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M.F.A. in Theatre

Perform. Grow. Inspire.
Direct your future.
The theatre has become your home and you’re ready to take the next step. Earning an M.F.A. in Theatre at Penn State will build upon what you have learned and help you to grow into the artist you dream of becoming. Our world-class faculty is ready to help you advance your career and discover your artistic voice with highly specialized instruction tailored to your goals. Our M.F.A. degree includes programs in theatre design and technology, directing for musical theatre, and music directing for musical theatre.
Earn an M.F.A. in Theatre at Penn State

The next chapter of your theatre story is waiting to be written. Stay in the spotlight and take your career to another level.

Our M.F.A in Theatre program has proven to be an incubator for elite theatre talent. By offering a wide range of degree concentrations, Penn State is a place where you will have room to grow as an artist while being part of one of the most respected theatre programs in the country.

Graduate students enrolled in our M.F.A. in Theatre program focus on theatre design and technology, directing for musical theatre, or music directing for musical theatre.

The highly specialized theatre design and technology concentration offers students the opportunity to focus on costume design, costume technology, or scenic design.

If a career in directing musical theatre is in your future, our highly competitive and groundbreaking directing and music directing for musical theatre programs offer training from industry leaders that will prepare you to be a uniquely skilled director in the evolving musical theatre landscape.

All of our degree concentrations offer various professional production opportunities and collaborative educational experiences with established theatre professionals that will help you to hone your skills while making invaluable connections to the industry.

Is an M.F.A. in Theatre right for you?

The M.F.A in Theatre program is one of the most unique and well-respected theatre education programs in the country that consistently exists as a conduit to Broadway and beyond.

Collaboration is at the core of the educational experience at Penn State, as evident in our assistantship opportunities. The program’s wholistic approach to developing artists and acts as a model for modern theatre education.

The strength of the three-year graduate training programs lies within our students who are committed to growth, accept challenges, and are eager to perform in a program that encompasses both rigorous classwork and demanding production experience.

M.F.A. Theatre student showcasing his costume design work.
Stage and lighting scene rehearsal for the play Albatross.

Degree Options

Our goal is to develop well-rounded theatre professionals, critical thinkers, and collaborative artists who bring artistry and technology together, and have the skills to succeed in today’s job market.

Explore the M.F.A. degree concentrations housed within the Design + Technology, Directing and Music Directing program options.

Design + Technology

Costume Design

  • Highly individualized three-year studio training and mentorship in traditional and contemporary design techniques
  • Full tuition and stipend for all admitted graduate students
  • Realized production and design opportunities in straight theatre and/or musical theatre
  • Collaborate with directors of diverse backgrounds and approaches
  • Every program is tailored to each student’s interests and abilities
  • Outstanding teacher/student ratio
  • Career planning and preparation all three years through close mentorship
  • Training in both costume design and costume technology
  • Study in theatre literature, history, and pedagogy
  • Opportunities for teaching undergraduate classes in areas of expertise

Scenic Design

  • Highly individualized three-year studio training in traditional and contemporary design presentation techniques
  • Outstanding teacher/student ratio
  • Mainstage design opportunities in area of concentration
  • Collaborate with directors of diverse backgrounds and approaches, including professional guest directors
  • Program is tailored to each student’s individual interests and abilities
  • Career planning and preparation
  • Course work and technical training available in disciplines outside of student’s main area of concentration
  • Study in theatre literature, history, and pedagogy
  • Focus on text analysis and applicable design responses
  • Opportunities for teaching undergraduate classes in areas of expertise
  • Full tuition and stipend for all admitted graduate students

Directing

Applying:

The M.F.A. in Directing is not currently accepting applications. Recruitment for this program will begin in Fall 2021 to enroll in Fall of 2022.

The School of Theatre at Penn State offers graduate training in directing for the musical theatre stage. This unique Master of Fine Arts degree program combines traditional director training with the special tools needed for directing in the professional musical theatre.
Head of Directing for Musical Theatre: (until June 2021) Susan Schulman.
Co-Heads of Directing for Musical Theatre (after June 2021) Steve Broadnax III and Rick Lombardo.

Contact: jcd5665@psu.edu

Please include the following in your packet:
-Letter of Intent, no more than three pages in length, discussing your reason for applying to the program at PSU and your goals and aspirations for residency.
-Résumé
-Unofficial transcript from your undergraduate institution. Should you be accepted into the program, you will be required to have an official transcript sent to the graduate school at Penn State.

Please send these materials digitally as a pdf to:
MFADirectingApplicationsPSU@gmail.com

Program Overview

The School of Theatre at Penn State offers graduate training in directing for the musical theatre stage. This unique three-year Master of Fine Arts degree program combines traditional director training with the special tools needed for directing in the professional musical theatre. Integrated into the School’s other MFA programs and its nationally recognized Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre program, the applicant will train with acting, dance, voice, and design faculty. The degree candidate will direct a minimum of five projects including a fully mounted thesis production. Additional opportunities include a semester internship with a director of a professional Musical Theatre production.

