The Theatre School > Conservatory > Graduate Conservatory > Directing

MFA Directing

/conservatory/PublishingImages/MFA Directing Banner 2.jpg
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.


The Theatre School’s Master of Fine Art (MFA) degree in directing is a three-year program that allows directors to develop and explore their artistic vision and apply their ideas through constant collaboration with other artists. Coursework is focused on preparation–research, theory and analysis–as well as practical application through scene study, workshops, and quarterly full-length directing assignments. Directing students complete one directing assistantship and direct a short play production in their first year, then direct up to five full-length productions over the second and third years of the program. In the final year, directors complete a thesis production in the Watts Theatre and a professional internship, chosen in collaboration with the directing faculty.

Download the MFA Directing Viewbook

Students learn from a distinguished faculty of working professionals who possess a wide variety of backgrounds and expertise and who work with some of the most prolific and exciting theatre companies in Chicago. Two students are selected to enter the program each year.

“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 stance, and take full advantage of the specifically human poetry of the form.”

Lisa Portes

Head of MFA Directing

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.


Continuation in the program from year to year is by invitation of the directing faculty. In addition to meeting the academic standards of the curriculum, professional potential, progress in the program, discipline, and collaboration are the criteria utilized in making decisions about advancement into subsequent years. In the first year, the quality of the spring quarter MFA Directing short play assignment is added to the criteria of the evaluation.

After DePaul: Recent Alumni Work

Jeremy Aluma (MFA Directing, graduating in 2019): An Oak Tree by Tim Crouch is currently running at Red Theatre Chicago. SDC Observership Class of 2018–2019.

April Cleveland (MFA Directing, graduating in 2019): Currently in Switzerland assisting Robert Icke on The Crucible at Theatre Basel; recently finished assisting Pam MacKinnon on Downstate by Bruce Norris at Steppenwolf Theatre Company.

Michael Burke (MFA Directing ’18): This Bitter Earth by Harrison Rivers at About Face Theatre and Hooded, Or Being Black For Dummies by Terreance Chisolm at First Floor Theater. Awards and fellowships: Princess Grace 2017, Victory Gardens Directors Inclusion Fellow 2018-2019, SDC Observership Class 2018-2019, and Artistic Fellow at Northlight.

Erin Kraft (MFA Directing ’17):The Great Inconvenience by Holly Arsanault at Annex Theatre, Seattle. Currently assisting Joe Dowling on A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. SDC Observership Class 2018–2019.

Nathan Singh (MFA Directing ’17):Cynosemma, a new opera by Megan Breen and O’Lan Jones at Son of Semele, Los Angeles.

Kelvin Wong (MFA Directing ’15): Artistic Director of TheatreSauce in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Lavina Jadhwani (MFA Directing ’15):Vietgone by Qui Nguyen at Writers Theatre, Gloria by Brandon Jacob Jenkins at Mixed Blood Theatre Company, and As You Like It at The Guthrie Theater. Fellowships: Phil Killian Directors Fellowship OSF, National Directors Fellowship, and Drama League Classical Directors Fellowship.

Michael Osinski (MFA Directing ’14): Opening Bob: A Life in Five Acts by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb for Azuka Theatre in Philadelphia.

Ian Frank (MFA Directing ’13): Nick Dear’s adaptation of Frankenstein at Remy Bumppo Theatre Company.

Marc David Pinate (MFA Directing ’13): Artistic Director at Borderlands in Tuscon; recently revamped the mission to focus on community responsive work.

Krissy Vanderwarker (MFA Directing ’12): Co-founder and Artistic Director of Dog & Pony Theatre. Launching Peace Work Chicago in 2019, an immersive experience designed to embody what peace and community look like. Other recent projects include Thaddeus and Slocum (Lookingglass Theatre) and The Tens (ATL.)

Keira Fromm (MFA Directing ’09): Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberly for Theatre Squared in Little Rock and Dada Woof Papa by Peter Parnell at About Face Theatre in Chicago, where she is an Artistic Associate. Other credits include hang by debbie tucker green at Remy Bummpo and The How and the Why by Sarah Treem at Timeline Theatre.

If the form fails to load or displays incorrectly, click here to fill out an alternate form.

Get More Information