The Theatre School > Conservatory > Undergraduate Conservatory > Scene Design

Scene Design

Scene Design
Photo from a production of "Luchadora" in the Merle Reskin Theatre

The Theatre School’s Bachelor of Fine Art (BFA) degree in scene design gives students the opportunity to explore and expand their artistic and visual expression while providing practical experience. Designers learn to visualize and create the physical world of plays by collaborating with directors, dramaturgs, other designers and technicians, and our professional scene shop 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 Scene Design Curriculum

The first year curriculum is taken in collaboration with costume design and lighting design students and is an immersion into the culture of production and theatre design. Students also begin a three-year graphic skills progression which includes drawing, drafting, and model building, complementing studies in dramatic literature and script analysis. Within our production season, students complete three 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 scene design curriculum and focus on the vocabulary and historical precedent of production design in order to develop creative responses to plays and a variety of venues. Students explore common themes and approaches to thinking metaphorically with an appreciation of design as an aesthetic distinct from the other arts. They work collaboratively with their peers to propose concepts and further develop their drawing and scene painting abilities. In our production season, students work on two productions as assistant scene designers, properties artisans, or painters and design one Studio Series production.

In the third year, scene design students hone their ability to analyze text and express themselves artistically while concentrating on navigating more complex theoretical and conceptual issues. Design course projects focus on period style and each student can select complementary electives in art, architecture, fashion, and history of interior design from a pre-approved list of elective courses. Students are also able to partake in advanced study of rendering and drafting techniques using digital tools through a variety of offerings through either The Theatre School or other colleges at DePaul University. For production work, students work closely with the entire production team and shops to design two shows in our mainstage season.

The fourth year is a transition year, further developing students’ abilities and preparing students to enter the profession. Coursework focuses on larger pieces (including musical theatre and/or opera) and plays with complex situations while students prepare their professional portfolio for graduation. Students also explore other areas of theatrical design through electives. Production work continues as students design one more production for our mainstage season and are placed in 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.

Production Design Concentration

Scene Design students also have the option of adding a Production Design Concentration, which is a collaboration with the School for Cinematic Arts (SCA) at DePaul. The concentration builds on the traditional curriculum for the Scene Design major and adds 6 classes from SCA, which can either be added onto the full curriculum, or can be substituted for the required design electives. Students may start the concentration sequence in the second year.

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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