The Master of Fine Arts in Theater prepares you for work in resident professional theaters, in colleges and universities, and in many other fields of culture and the arts.

You’ll benefit from a program in which all graduate students receive full tuition-waivers, health benefits, and assistantships during their three years. 

You’ll have the opportunity to gain teaching experience and/or do internships with local and national companies. Our faculty often invite students to shadow them or intern with them on professional assignments. 

We’re committed to cultural diversity, and this commitment is reflected in the faculty you’ll meet and the curriculum you’ll complete. As a graduate student, you’ll work with faculty mentors specializing in African-American, African, Latinx, and Spanish-language theater, as well as feminism and gender studies. 

Applications are submitted and processed online via the UMass Graduate School.

For questions, please contact our Graduate Program Director, Gilbert McCauley.

Costume Design
an actor in elaborate red costume performs in the UMass Amherst Season Kick-Off

Costume Design

The Costume Program is a kind of laboratory where you'll develop sophisticated skills in research, conceptualization, communication (oral, written, and visual), design, rendering and drawing, management, and relevant technical areas.

You'll develop these skills through work that's directly linked to Department of Theater productions. Working on these productions, you'll gain design experience, and you'll also receive strong technical grounding in construction and pattern-making through work in the costume shop.

This practical work is supplemented by paper projects, so you'll develop a well-rounded, professional portfolio. As you progress through the program, all of your projects will be individually mentored to enhance your training and skill-development for working in the professional theater.

Click to view a photostream of UMass Theater costume design work.

Watch a video with French MFA alum Calypso Michelet, who studied Costume Design and Scenic Design & Technology (French, with English subtitles)

Email professor Yao Chen and read a profile introducing Yao Chen to the community.

Email costume shop manager Kristin Jensen.

Directing
a student performing a theater scene on the campus

Directing

In the Directing Program, you'll find an ongoing forum for faculty and peer response to production and studio work, and you'll focus on directorial tools like action and storytelling, analysis and conceptualization, organization and preparation, and working with collaborators.

In addition to directing one project each semester you're enrolled, you'll have an array of experiences to help you cultivate the sensibilities, strategies, and creative responsiveness necessary for a sustained professional life as a theater practitioner.

Email professor Judyie Al-Bilali or visit her website.

Email professor Milan Dragicevich or visit his website.

Email professor Elisa Gonzales or visit her website.

Email professor Gina Kaufmann or visit her website.

Email professor Gil McCauley.

Dramaturgy
A young Black woman dressed in 1920s clothing stands on a stylized illuminated staircase

Dramaturgy

The Dramaturgy Program is rooted in production work and in learning how to collaborate as part of a creative team. You'll work on at least one production each year, receiving one-on-one faculty mentoring. In addition to hands-on production experience, you'll learn a variety of approaches to your craft in the weekly Dramaturgy Workshop, where other important dramaturgical skills—translation, adaptation, playwriting, critical writing, and more—are nurtured.

This rigorous work will prepare you for the creative and analytical challenges you'll face working as a leader in the professional theater, developing and curating the theater of the future.

The Dramaturgy Program also gives you the flexibility to draw upon the resources of the Five Colleges to take classes in areas you're passionate about.

Finally, in your third year, you'll have the opportunity to culminate your work by completing an original thesis project.

Email professor Harley Erdman.

Email professor Chris Baker.

Email professor Priscilla Page.

Lighting Design
performers dance on stage during a production of Many Patterns, One Cloth

Lighting Design

The Lighting Program is fueled by passion — passion for the ability of light to transform, and for the potential of the theatrical event.

In the program, you'll find technical and creative training in class that's augmented by yearly production assignments. Designing and assisting on realized productions will give you the opportunity to articulate your artistic voice and learn to work effectively as part of a collaborative team.

You'll get individual mentorship that is supportive and challenging, both in the classroom and in the theater. This close mentoring relationship is an integral part of the lighting program — each graduate class is kept small to allow for meaningful one-on-one relationships between professors and students.

At the same time, you'll also get to practice teaching both inexperienced and experienced undergraduates, and you'll be mentored in developing your own educational skills.

When you've completed your graduate work, you'll find you're part of a valuable network of UMass graduates in the professional field. And you'll have the artistic, technical, and professional skills that you'll need for work in professional theater or the academy.

Click to view  a photostream of UMass Theater lighting designs.

Email professor Penny Remsen.

Email department master electrician Michael Dubin.

Scenic Design and Technology
a still from the production Water Station, featuring three actors on stage with elaborate setpiece behind

Scenic Design and Technology

Cover of UMass Amherst Theater brochure for MFA in COSTUME DESIGN, LIGHTING DESIGN, SCENIC DESIGN & TECHNOLOGY
Click the image to view a brochure about our MFA design specializations

Scenic design is how we welcome in the story and signal that something is about to happen. Scenic Design & Technology is an intensive three-year program where you'll experience hands-on learning through the design and implementation of a mainstage production season that serves as a teaching laboratory. 

You'll work through a rigorous curriculum and special topics in design and technology. Much of this work is connected to the mainstage season, where you'll have room to experiment, risk, and grow as designers and makers.

Our classes are small, so you'll receive personal mentorship from professionals and the opportunity to customize your curriculum, whether you want to focus more on scenic design or technical design. We occasionally support dual design interests (e.g., scenery and costumes), depending on your level of experience. 

Collaboration is the backbone of the program. Through production assignments and Teaching Assistantships, you'll be involved with every production on our mainstage in roles ranging from design and technical direction to props and scenic painting. TAs in the scenic shop work an average of 20 hours per week on high intensity tasks involving technical design, project management, and innovative fabrication techniques. Each student receives one-on-one mentorship in the creative application of technology, which in turn enriches their design perspective. By the end of three years, you'll have participated in twelve productions. Typically, you'll have at least three mainstage production designs in your portfolio by the time you graduate.

FINANCIAL AID: We believe that no student should finish an MFA program in debt. All graduate students receive full tuition-waivers, health benefits, and graduate assistantships during their three years. For 2024-2025, the assistantships are slated to be approximately $24,821.60. (20 hours/week for 38 weeks) for September-May duties  in the scenic shop.

Click to view a photostream of UMass Theater production photos.

Watch a video with French MFA alum Calypso Michelet, who studied Costume Design and Scenic Design & Technology (French, with English subtitles)

Click to watch a video on YouTube of the scene transitions for our production of The Lily's Revenge.

Email Assistant Professor of Scenic Design Anya Klepikov.

Email Faculty Technical Director Michael Cottom.

3
Years to complete the program for most students
5
Areas of concentration: directing, dramaturgy, and costume, lighting, and scenic design and technology
$24,821.60
Stipend to be awarded to each grad student in 2024-2025