Cherry Orchard
The next cycle of M.F.A. in Lighting Design program will be accepted for Fall 2020 academic year. We accept students into the program based on a portfolio and interview. We hold on-campus auditions and plan to attend conferences including LiNK/USITT, SETC, USITT and ACTF.

Master of Fine Arts in Theatre: Costume Design

Creating Connections

Our goal at the University of Arkansas is to provide M.F.A. costume candidates with the opportunity to develop their artistic voice by equipping them with the skills and tools to become visual storytellers. Students are given the opportunity to practice the process of taking a design from an idea to reality though project work and fully supported productions. Technical understanding and skills in producing costumes is also stressed.

About the Program

M.F.A.  candidates in costume design learn in the classroom through rigorous project work and through real world application by producing high quality productions. The program is sufficiently flexible to meet the individual needs of the student and offers strong guidance and mentorship while providing a wide range of classes, training and experiences. Developing a strong portfolio of fully realized designs with careful mentorship is a primary goal of the program, along with exploring non-traditional design opportunities through extensive studio course work.   

Our program fosters a collaborative environment through working with directors, peer designers and theatre technicians in creating theatrical productions. We believe in the importance of well-rounded future professional theatre practitioners and educators who have artistic, intellectual and practical skills that will allow them to be life-long engaged theatre artists.

While we are not accepting applicants for the M.F.A. in design in the 2019 cycle, if you are interested in receiving information about the program, please fill out this brief form. We will be looking to take in a new class of scenic, lighting, and costume designers in the Fall of 2020. To receive information when our design application opens for Fall of 2020, please fill out this brief form and we will send you a notification when our application window opens.

If you have questions, please contact Shawn Irish, Head of Design at            

Graduate School Requirements
  • You should not proceed apply for admission to the UA Graduate School for Fall of 2019.

The graduate domestic and international application fee is $60.00 for new applicants and $30.00 for returning students. You will need to upload the following:

  • Three letters of recommendation from theatre professionals, professors, or other people who are familiar with the applicant and/or their work. One of the recommendations must speak directly to the applicant’s design work
  • A résumé detailing academic experience, professional work in the theatre, and other relevant work experience.
  • Transcripts
  • The GRE Test is not required for admission to the M.F.A. Program in Theatre.

Costume Design Requirements
  • Admission into the Costume Design program is by interview and portfolio review only. Interviews for upcoming academic years are held between November and March of the preceding academic year.
  • Students are admitted in the fall semester and, on special occasions, summer semester. Interviews are held on-campus by appointment. Interviews are also scheduled at LiNK/USITT, Regional ACTF festivals, SETC, USITT, and other regional conferences.

For more information, please contact Head of Design, Shawn Irish.

We offer graduate assistantships*, fellowships, and teaching opportunities.

Our assistantships pay for all tuition and give an $12,200 stipend each academic year. Additional funds are available through our graduate fellowship, which offers an additional $4000 each year to qualified students. There are some other select scholarships for which you might be eligible, as well. Summer assistantships are also sometimes available.

  • All new graduate assistants must have background checks before they can be appointed.  We will be permitted to make offers contingent on a successful background check, but no work can begin until the check is complete. 
  • Costume Design M.F.A. candidates work in the costume shop and have the opportunity to teach classes.

A typical candidate pursuing costume design will have the opportunity to design a minimum of two mounted productions and a maximum of five. The MFA Candidate will gain a robust portfolio of designs including period pieces, drama and comedy, non-traditional design and musical theatre.

We provide the graduate M.F.A. candidate in costume with the opportunities and experiences to be competitive in the job market through developing– a portfolio of work, a resume a website, internships as well as providing design and technical assignments. M.F.A.  costume candidates can also serve as a costume design assistant, costume shop manager, cutter/draper, first hand or crafts artisan, or makeup designer.

Masterclasses and production experiences with professional theatre artists enhances the programs intensive curriculum. Recent guest artists include Christine Jones, Howell Binkley and Tim Saternow.

Northwest Arkansas is home to many active theatre companies. The Department of Theatre has local partnerships with TheatreSquared - Arkansas’ only year-round professional theatre company, Arts Live - the regions only dedicated children’s and youth theatre company, The Classical Edge - the only professional company dedicated to producing the works and adaptations of Shakespeare and other classical playwrights, and Trike Theatre - a professional theatre for youth located in Bentonville.

Costume designers are supported by a well-equipped shop that is staffed by a full-time professional costume shop manager.

The Department of Theatre typically produces six productions a year with generous budgets in three different venues giving designers a variety of experiences.

  • The University Theater is a 315-seat proscenium stage theatre, housing fully equipped scenery, and costume construction facilities and state of the art lighting, sound and rigging systems.
  • The UA Black Box Theater is a 181-seat flexible black box space, located on the Downtown Fayetteville Square. This theatre features state of the art sound, lighting and production systems.
  • Studio 404 in Kimpel Hall is a 75-seat black box space which accommodates student directed, projects, experimental productions and new play workshops.

As part of their training, M.F.A.  costume design candidates are required to complete one professional internship. Past students have worked at Williamstown Theatre Festival, The Barter Theatre, The American Players and the Utah Shakespeare Festival to name a few.

During the professional internships MFA Candidates enhance their portfolios, gain real world skills and build their network of professional contacts.

Travel to Conferences

Each year the Graduate School and the Department of Theatre offers financial assistance to qualified students, enabling them to attend and participate in regional and national conferences and professional auditions.


The Design and Technology faculty are all been active members of USITT and have served on a number of panels at the national conference. Students have the opportunity to attend and present their work either at the "Cover the Walls" exhibit or the "Design Expo" and are encouraged to join this wonderful organization. Each year the conference is held in an exciting part of the country.

Theatre Studies in London

Students have the opportunity to travel to London for this five-week course. Outside of class, students view at least 12 professional theatre performances at the National Theatre, RSC and London’s West End, tour theatres and historic theatre sites, and take master classes with actors, designers, directors, and critics from the English stage. Excursions include trips to Stratford-upon-Avon to visit Shakespeare’s birthplace and Bath to view the costume collection house there among many others.

Nestled in the beautiful foothills of the Ozark Mountains, Fayetteville and its Northwest Arkansas environs are fast becoming a cultural destination. The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, only adds to the area's already rich cultural legacy and has announced plans to open a new space for contemporary performance and art.

Fayetteville and the surrounding area of Bentonville, Rogers and Springdale is home to a thriving theatre community. Dazzling architecture and abundant live music, together with the area's natural beauty and congenial urban environment are found in the area. With its many restaurants and cafés and its tradition of live music, Fayetteville is often referred to as Austin's younger cousin.


Sample Plan of Study

Fall Semester

  • Costume Design
  • Costume Shop Management
  • Elective

Spring Semester

  • Costume Technology Studio
  • Theatrical Makeup Design
  • Script Analysis


  • Internship

Fall Semester

  • Costume Design Studio
  • Digital Design for Theatre
  • Elective

Spring Semester

  • Costume Technology Studio
  • Portfolio Development
  • Rendering for Theatre


  • Internship

Fall Semester

  • Costume Design Studio
  • History of Decor
  • Thesis

Spring Semester

  • Costume Technology Studio
  • Thesis
  • Design Capstone

For a complete list of graduate courses, please visit the catalog of studies.