Arcadia, 2011 Season

I am extremely grateful for my time at the U of A. The department provides the individual attention a grad student needs – as well as ample production opportunities. I was very impressed with the variety the seasons offered. From Shakespeare to Nicky Silver, I found we were challenged by something new each semester.

- Jeremy Shouldis, Irene Ryan Competition, National Best Partner; Professional Actor, Los Angeles (The Office)

Master of Fine Arts in Theatre: Directing

The M.F.A. Directing program offers extensive study and training to prepare candidates for professional careers in theatre directing. We're particularly interested in training talented and committed directors as future leaders of the American theatre, potentially becoming artistic directors of their own companies or regional theatres, as well as spearheading original works and adaptations in collaboration with other theatre artists.

We seek articulate, educated, and introspective students who bring a body of directing, theatre, and/or performing arts experience. We actively recruit students from around the nation and the world, with recent students hailing from Virginia, New York, Syria, Arkansas, Texas, Italy, Colombia, South Korea, and Kansas. Our directors are passionate to learn, grow, and embrace challenges. They are engaged, curious citizens, eager to create art that awakens our daily lives and challenges the status quo.

The theatre faculty provides directing candidates opportunities to develop their unique artistic voices, equipping them with the skills and experiences to become confident and imaginative storytellers. Directors prepare for production work by learning and practicing: script analysis and research; communication methods for collaborating; rehearsal organization and time management; and exploring visual and aural tools of our art form.

The student directors’ primary focus here is on their work with actors, helping them to discover, distill, and communicate story, relationships, and character. To that end, directors take many of the classes offered in the graduate acting track and lead our M.F.A. actors in directing studio classes throughout their three years of study. In classroom and production experiences we train directors to collaborate with an array of theatre artists, including: scenic, costume, lighting, sound, properties, and projection designers; playwrights; dance and fight choreographers; music directors; stage managers; technical directors; and business managers.

It is our hope that artistic relationships forged with their peers here will endure well beyond their graduate studies.

Students practice the process of directing a play with focused, rigorous classes that cover a wide range of historical and contemporary genres and styles. They helm productions that include new plays, devised theatre, and extant scripts, in our studio, black box, and proscenium spaces.

We value the flexibility of our program, striving to meet the individual needs and future goals of our students, offering strong guidance and mentorship as well as a wide range of classes, training and production experiences. We admit only two or three directors at a time, enabling us to offer small, intensive classes and provide personalized attention.


An MFA in Directing requires thee years of full-time graduate study and 60 semester credit hours. Students direct one or more productions in each of their three years of study, including a fully-supported and designed thesis production. In their first year, student directors serve as the assistant director for one of our mainstage shows; most students also assistant direct at least one production with our acclaimed local professional theatre, TheatreSquared

In their first year, directors typically direct a one-act or full-length play with limited production support, which allows the faculty to assess the student's strengths and potential growth areas; the focus is on script interpretation and analysis and collaborating with actors. In their second year, directors expand their horizons to more complex styles, directing a full-length play that typically includes a collaborative process with two or more designers, along with a limited production budget and technical support. In their third year, directors mount a full-length thesis production, usually on our mainstage, with a full collaborative process and department support. The thesis production requires extensive research, analysis, and subjective journaling about the artistic experience, all of which culminate in a thesis paper. In their second and/or third year, directors collaborate with a graduate playwright on a staged reading or production of a new play. As time permits, directors are encouraged to work on independent projects both within our department and in the community.

Directors are given regular, in-depth feedback on all aspects of their work, including scenes directed in ongoing studio classes. The faculty directing mentor typically attends two or three rehearsals at various phases of each production process and provides written notes and oral feedback. Following the productions, the faculty mentor discusses the processes and end results, student accomplishments, and potential growth areas. In addition, the directing mentor requests and collates anonymous, aggregate feedback from the participating actors and stage manager, which is then shared in writing with the student director and reviewed with the mentor. This candid assessment provides invaluable, immediate, and direct feedback. Following the second and third year projects there are post-mortems with the design and production teams. Student directors are urged to visit privately with design and production collaborators and their mentors to glean further insights on their collaboration processes.

Professional Internships & Networking

As stated above, most students assistant direct at least one production with our acclaimed local professional theatre, TheatreSquared. In the summer and during their third year of study, students are encouraged to pursue assistantships and internships in alignment with their passions and needs. The Graduate School provides modest financial support for some opportunities, including select directing labs and workshops.

Financial Assistance

All directors are awarded half-time assistantships, covering tuition and providing a generous stipend. Academically qualified directors are also eligible to apply for a three-year fellowship. When students are directing, production preparation and rehearsal time are counted as a significant part of their assistantship hours, as their work provides opportunities for other students to engage in productions. Additional assistantship work required of the directors has typically included house management and helping with grading and attendance for large Introduction to Theatre sections. In the past, student directors have occasionally taught Directing 1 or Stage Combat.

Applying for the Program

We next anticipate recruiting two or three directors for admission to our program beginning Fall 2019. Application materials will be available online October 2018. For more information, please contact Michael Landman at

Sample Plan of Study

  • Directing Modern Drama: Realism 
  • Directing Classics: American Playwrights
  • Acting Studio
  • Devised Theatre
  • Dramatic Criticism or Script Analysis
  • Director/Lighting Designer Collaboration
  • Playwriting elective: Screenwriting, Playwriting
  • Movement elective: Alexander Technique, Modern Dance
  • Assistant direct mainstage show
  • Direct studio project
  • Directing Studio: Shakespeare
  • Adapting and Directing Non-Theatrical Texts
  • History of Décor 
  • Viewpoints
  • Director/Scenic Designer Collaboration
  • Acting elective: Meisner, Graduate Voice & Speech
  • Direct new play: staged reading or workshop production
  • Direct full-length, non-realistic play
  • Directing Musical Theatre
  • Directing Studio (variable: Brecht, Absurdism, Greek, Italian)
  • Creating a One Person Show
  • Director/Costume Designer Collaboration 
  • Acting elective: Musical Theatre, Contemporary Acting
  • Thesis: Research and Analysis (Fall and Spring)
  • Assistant Direct with TheatreSquared
  • Direct thesis production