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MFA Directing

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Directing (MFA)
Production photo from ORESTEIA directed by April Cleveland. Three actors are standing around a large conference table with two faces projected behind them.
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Overview

The Theatre School’s Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree in directing is a high octane three-year program that gives artistically ambitious directors a challenging training ground to develop and explore their artistic vision. Two students are selected to enter the program each year. All MFA Directing students are guaranteed a scholarship, which is renewable all three years. 

Our curriculum focuses on marrying skill and imagination with both small seminar and active practicum courses dedicated to expanding our students' directorial toolboxes and inciting their artistry. Our production program challenges student directors to conceive, pitch, design, cast, and rehearse five fully produced projects over three seasons as resident directors in our state-of-the-art facilities.

Our distinguished faculty of working artists provide real world instruction and a direct pipeline to the field. Situated just a short walk or El ride away from some of its most storied theatres, The Theatre School shares a revolving door with the city of Chicago - one of the nation's most vibrant theatre scenes. The artists, leaders, productions, and theatres that our MFA directors come into contact with inspire them while they are in school and launch them when they graduate.

Download the MFA Directing Viewbook

Learn By Doing

Chicago

Affordability

  • Fully Produced Productions
  • Direct Every Quarter
  • On-Your-Feet Instruction
  • State-Of-The-Art Facilities
  • 200+ Theatres
  • 1000+ Productions Per Year
  • Countless World-Class Theatre Artists
  • 100% of MFA Students Receive Scholarships
  • On-Campus Employment Possibilities

Curriculum & Production Work

The focus of the first year is preparation and research. Directing students complete coursework in play analysis, dramatic theory, dramaturgy and conceptualization in order to prepare for production. Additionally, students engage in an investigation of the collaborative process with design students and take a progression of acting courses in order to become familiar with the acting approach and vocabulary of The Theatre School. Production work will include 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.

Second year coursework focuses on learning by doing in a laboratory setting. Directors study both traditional and alternative approaches to directing by experimenting in collaboration with actors. Students continue to investigate the collaborative process with designers and move into learning heightened text from the actors point of view. Production work will include directing a fully-executed production in the Healy Theatre, our 100-seat state-of-the-art flexible stage, and two full-length productions in our Studio Series.

The third year focuses on preparation for the profession.  Students direct a thesis project produced in the Watts Theatre, our 250-seat state-of-the-art thrust theatre and begin their transition into the field  through a professional internship within the vibrant Chicago theatre community. Students also study the role of the director in the new play process and can enhance their portfolio through elective coursework.

Meet The Faculty

Lisa Portes

Damon Kiely

Dexter Bullard

“We are looking for a few visionary artists who want to challenge the world they live in through their work in the theatre. We seek early career directors with professional experience who are ready to hone their craft, strengthen their vision, and take full advantage of the art form.”

Lisa Portes

Head of MFA Directing

Alumni Highlights

Jeremy Aluma ('19): An Oak Tree by Tim Crouch at Red Theatre Chicago. SDC Observership Class of 2018–2019.

April Cleveland ('19): Assisted Robert Icke in Switzerland on The Crucible at Theatre Basel; assisted Pam MacKinnon on Downstate by Bruce Norris at Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago.

Michael Burke (’18): Newly named Associate Artistic Director at About Face Theatre, Chicago. Inaugural Artistic Fellow at Northlight Theatre. Princess Grace Award 2017. Victory Gardens Directors Inclusion Fellow 18-19.

Jacob Janssen (’18): Founder and Artistic Producer at The COOP, NYC.

Erin Kraft (’17): In A Word  by Lauren Yee at Urbanite Theatre in Florida, Undo  by Holly Arsanault at Annex Theatre in Seattle, assisted Joe Dowling on A Midsummer Night's Dream and Barbara Gaines on Emma at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre.

Nathan Singh (’17): Cynosemma, a new opera  by Megan Breen and O’Lan Jones, at Son of Semele, LA. Assisted Seret Scott on Electra at Court Theatre, Chicago. 2016 SDCF Sir John Gilgud Fellowship in Directing. 

Lavina Jadhwani (’15): As You Like It  at the Guthrie, Gloria at Mixed Blood, Roe at Asolo Rep, A Doll's House at Writers Theatre, andVietgone at Writers Theatre. Phil Killian Directors Fellowship at OSF, National Directors Fellowship, and Drama League Classical Directors Fellowship.

Michael Osinski (’14): Producing Artistic Director of The Antidote in Philadelphia. Drama League Directors Fellowship 2014.

Ian Frank (’13): Associate Artistic Director for Remy Bumppo Theatre Company in Chicago. Frankenstein adapted by Nick Dear for Remy Bumppo, 2019 Jeff Award for Best Director of a Play and Best Production. 

Marc David Pinate (’13): Producing Artistic Director at Borderlands in Tuscon, AZ since 2013, where he has led nationally acclaimed place-making projects focused on border narratives and revamped the mission to focus on community responsive work.  

Krissy Vanderwarker (’12): Co-founder and Artistic Director of Dog & Pony Theatre. Launched Peace Work Chicago in 2019, an immersive experience designed to embody what peace and community look like. Empty Threats with the Neo-Futurists, Thaddeus and Slocum at Lookingglass, andThe Tens at ATL. 

Azar Kazemi ('11): Founder and Creative Director of The Blind Owl. The Wizards by Ricardo Gamboa for Goodman’s New Stages and the U.S. premiere of dirty butterfly by debbie tucker green at Theatre on the Lake.

Keira Fromm (MFA Directing ’09): Artistic Associate at About Face Theatre. The Last Match at Writers Theatre, Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley  at Theatre Squared (Little Rock, AR), and Dada Woof Papa Hot and Bull in a China Shop at About Face Theatre.

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