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Theater Master's Degree Requirements

Faculty | Master's | Courses

The Department of Theater at the University of Massachusetts Amherst offers professional training programs in directing and dramaturgy, and in costume, lighting, and scenic design. Graduates of the three-year program receive Master of Fine Arts degrees and are prepared to work in resident professional theaters, in colleges and universities, and in many other areas of performance. The program normally takes three years to complete. Graduates include actor Bill Pullman, director Greg Leaming, playwright Constance Congdon, and production designer Douglas Kraner.

The graduate program values personal mentorship, with the production season serving as a teaching laboratory. Students are able to tailor their programs of study to individual interests as a complement to the rigorous core curriculum. Most graduate students receive full tuition waivers and assistantships during the entirety of their three years.

The graduate program begins with a first year designed to create community and a shared language. Group studio focuses on models of collective experience and imagination. First-year students also take Text Analysis, which examines play texts as structures that imply potential productions. First-year students participate in production through the studios and workshops in their areas of specialty.

In the second and third year, students take courses in the world repertory and focus more closely on their M.F.A. program area: directing, design or dramaturgy. Depending on their interests, students may also take advantage of the academic resources of the University as a whole and the other institutions in the Five College consortium. All programs culminate in a third-year thesis project.

Graduate students are full participants in the Department of Theater production season, working collaboratively under the guidance of faculty artists. In an average year, the Department of Theater presents four to five fully mounted main stage productions. It also hosts a number of other coproductions and special events. Additionally, there are numerous opportunities for studio and lab work.

Outside the academic course of study, students in the design program sometimes assist faculty designers with their professional commitments. Departmental relationships with regional companies also give graduate students opportunities to undertake internships at such places as New WORLD Theater and Hartford Stage.

Applicants follow the procedures for admission established by the Graduate School at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. In addition, the Department of Theater requests that applicants submit a complete resume of production experience. Applicants in dramaturgy or directing must provide at least two sample essays which demonstrate research, analytic, and writing skills. Dramaturgy applicants may provide essays consisting of dramatic criticism, historical production research or criticism of witnessed theatrical performances. Directing applicants must provide essays on plays they have directed or would like to direct. Preference is given to applicants in dramaturgy who are proficient in a second language. Those who intend to focus their graduate training in design must provide a portfolio in a format of the applicant’s choosing. The portfolio may include draftings, light plots and paperwork, scenic or costume design renderings, photographs or slides of models and executed projects, or samples of graphic or other applied arts. Descriptive accounts of each item in the portfolio should be included. Portfolios are returned upon request. After the faculty has reviewed all completed applicant files, those candidates selected for consideration are invited to campus for an interview. In some instances, this may be replaced by a regional or phone interview.

Completed application forms, transcripts, letters of recommendation and GRE scores should be sent directly to: Graduate Admissions Office, 530 Goodell, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003.

Essays, portfolios, and other supporting materials should be sent to: Graduate Program Director, Department of Theater, 112 Fine Arts Center, University of Massachusetts, 151 Presidents Drive Ofc. 2, Amherst, MA 01003-9331. For more information, visit the website or call (413) 545-3490.