The Theatre School > Conservatory > Undergraduate Conservatory > Lighting Design

Lighting Design

Lighting Design
Student working in a control booth

The Theatre School’s Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree in lighting design gives students the opportunity to explore and expand their artistic and visual expression while providing practical experience. Designers learn to visualize, create, and implement their designs by collaborating with directors, dramaturgs, other designers and technicians, and our professional production staff.

Students learn from a distinguished and award-winning faculty of professional designers and artists both in the classroom and through individual guidance and advising during production work. Students receive formal and informal feedback from faculty through portfolio presentations and exhibits of their work each year.

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BFA Lighting Design Curriculum

The first year curriculum is taken in collaboration with costume design and scenic design students and is an immersion into the culture of production and design. Students explore common themes and approaches to thinking metaphorically and abstractly with an appreciation of design as an aesthetic distinct from the other arts, and awareness of design considerations as manifested in theatrical productions. Students also begin their four-year drawing and drafting progression. Students complete three production crew assignments which will usually include one or two assignments in their area of study and one or two in another area of production.

In the second year, students move into the specific lighting design curriculum and focus on the vocabulary and historical precedent of lighting design and develop creative responses to plays. Students continue their drawing and drafting progression and learn the tools of their trade in lighting technology. Students typically work on two productions as assistant lighting designers or production electricians to third and fourth year designers and design one Studio Series production of their own.

In the third year, students hone their ability to analyze text and express themselves artistically while concentrating on implementation of their design ideas. Students work collaboratively with their peers in other design areas to propose and justify design concepts, and further develop their drawing and drafting abilities. Students also explore period style elements through a survey of art, architecture, fashion, and furniture. Students work closely with the entire production team and staff to design two shows in our season.

The fourth year is a transition year, further developing students’ abilities and preparing students to enter the profession. Coursework will focus on larger period pieces and plays with complex situations while students prepare their professional portfolio for graduation. Students also explore other areas of theatrical design and technology through electives. Production work continues as students design one more production in our season and complete a professional internship of their choosing.

At the end of each year, The Theatre School hosts a Graduate Showcase event to showcase the work of our graduating design students. Under the guidance of the faculty, graduating designers prepare a showcase exhibit of their portfolio – which is presented in Chicago for artistic directors, alumni, and other members of the theatre, film, and television industries.

Liberal Studies

In addition to the major's requirements, students complete 52 quarterly credit hours (13 courses) in the university’s Liberal Studies Program. Courses are taken in theatre history, writing, quantitative reasoning and technological literacy, philosophical inquiry, religious dimensions, scientific inquiry, understanding the past, multiculturalism in the United States, and electives. These liberal studies courses are scheduled during the first three years of the program.

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