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The Masters of Fine Arts in Stage Design Program at Northwestern University exists to prepare, a select group of scenery, costume, and lighting designers for professional careers in the American Theatre, international theater and related design fields. Central to this three-year program of study is an emphasis on intensive collaboration between designers and directors, rigorous analysis of texts, thorough research and a fervent effort to nurture unique artistic voices. It is our belief that passionate, insightful artists immersed in a team-based environment, will generate bold, compelling theatrical works.

Necessary for continuation each year is the student’s development toward mastery of a complete repertoire of graphic techniques and a heightened conceptual and design aesthetic in a primary design field, mastery of a range of fundamental abilities in a secondary field, and maturing collaboration skills. The first year of study emphasizes the importance of skills training and design process. The second year prioritizes collaboration, research, and imagination and serves as a transition from the activities and points of view of the entering student to the professional profile and attitudes of the graduating designer. The final year’s activity concentrates on designing and the preparation of the thesis portfolio.

Distinguishing features

Distinguishing features of the curricular program include:

  • the development of classic studio skills in freehand drawing, rendering, theatrical drafting, model building, costume construction classes, and contemporary skills in computer graphics.
  • four cornerstone classes for directors and designers together in the first two years to develop collaborative relationships and interpersonal skills and the methods of script interpretation and research unique to directors and designers in order to develop a strong visual response to a play.
  • an emphasis on the importance of produced work in the designer’s development by working in teams designing a significant number of productions in a variety of performance spaces.
  • attendance at major professional productions in Chicago and interaction on campus with significant national and international artists.
  • optional internship opportunities to project the graduate designer into a professional environment thereby advancing his or her expertise beyond the academic setting.
  • the opportunity for teaching introductory design courses in Northwestern’s nationally renowned undergraduate theatre program.
  • a thesis portfolio revealing the graduating student’s vision of design through professional-quality theoretical and produced design, research, and supporting graphic work