The Theatre School > Conservatory > Graduate Conservatory > Directing > Curriculum


MFA Directing


Directing I (3 quarter hours, 3 quarters) This course covers the basics of the directing process with an emphasis on textual analysis. Lecture discussion and performance projects are utilized to develop a common understanding and vocabulary useable in the wide variety of theatrical situations the contemporary director is likely to confront.

Graduate Acting I (4 quarter hours, 3 quarters) Beginning with a series of exercised and improvisations, the class introduces the acting and directing student to the basic components of the acting process. Scene work forms the backbone of this class. Directors come to understand the acting process from the inside.

Dramaturgy I (4 quarter hours, 2 quarters) The course develops the skills necessary to begin work as a production dramaturg through a consideration of practical, historical, and theoretical issues. The students work on both in-class and school productions as well as writing critical essays.

Directing Theories (4 quarter hours, 2 quarters) This course is designed to introduce students to the history of stage directing as an independent art form and to the key directorial thinkers of Western theatre. Through both lecture and practice, students learn the theories and techniques of such innovators as Stanislavski, Meyerhold, Craig, Artaud, Brecht, Clurman, Grotowski, Brook, LeCompte, and Bogart.

Directing Seminar: Topics in Directing (3 quarter hours, 3 quarters) This course is comprised of all MFA I, II and III directors. The focus of the course changes quarter to quarter, depending on the needs and development of the current group of directors. A core component of the course is the discussion of current directing projects - both while the project is in rehearsal, and once the project has closed. Another core component consists of class visits by guest directing artists.

Meisner Technique (2 quarter hours, 2 quarters) This class will introduce students to the Sanford Meisner approach to acting. Meisner’s approach gives actors a step-by-step progression of structured improvisations designed to stimulate instincts and impulses, sharpen concentration and listening skills, and strengthen the imagination.

Rehearsal & Performance I (5 quarter hours, 2 quarters) Graduate directing students complete one assistant directing assignment with a faculty or guest artist in our public production season and a directing assignment in The Theatre School Studio Series.

Theatrical Collaboration (3 credit hours, 2 quarters) An investigation, through research and discussion, of the conceptual problems of physically mounting specific assigned scripts from the classic and modern theatre, covering a broad stylistic range. Students will submit proposals for designs and justify their ideas through literary and pictorial research. The directorial and collaborative problems of arriving at a production concept, up to, but not including fully-realized design documentation, is emphasized through a series of projects.


Directing II: Scene Study (3 quarter hours, 2 quarters) MFA directors will learn a variety of techniques in staging, text analysis, and working with actors. Directors will work with a variety of modern writers including Chekov, Ibsen, Miller, and O’Neill. They will also investigate working with heightened text including Moliere, Shakespeare, and the Greeks. Students will work with a pool of alumni actors.

Directing II: Composition (3 quarter hours, 1 quarter) Working with undergraduate actors, directors are immersed in non-traditional theatre methodologies including viewpoints, plasticene, and composition. Directors will learn how to take their personal visions and create theatrical realities in space and time.

Graduate Acting II: Heightened Language (3 quarter hours, 3 quarters) Classical Acting joins the emotional, physical and imaginative life of a role with the technical skills needed to express that character to its fullest. This is achieved through rigorous foundation work and applying the basic tenets of acting to the acting of plays in verse; making strong choices that are grounded in the text, establishing a connection to the scene partner, listening and responding to what is happening in the scene. Directors move on to staging short classical scenes.

MFA II Voice (3 credit hours, 1 quarter) In a further effort to train directors in the full expressive potential of the actor, directors take a masters level voice class. Texts are chosen that place greater demands on the actor’s growing emotional and vocal capabilities.

Directing Seminar: Topics in Directing (3 quarter hours, 3 quarters) See course description in First Year.

Graduate Seminar (3 quarter hours, 3 quarters) This is a reading and writing course which covers the entire history of western theatre starting with the Greeks and continuing through Shakespeare up to most current new scripts. It is also a survey of current theatrical trends in Chicago, New York, and the nation. It encourages the student to develop a critical voice in viewing professional productions and reading classic and new plays.

The Director and the New Play Development Process (3 quarter hours, 1 quarter) This course is offered every other year and explores the director’s role in the development of new plays. MFA directors work with professional playwrights on new work. Directors are introduced to the many ways they may be charged with presenting new work, including table readings, staged readings, workshops, designed workshops, and world premieres. Over the course of the quarter, directors rehearse and present one sit-down reading and one stage reading. Additionally, students rehearse and present a staged reading in a professional situation.

Rehearsal & Performance II: Directing (5 quarter hours, 3 quarters) Graduate directing students direct a fully-executed Second Year Production in the Healy Theatre, our 100-seat flexible stage, and two full-length productions in our Studio Series. We encourage students to work in a variety of styles from different eras. 

Electives (3 quarter hours, 2 quarters) Students will have the opportunity to choose from a variety of Theatre School classes including improvisation, voice, set design, and movement.


Thesis Project (9 quarter hours, year long) A year long research and performance project that culminates in a fully supported production and written thesis. The production is part of the New Directors Series presented for the general public.

Directing Seminar: Topics in Directing (3 quarter hours, 3 quarters) See course description in First Year.

Theatre Electives or Independent Study (4 quarter hours, 1 quarter)

Rehearsal & Performance III: Directing (5 quarter hours, 2 quarters) MFA Directing students direct their thesis project in the Watts Theatre, our 250-seat thrust theatre, and can direct up to one more production in the Studio Series.

Internship (5 quarter hours, 1 quarter) Students will do a professional internship chosen with the help of the directing faculty. ​