MFA, Scenic Design



Program Specifics




Financial Aid

Frequently Asked Questions

Reuben Lucas Reuben Lucas
Visiting Assistant Professor of Scenic Design
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The M.F.A. in Scenic Design combines diverse opportunities for realized design work and a strong curriculum as the foundation for its training. Taught by working professionals, the program of study offers intensive instruction in both studio and classroom settings coupled with one-on-one tutorials with the students major professor. Students receive instruction in the use of the traditional and contemporary tools of visual communication as it relates to the theatre and allied fields. With a focus on drawing, painting, model building, and both hand drafting and CAD; importance is placed on script analysis and research and its interpretation in scenic design.

In an atmosphere of healthy collaboration, and effective communication, students participation in production work is equally balanced and enhanced with course work. To ensure a deep understanding of related fields, a student will also earn a minor in Costume Design, Lighting Design, Theatre Technology, Sound Design, or successfully complete an approved sequence of courses from at least three of these areas. The goal of the program is to prepare the student for participation in professional theatre and associated disciplines.


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 studentís 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

M.F.A. Scenic Design candidates are assigned at least five productions during their tenure in the program. Students receive actual design and production experience by being shop carpenter or property master for other designer’s shows, supervising undergraduate stagecraft students, assisting faculty designers, and by designing their own productions. One production in the third year will be designated as the M.F.A. thesis project which will be documented and then evaluated by the students Thesis Committee. The MFA is a sixty-hour curriculum including scenic design, allied skills and technology courses, dramatic literature, history and criticism courses.


The successful student will complete the MFA with a diverse portfolio of realized designs, highly developed research, collaborative and communication skills, a mature professional process and a rich understanding of the breath and depth of scenic design.


Scene Design I
Beginning level (Not for graduate credit) course in scene design. Basics include; research and its interpretation, script analysis, designer’s process and responsibilities, sketching and the presentation of ideas using the visual tools of communication. Also covered in the course are design drawings, color theory, perspective grids, and rendering.

Scene Design II
Intermediate level of scene design. Projects include; advanced design drawings, exercises in renderings of dramatic light, model building and Greek, Shakespeare, and wing and drop scenic designs.

Advanced Scene Design
Advanced level of scene design. Projects include; property research, design and presentation, manipulation of forced perspective, traditional box set, multi-set production, and musical theatre scenic designs.

Studies in Scenic Design
Continuation in advanced scene design with projects including; a non-realistic play, touring rock show, ballet or modern dance, and opera designs.

Course covers drawing and painting methods and materials useful to all theatre designers. Skills and techniques include; composition, color and media manipulation, and rendering of dramatic light.

History of Decor
Studies of architecture, ornamental motifs, and enrichments, including painting, sculpture, and furniture.

Scene Painting I
Beginning projects in the skills and techniques of scenic painting. Projects include; brick, wood grain, rough and cut stone, cement and marble. Included is an introduction to paint elevations.

Scene Painting II
Advanced projects in the skills and techniques of scene painting with a concentration on paint elevations and its interpretation. Projects include; molding, wallpaper, sepia photograph reproduction, drapery, stained glass, and foliage.

Production Design for Television and Film
Advanced projects in design, communication and presentation for the television and film industry. Projects include; sitcom, talk show, and game show scenic design. Additional work includes production design for an original film project.

Research and Collaboration for the Theatre
(Taught by Design and Technology Faculty)
This studio course builds and strengthen research, collaboration, communication and artistic/presentation skills. Student teams research, investigate, design and present innovative approaches to major projects, devised to challenge their individual and collective growth as collaborative artists and technologists.

Independent Studies Research work
Typical subjects might include a research paper/presentation on an historical or contemporary designer, theatrical trend, or pertinent historical subject. Advanced study and practice of art methods, styles, or theory.

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 $11,000) 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 the financial aid office.

Does the program offer assistantships?
Yes, all M.F.A. 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 admission 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.