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 in 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.
The focus of the first year is preparation and research. Directing students complete coursework in play analysis, dramatic theory, historical perspective and organizing ideas in order to collaborate with designers and actors. They then move to transform analysis into action with staging and scene study. Students also take a progression of improvisational acting and scene study 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.
The second year is a laboratory approach to the rehearsal and collaboration process. Students also engage in a collaborative investigation of the production process with design and technical students while continuing to learn the actor’s process, moving into Shakespeare and heightened text. Production work will include directing a fully-executed production in the Healy Theatre, our 100-seat flexible stage, and two full-length productions in our Studio Series.
The primary focus of the third year is the thesis project produced in the Watts Theatre, our 250-seat thrust theatre. Students also begin their transition into the professional theatre community with an internship. Students can enhance their portfolio through elective course work and will direct one more full-length production in the Studio Series.
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.
Examples of Alumni Work
Keira Fromm (MFA Directing '09, thesis: The House of Blue Leaves) will direct Significant Other with About Face Theatre/Theater Wit and hang for Remy Bumppo Theatre Company this season. She recently directed A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit at Sloan-Ketting Memorial Cancer Center of New York City for Route 66 Theatre Company and I Am My Own Wife for About Face Theatre.
Marc Pinate (MFA Directing '13, thesis: In the Red and Brown Water) is the Producing Director of Borderlands Theater in Tucson, AZ. He is directing Building the Wall by Robert Schenkkan for Borderlands this fall.
Scott Illingworth (MFA Directing '08, thesis: Cloud Tectonics) is a member of the full-time movement and acting faculty in the MFA Acting program at NYU Tisch School of the Arts.
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