Graduate students in the MFA Stage Design Program are supported by full assistantships, which include a full tuition waiver, health insurance subsidy, and an annual stipend for 2023–24 of $27,720 ($3,080 per month for 9 months). Assistantship duties are fulfilled by production shop assignments in respective areas of study, supervising production crews, designing main stage productions, and teaching undergraduate design classes.
The stage design program utilizes the resources of The Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts at Northwestern University. The Wirtz Center produces approximately eight main stage productions annually directed by faculty, graduate students, and guest artists. These productions include both classic and contemporary plays, dance performances, musical productions, and performance based work. Starting in their second year all M.F.A. design students design for these productions.
The Center houses the 400-seat thrust Ethel M. Barber Theater, the 288-seat proscenium Josephine Louis Theater, three 125-seat black box theaters including the Hal and Martha Hyer Wallis and the Mussetter-Struble, two dance studios, three smart technology black box rehearsal rooms, including a light lab, as well as music rehearsal rooms, seminar rooms, wet and dry design studios, and a computer lab. Cahn Auditorium, a 1,200 seat theatre on campus is also used for musical production. The TIC houses the scene shop facilities, which include not only space for traditional woodworking, but also equipment for work in metals and plastics. Adjacent to the costume shop are a fully equipped dye room and a crafts area. The lighting shop supports production for each of the theaters. A practical lighting laboratory is available for classes and lighting designers assigned to a production in the TIC. Thirteen professional staff technicians working in all technical areas provide an additional support through their production supervision and involvement in production.
Students in the third year of study have the opportunity to spend up to one quarter of their residency working with a professional theatre company or observing a particular artist or company. The specific job definitions and responsibilities of the internship will be developed in consultation with the organization and the student in advance of the quarter in which the internship is scheduled. Students must be in good academic standing and obtain approval of the core faculty before an internship will be approved.