About the Program

Student designers must present and pass three formal design portfolio reviews, at the conclusion of their second, fourth, and sixth semesters in the program. In addition, portfolio interviews take place at the end of the first, third, and fifth semesters. Design portfolios include studio projects as well as fully realized academic and professional scenic, costume, or lighting designs. The fourth semester portfolio review will include an evaluation of a pre-thesis design project (usually a fully realized design, but may include independent study design projects). The pre-thesis design project, in preparation for the thesis, will include a written component. Successful completion of the portfolio reviews will result in the assignment of the thesis project.

Portfolios

Successful completion of the portfolio review will result in the assignment of pre-thesis (after the first year) and thesis (after the second year) projects. Upon completion of each portfolio review, the candidate will receive a formal letter indicating a grade of pass, conditional pass, or fail. In the event of a conditional pass or fail, the faculty may require the candidate to complete additional projects or coursework.

First year portfolio should include:

  • A current resume
  • Projects from primary and secondary design emphasis courses
  • Craft projects from foundation component courses
  • Production photographs illustrating realized craft or design work for projects produced by the School or by professional theatres
  • Supporting materials, drawings, and photographs that demonstrate effective and productive work as a design assistant (academic or professional projects)

Second year portfolio should include:

  • A current resume
  • Projects from primary and secondary design emphasis courses
  • Production photographs illustrating realized craft or design work for projects produced by the School or professional theaters
  • Supporting materials, drawings, and photographs that demonstrate effective and productive work as a design assistant (academic or professional projects)
  • A written design analysis and supporting research material for the pre-thesis project that should follow the form of the first chapter of the written component of the thesis project

Thesis

For their thesis, M.F.A. design students create and realize a scenery, costume, or lighting design for a major production. Each student must meet all deadlines for that production and the design and execution must be acceptable to all members of her/his thesis committee. The written component of the thesis includes all relevant visual material, including research images, drawings, renderings, and production photographs.

Opportunities for students

M.F.A students typically design three or four productions in our main season during their three years in residence. The first year of study includes several assistant design assignments. We plan our productions at least one semester in advance; therefore, there is a good possibility that students will be designing their first main season production in the spring semester of the first year. We produce five main season shows and approximately five student produced productions per academic year.  M.F.A. students also have the opportunity to work with our award-winning faculty on professional projects within the Washington metropolitan theatre community, as well as work in regional theatres, off-Broadway and Broadway.

MFA Portfolio Reviews

An exciting feature of the MFA in Design program in the School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies is the annual public portfolio exhibit and review. Each year the Cafritz Theatre is transformed into a gallery where all MFA Design students display their set, costume, and lighting designs.

A multi-day affair, the first day is open to the general public when professional designers and directors from the Washington, DC theatre community have an opportunity to respond to student work and where students often make important professional contacts. The second day involves longer one-on-one critique sessions with the nation’s leading designers and directors. 

In the past few years our respondents have included designers and directors such as Paloma Young, Donyale Werle, Jeff Croiter, Ming Cho Lee, John Lee Beatty, David Korins, Ken Posner, Linda Roethke, Serge Seiden, Joy Zinnoman, John Iacovelli, Aaron Posner, James Kronzer, Mary Zimmerman, Jim Ingalls, and Anna Kuzmanic.

Faculty

 

Program News

Last month, TDPS welcomed back Drew Barker (MA Theatre and Performance Studies ’13) as the new Performing Arts Librarian at the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library (MSPAL).

On Friday, February 10 we celebrated Randy Lord and Steve Fessler’s generous gift to the UMD School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies (TDPS).

Congratulations to everyone in the TDPS family—faculty, students, and alumni—who was nominated for a 2017 Helen Hayes Award! We are doing extraordinary work in the DC theatre scene!