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Indiana University Bloomington
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Master of Fine Arts, Lighting Design

Robert A. Shakespeare Robert A. Shakespeare
Head of Scenic Design
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Taught by working professionals, the rigorous sixty-hour program, focused on the process of artistically designing light for stage productions, offers a strong curriculum as the foundation for training in studio, classroom and theatre settings, coupled with one-on-one tutorials with the students major professor. Highly developed research, collaborative and communication skills, a mature professional process and a rich understanding of the breadth and depth of the lighting art are emphasized. With state of the art lighting resources available to every production, the program builds upon essential techniques, traditions and professional practices to establish an enduring approach to the lighting art, prepared to embrace new developments in technology and changing aesthetics with imagination and candor.

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, a student is exposed to the diverse applications of architectural, interior and museum lighting design, built upon this professional stage lighting process. The goal of MFA Lighting Design program is to foster a students artistic ability, intellectual capability and professional practice for participation in the lighting design profession.


Students are admitted into the program after proving competency as shown by their portfolio, statement of goals, and required onsite interview. Judgments of portfolio, writing quality, and professional potential are made by members of the Design and Technology Faculty Committee.


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, and 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

MFA 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 MFA thesis project which will be documented and then evaluated by the student's thesis committee. Lighting design students will receive training in and design traditional drama, musical theatre, contemporary dance, and will have opportunities to design 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 and project work in all genres of theatre including musical theatre and contemporary dance, as well as architectural lighting and lighting consulting. 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 MFA. programs are typically awarded an assistantship which includes a tuition waiver covering most fees, in addition to a stipend (currently a minimum of $13,400) 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 cost of the student premium is paid by the university. 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 production assignments can I expect in the program?
Students can expect at least 5 main season production 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 produces 8 fully-mounted stage productions each season in addition to a 4-show summer season, a modern dance concert, a new musical, and special events.

Will I work on the "Main Stage" or on the "student season"
We offer one season that we cosider a main stage, 8-production season, where 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, 4 Lighting Designers, and 4 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.