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M.F.A. Production Design

Masters of Fine Arts

The Production Design program prepares students for careers as designers in all aspects of the professional theater. Our training provides a strong foundation in design and the skills to compete in the professional market.


Design areas include scenic, costume, lighting and sound design. The program is structured to allow specialization and to encourage dual area interests. With a graduate population of 25-30 design and technology students, classes tend to be small and intense, so students get a lot of individual attention and mentoring.

Each semester ends with a review by all of the faculty of recent student work. Over the course of the three years, emphasis is placed on professional portfolio development which synthesizes classes, production and resume building employment. Classes in Performance Photography and Portfolio support this emphasis.

Summer work in the field is required, as is yearly national conference attendance.

Year 1

The initial year includes fundamentals in design, the director-designer collaboration, and developing skills in drawing, painting and/or digital drafting and paperwork. Realized production assignments generally begin with an assistantship and follow with a design assignment in the second semester.

Year 2

The second year is focused on synthesis of skills and practical experiences. Students take advanced courses in design as well as the business of design, theater history and criticism and electives to complete the first two years. Realized production will continue with at least one assignment per semester as well as production work related to practicum credits or graduate stipends.

Year 3

Students design a fully supported main stage thesis project and intern at substantial professional theater or an equivalent producing organization. The final requirement is the  presentation of a digital and traditional "exit portfolio" and website that meet prevailing professional standards. Graduates should be able to pass the portfolio review portion of the United Scenic Artists Union exam or gain entry into a significant regional or Broadway design studio.



The majority of our productions are designed by student and all are produced by our students. With two main stages and four lab spaces, most set and costume designers get at least two main stage and several lab theater design experiences. Lighting and sound designers generally get additional production opportunities. All designers and technicians will work with professional directors, designers and actors as part of the Tantrum Theater professional component of the School. Design students are widely sought after for student films and dance productions.


We regularly place students in theaters over the summer or during academic breaks. Typical placements include Santa Fe Opera, Colorado Shakespeare Festival, Utah Shakespeare Festival, Glimmerglass Opera, Shakespeare Theater in DC, Arena Stage, Baltimore Center Stage, Berkshire Theater, Williamstown Theater Festival, Actors Theater of Louisville, and the Pittsburgh Public Theater.


It is our expectation that students will attend at least one national conference such as USITT, LDI, or SETC each year to participate in design competitions, portfolio reviews, and job interviews. Outstanding students are invited to participate in the National Design Portfolio Review, Design Showcase East or Hemsley Lighting Review in New York City and/or the USITT Young Designer’s/Technician’s Forum. The 2017 World Stage Design and the 2011 Prague Quadrennial featured several OHIO students’ work and in 2007 we produced a Tobin Prize winner at the Quadrennial.


Because a requirement for graduation is an internship, we regularly place our students at theaters across the country or in New York design studios. Recent placements include The Public Theater, Jacob’s Pillow, Chicago Shakespeare, Tantrum Theater, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, to name a few. Broadway designers accepting our recent interns include Jason Ardizzone-West, Greg Barnes, Scott Lehrer, Edward Pierce and David Lander.


The faculty maintains active professional careers. All designers are union members. We all provide students with the opportunity to work as assistants as we continue our professional design work.

Admission to the program is by interview at the annual U/RTA sites and at scheduled interviews and portfolio reviews on campus. No GRE required. We strongly encourage an on-campus visit for a more in depth look at the program to visit classes and see a production.

Application Requirements