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People and Programs

The Graduate Program — Overview

We are currently accepting applications. Our next admission deadline is January 15, 2018, for the class to enter Fall of 2018.

An Introduction to the Graduate Program

For an introduction to our graduate program, please watch this video by Sarah Brew '12G



On this page

Elsewhere in the graduate program section


The MFA Program

The Department of Theater at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst offers professional training programs in Directing, Dramaturgy, Costume Design, Lighting Design, and Scenic Design. Graduates of the program include actor Bill Pullman, director Greg Leaming, playwright and dramaturg Constance Congdon, and production designer Douglas Kraner.

Graduates of our program receive the Master of Fine Arts degree and are prepared to work in resident professional theaters, in colleges and universities, and in many other areas of performance. The programs normally takes three to complete. See below for a broad overview of the program.

We accept students two out of every three years. The application deadline is January 15. For more info about how to apply, click here.

Ours is a dynamic, hands-on program that offers plenty of opportunities for practical experience alongside a dedicated faculty of committed teachers with active careers in the professional theater. All students get extensive teaching experience, and most undertake internships. We have close relationships with outstanding theaters such as Hartford Stage, Shakespeare & Company, and Double Edge Theatre.

The small size of our program insures small classes, a maximum of personalized attention, and the opportunity to tailor programs of study to individual interests. Collaboration, creativity, discipline, craft and a strong personal sense of our collective past and of the possibilities of the future are the building blocks of our graduate program. We value personal growth, artistic integrity, cultural sensitivity, and a commitment to the theater of the future. Our departmental production season serves as a teaching laboratory for students in each of our program areas.

We have a strong commitment to cultural diversity and globalism. This commitment is reflected in our faculty and our curriculum, as well as our recently-inaugurated Multicultural Theater Certificate. Graduate students will find faculty mentors who specialize in African-American, African, Latino, and Spanish-language theater, as well as feminism and gender studies.

We believe no student should finish an M.F.A. program in debt. Therefore, we provide financial support for every full-time graduate student enrolled in our degree programs, including full tuition waivers, health benefits and generous assistantships for the entirety of the three-year program.

UMass enjoys the advantages of an outstanding location in the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts, a beautiful, vibrant area known for great cultural amenities, recreational activities, and academic institutions, including the famous Five College consortium. Boston is approximately 90 minutes away, and Times Square approximately 3 hours and 15 minutes.

More information about graduate program policies can be found here.

For questions, contact Graduate Program Director Harley Erdman, harley@theater.umass.edu or

Harley Erdman
Graduate Program Director
Department of Theater
112 Fine Arts Center
University of Massachusetts
151 Presidents Drive Ofc. 2
Amherst, MA 01003-9331

Basic Program

All the M.F.A. programs at UMass require a minimum of 60 credits for graduation, and normally take three years in residence to complete.

The program begins with a first year designed to create community and a shared language. In Group Studio, students create an original performance drawing upon their collective experience and imagination. First-year students also take Text Analysis, which examines play texts as structures that imply potential productions. First-year students also participate in production through the studios and workshops in their areas of specialty. In their first or second years, all students also take the two-semester World Repertory sequence, a case-study approach to theater history.

In the second and third years, students focus more closely on their M.F.A. program area. Depending on their interests, students may also take advantage of the academic resources of UMass as a whole and the other institutions in the Five College Consortium.  All programs culminate in a third-year thesis project. Most students complete an intensive internship in their second or third years.

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 five to seven fully mounted main stage productions. It also hosts a number of other co-productions and special events. Additionally, there are numerous occasions for studio and lab work, many of them through the Cabaret 204 series.

There are also numerous opportunities outside the academic course of study. Students in the design program sometimes assist faculty designers with their professional commitments.

Download a list of graduate courses (PDF)

Learn more about the directing program

Learn more about the dramaturgy program

Learn more about the lighting program

Learn more about the costume program


At UMass, we believe no student should come out of an MFA program in debt. Therefore, all graduate students admitted into our program are given assistantships that provide full tuition waivers and paid stipends. The bulk of the assistantships involve undergraduate teaching, but some are in production support and administration. These assistantships require service amounting to 20 hours per week during the academic year.

Assistantships are usually renewed for a student’s three years, provided that the student remains in good academic standing, is making satisfactory progress toward the degree, and has carried out the duties of the assistantship at a high professional level.

Starting in 2017-2018, each UMass graduate assistantship stipend will be slated at approximately $19,000 for September-May duties.

The University of Massachusetts Graduate Internships at Hartford

Linking one of the most respected graduate programs in theater with the Tony Award-winning Hartford Stage, the University of Massachusetts Graduate Internships give Master of Fine Arts students in design, directing and dramaturgy the opportunity to work alongside some of the country's most exciting directors, actors, designers, dramaturgs and playwrights. The Graduate Internships provide a valuable professional testing ground for students and are a natural complement to the practical, hands-on approach of the University of Massachusetts' graduate program. In turn, Hartford Stage is enriched by the participation of the next generation of theater artists. UMass students have worked on Hartford Stage's productions of Zerline's Tale, Gee's Bend, Motherhood Out Loud, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and the upcoming Antony and Cleopatra.

You can learn more in an article in our Stages newsletter about two students who interned at Hartford Stage during the 2010-2011 schoolyear.

How to Apply

Applicants follow the procedures for admission established by the Graduate School at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. In addition, the Department of Theater requests that applicants submit a number of additional items.

Students can be admitteds to the program in one of several categories. There are opportunities for limited transfer credit, as well as special considerations on tuition of New England residents.

Learn more about admissions procedures




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