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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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 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 scene design curriculum and focus on the vocabulary and historical precedent of production design and develop creative responses to plays. Students continue their drawing and drafting progression and explore period style elements through a survey of art, architecture, fashion, and furniture. Students work on two productions as assistant scenic designers to third and fourth year students and design one Studio Series production.
In the third year, students hone their ability to analyze text and express themselves artistically while concentrating on more theoretical and conceptual issues in scene design. Students work collaboratively with their peers to propose and justify design concepts and further develop their drawing and scene painting abilities. Students work closely with the entire production team and Scene Shop 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 design through electives. Production work continues as students design one more production in our public season and are placed in a professional internship of their choosing.
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.
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.
In addition to the theatre training curriculum, 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.
Every student receives quarterly evaluation and feedback from the faculty. Evaluations are based on discipline, collaboration, professional potential, and progress in the program.