We believe that a student learns to direct by directing. With a small enrollment every other year, the directing program emphasizes constant practical directing experience. Further, learning to direct in musical theatre requires a solid foundation in directing non-musical plays, acting, and dramatic analysis. Ultimately, a director must be prepared to stand alone — to survive, to make a statement, to share a vision, to challenge the conventional, to create exciting and stimulating theatre.

Believing that theatre functions as an artistic ensemble in which the director serves as a creative leader, we train directors who are collaborators. The faculty works much the same way, providing the student director with diverse input while sharing a common belief in what constitutes quality theatre. Graduate directors will work closely with musical theatre faculty, performance faculty, and design faculty. The director training program emphasizes preparation for work in the professional musical theatre where the broadest spectrum of training and experience is necessary. The program offers a balance between seminars, tutorials, classes, studios, projects, and production assignments.

Structure

The first year of training focuses on process — play selection, text analysis, casting, rehearsal methods, and working with actors. Directors take two directing courses, two years of theatrical literature research/seminar courses, a costume history course, and direct at least two studio projects. They also take the first semester of graduate acting studio. Most material in the first year centers on contemporary American and British realism and includes staging for the proscenium, arena and thrust. The first-year director also serves as assistant director on a mainstage production directed by faculty or professional guest artists.

The second year of training emphasizes the visual aspects of production and directing for the musical theatre stage. Students also have an opportunity to continue their studies in dance and/or voice. During the second year the graduate director directs at least two projects, a one act musical and another studio project TBD. Projects increase in length, complexity, and production values during the course of the training, and the faculty adviser serves as a mentor for each project. Directing students enjoy access at all times to the expertise of the entire professional faculty for assistance in vocal and dialect coaching, fight choreography, dramaturgical advice, and other aspects of directing.

One semester of the third year centers on directing a fully mounted musical theatre production, and one semester offers an internship with a professional director in the Broadway, Off Broadway or Regional arena.

Assistantship

All graduate directors participate in the Theatre 100 Company. This creates additional opportunities to direct advanced graduate actors in scenes of different genre and styles. Further, graduate directors serve as teaching assistants in several of the BFA musical theatre performance classes.

Class Size and Candidate Profile
Two directing candidates are admitted each recruiting year depending upon the quality of applicants and availability of assistantship support. Enrollment is small to in order to provide student directors with an appropriate number of actors, faculty guidance, and production facilities. Because directing students impact and interact with all areas in the School of Theatre, prospective candidates must possess both maturity and directorial credits beyond the classroom or lab theatre level. The applicant should possess a substantial professional and/or academic musical theatre background. Candidates with dance and choreographic background should also feel encouraged to apply. For more information contact jcd5665@psu.edu

Music Directing

Penn State University is seeking candidates for its M.F.A. degree program in Music Directing for the Musical Theatre, admitting in Fall 2021. The program, headed by Dan Riddle, is the first of its kind in the country.

The first two years of the three-year course of study will be on campus in University Park, PA. Courses include a repertoire class, arranging and orchestrating, notation software, sound design, and conducting. Additional international opportunities are available and encouraged. In the third year, the candidate will music direct a large on-campus production one semester and intern or assist in a regional, New York, or international production the other.

The program includes a graduate assistantship that will cover all tuition plus a stipend. Initial auditions/interviews will be handled via Skype. The next interviews will occur in the spring of 2021, and the next two candidates will start in the fall of 2021. Selected applicants will then travel to Penn State to continue the audition/interview process. All applicants should be pianists by trade. Playing auditions is a big part of this training, so sight-reading skills and familiarity with the repertoire are crucial.

Additional information regarding Musical Directing will be forthcoming, it is not yet open.

Considering the M.F.A. in Theatre? Consider this.

Focus on design & tech, directing for music theatre, or music directing for music theatre.

  • Highly specialized courses and individualized attention prepare you for the industry.
  • Numerous opportunities to interact with and learn from guest artists with a range of experiences.
  • Collaborate with experienced faculty and undergraduate students

Being 'scene'

Student's costumes and set designs from initial sketches through final fabrication.

Alumni Spotlight

Penn State provided the specialized training required to succeed in my field in the “real world,” as well as a strong network of alumni to guide me once I got there.
Penn State alumna and events professional Carolyn Quinn wearing headset.

Alumni Spotlight

Carolyn Quinn

B.F.A. in Theatre 2016

Carolyn Quinn is an events professional based in New York City. She is currently a production coordinator at Sequence Events, a Global Top 50 Events Agency. Prior to Sequence, Carolyn spent time at Baseline Theatrical and in the general management office of Hamilton: An American Musical, as well as freelancing for high-profile corporate and non-profit events, new
theatrical works, and television and film, including working on the production team for the 71st Annual Tony Awards.

An overhead shot of the 2018 Global Forum hosted in the Oculus World Trade Center. Carolyn Quinn production managed the event with Sequence for the Wharton School of Business.

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