to continue in the program after the faculty has assessed a student’s academic success, artistic growth and professional development. A 3.2 GPA or higher typically indicates academic success. The student’s faculty advisor provides an interim evaluation at the end of each fall semester. At the end of the first and the second year, students are required to present their portfolio with an oral interview to the Design and Technology Faculty Committee. At this time the committee will determine whether a student shall be advanced in the program. Weaknesses in the areas of academic success, artistic growth and professional development will be identified and may result in a probationary semester or dismissal from the program.

Program Specifics

M.F.A. Lighting Design students are assigned at least five main season lighting designs during their tenure in the program. One production in the third year will be designated as their M.F.A. thesis project, which will be documented extensively beyond what is required in the normal course of professional production, and then evaluated by the student's thesis committee. Lighting design students will receive training in design for traditional drama, musical theater, contemporary dance, and will have opportunities to design for each of these performance genres as well as for workshop productions of new plays and musicals. Production experience includes being trained as an assistant lighting designer and serving as a master electrician for other designers' shows. Leadership and organizational skills will be developed by teaching and supervising undergraduate lighting design students and, under the supervision of the department's Master Electrician, by managing lighting related areas, such as the lighting inventory and work call scheduling. Summer production and design opportunities are available with the Indiana Festival Theatre.


The successful student will complete the three year M.F.A. degree program with an extensive and diverse portfolio of realized designs in theater, musical theater and contemporary dance, and project work in all genres of performance including opera and architectural lighting. The graduate from Indiana University will be well prepared for a career in the professional or academic environment. Emphasized skills include; productive methods of research, effective collaborative and communication, a mature professional process, efficient design development, analysis and implementation, and an essential understanding of visual storytelling and orchestration. Graduates of the Lighting Design M.F.A. program are employed as resident and assistant designers, and lighting supervisors in companies such as the Washington National Opera, Chicago Shakespeare, Kalamazoo Civic Theatre and Available Light, as well as in academic settings including Michigan State University, Baylor University, and the University of Utah.

Financial Aid

Graduate students in the Design and Technology M.F.A. programs are typically awarded an assistantship which includes a tuition waiver covering most fees, in addition to a stipend (currently a minimum of $15,750) for working 20 hours a week in their area of expertise. Academic merit fellowships and research/creative activity travel grant opportunities are also available on a competitive basis. Student Academic Appointees and Fellowship Recipients are automatically enrolled in the student insurance plan and the university pays the cost of the student premium. The plan also includes dental, mental health and prescription drug benefits. Eligible students may also insure their dependents. Eligible dependents are the spouse/same-sex domestic partner (residing with the Insured student) and unmarried children under the age of 24.

Learn more about the Student Academic Appointee Health Insurance Plan

Additional benefits include a "green conscious" campus with free buses, free Adobe and Microsoft products, and a ubiquitous wireless internet.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many realized, fully-mounted lighting design assignments can I expect in the program?
Students can expect at least 5 main season lighting design assignments in their area of study over the course of their 3-year program.

How many shows do you do each season?
The Department of Theatre, Drama and Contemporary Dance produces 10 fully-mounted productions each season—six plays, two musicals, and two full-length dance recitals, in addition to a four show summer season and special events.

Will I work on the "Main Stage" or on the "student season"?
At the graduate level, there is only the “Main Stage” experience. In our 10-production season, graduate students serve as the primary designers (lighting, costumes, scenery), technical directors, scenic artists, and properties masters for all shows. See details about the season here.

Is the GRE required for admittance?
No, the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) is not required for the M.F.A. program.

How many students are in the program?
We have graduate students in all design & technology areas. There are 5 Scenic Designers, 5 Costume Designers, 5 Lighting Designers, 2 Costume Technology and 5 Theatre Technology (TD) students. When combined with M.F.A. Acting, Directing, and M.A. and Ph.D. graduates, the Department of Theatre and Drama has 55 graduate students and approximately 250 undergraduate majors.

What types of financial aid are available?
Financial aid resources are available from IU's Office of Financial Aid.

Does the program offer assistantships?
Yes, all MFA students accepted into the program are offered graduate assistantships which provide a full tuition waiver, plus a competitive stipend, for each of their three years of study. Some fees cannot be waived.

Are teaching opportunities available?
If teaching coincides with the students professional goals, opportunities exist to gain college-level teaching experience through both laboratory instruction and classroom lectures.

What styles of shows do you do?
The department takes pride in offering a wide range of theatrical genres to students and audiences. Two musicals are produced each season in combination with six plays which are presented in diverse styles.

How do I apply to the program?
You can find admissions information here.

What types of job placement services are offered?
Students are mentored into their respective professions by the major professor in their area (Lighting, Costumes, Scenery, or Technical Direction) with the purpose of meeting each individual student’s professional goals.

Where do the faculty instructors work professionally?
All Design and Technology faculty maintain active professional careers. Please see individual faculty profiles for more details.

What jobs do recent graduates have?
Recent graduates of our programs are employed all across the country. Please see specific program web pages for further information.