Theatre M.F.A - Design and Technology

The strength of our design and technical programs lies in our students who are committed to growth, who accept challenge, and who are eager to perform in a program that encompasses both rigorous class work and demanding production experience. Students who leave Penn State with the M.F.A. degree are well prepared to launch their professional careers.

Students in design (scenic, costume) and technology (costume) have, as a common academic core, background and enrichment courses in theatre literature and production. In addition to intensive and extensive course work in the chosen area of emphasis, it is critical for the M.F.A. candidate to have sufficient course work in design and technical areas outside the area of specialization to ensure the capability of understanding and contributing to the collaborative production process.


Designers and technicians work closely with directors and actors in their corresponding M.F.A. programs. Collaboration is taught in the classroom and fostered in the production program

Each degree program is taught by professionally working faculty and is specifically dedicated to individual student development and professional training leading to employment. In addition to course work in the academic core and in emphasis-related classes, students are given challenging production assignments appropriate to their areas of interest each semester. Scenic, costume, and lighting designers are expected to design at least one major production in each of the school's major production facilities: The Playhouse, a 450-seat proscenium theatre, the Pavilion, a 300-seat arena/thrust theatre, and the Downtown Theatre, a 150 seat jewel box proscenium theatre.

M.F.A. in Scenic Design  - 

The M.F.A. Scene Design Program balances focused studio training with practical design experience. Students take course work in design and related graphic areas such as figure drawing, scene painting, 3D CAD, and presentation techniques, with particular emphasis placed on integrating contemporary digital techniques into the design process. Instruction in projection and digital media is also possible in our individually focused curriculum.  Students also receive a strong core education in dramatic literature and theory, and period styles

The School of Theatre houses three theatres where we annually produce shows in a wide variety of dramatic styles and historic periods. Student design work is present in virtually all productions. DAN ROBINSON is the head of the program.

M.F.A. in Costume Design - 

A studio setting supports the instruction of design with supplemental work in figure drawing, presentation techniques, computer graphics, website design, and the logistics of entering the profession. Design curriculum is enhanced by a rotation of costume technology classes, as well as a core education in dramatic literature and theory, and fashion history.  Students work closely with faculty and guest artists designing and mounting their work in three distinctive theatrical venues supported by a professional staff. The flexibility of programming and personal faculty attention to each student allows the ability to explore areas of special and individualized interest. RICHARD ST. CLAIR is the head of the program.

M.F.A. in Costume Technology - 

The M.F.A. Costume Technology program offers an in-depth exposure to costume construction and crafts, enhanced by a design studio in the first year. A strong core education in the history of fashion and dramatic literature and theory, as well as three study abroad opportunities in London, Italy, and Eastern Europe, supports the education of the costume technologist. Intensive and practical study in draping, flat patterning, construction, tailoring, millinery, and related theatrical crafts prepares the graduate student for immediate entre into the profession. Students work closely with faculty and guest artists mounting their work in three distinctive theatrical venues supported by a professional staff. The flexibility of programming allows each student the ability to explore areas of special and individualized interest.  LAURA ROBINSON is the head of the program.

Production Opportunities

As audience members, our students have access to one of the oldest University-based performing arts series in the country, and as production students, they can work with professional touring companies in the 2,600-seat Milton S. Eisenhower Auditorium, the 900-seat Schwab Auditorium, or in the 16,000-seat Bryce Jordan Center, which hosts major rock concerts and large public events. Penn State's public broadcast studio, WPSX-TV, may provide Penn State Centre Stage, a resident regional summer theatre on the Penn State University Park campus, offers employment opportunities to qualified students, who work with professional designers, cutters, technicians, painters, sound specialists, hair designers, and directors from all over the country.


Practical experience and work with a professional faculty are strengths of the Penn State Theatre program. In addition, professional designers, technicians, and craftspeople are often brought in to augment faculty expertise. These visiting artists design productions, give lectures, conduct workshops, hold seminars, and sometimes design specialized portions of shows, such as sound and special effects. Whatever their mission, they always work closely with students, consulting and critiquing work in progress. Students work as assistants to visiting artists, gaining invaluable experience and contacts and the potential for professional work after graduation.


The Theatre Arts Production Studios (TAPS) are among the most comprehensive teaching and production facilities in the country. They include classrooms, a rigging and automation laboratory, studios for scenery construction, painting, properties, a costume construction studio and costume stock. A sound and media convergence laboratory and lighting laboratory are housed across campus in the Visual Arts Building. The Theatre Building houses the Playhouse Theatre, acting and design studios, classrooms and a historic fashion archive. A major collection of historic lighting equipment is stored in Eisenhower Auditorium.

Professional Liaison

When M.F.A. students finish their programs at Penn State, they are trained practitioners with solid backgrounds combining experience and theory, ready to move into the professional theatre and the performing arts. Many have gone on to become nationally recognized in their fields. Among our graduates are Broadway and off-Broadway designers, designers in major commercial entertainment firms, design assistants, and technicians. Our students' names frequently scroll on television and film credits. Graduates are in place as designers, technical directors, cutters, assistants, property artists, and painters in major regional and university theatres. The broader Penn State network includes working actors, directors, and producers trained with the same care and attention to professional development as are designers and technicians. In moving beyond the academy and into the larger world of theatre, Penn State graduates find a constant and growing professional resource in alumni and guest artists who have worked in Penn State theatres.


There are several steps that need to be followed in order to apply to our design program. First, we ask that you send us examples of your design work and a copy of your current transcript. This will allow us to get to know you and your work, and to determine if you are a good candidate for our program. The work that you send can be either print or digital such as a link to a webpage or a pdf or power-point portfolio. If we think you might be a good match for our program, we will ask that you come to campus for a visit. This give us a chance to meet you personally and to answer all your questions. You can also see our facilities, meet our current graduate students and sit in on some classes. We hope to provide as complete an experience of our program as is possible in order for you to determine if we are a good program for your own training goals. After the campus visit, if we both decide that Penn State is a good match for you, then we will make an offer for admission. We tell all prospective students to wait until you have our formal offer before you submit an application. This limits the cost of the application fee to only the students we would make offers to. There is no deadline for application as we will continue the process for as long as it takes to fill our available assistantships. For URTA candidates, the URTA interview takes the place of sending us a portfolio and transcript, as these are both part of the URTA interview process.

For more information contact:

Scenic Design:

Dan Robinson
Head of Scenic Design
School of Theatre
The Pennsylvania State University
116 Theatre Building
University Park PA 16802
(814) 863-8591
email: DIR2@PSU.EDU

Costume Design:

Richard St. Clair
Head of Costume Design
School of Theatre
The Pennsylvania State University
116 Theatre Building
University Park PA 16802
email: RHS18@PSU.EDU

Costume Technology:

Laura Robinson:
Head of Costume Technology
School of Theatre
The Pennsylvania State University
116 Theatre Building
University Park PA 16802
email:  LKR13@PSU.EDU



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Address: Penn State School of Theatre, 116 Theatre Building, University Park, PA 16802 USA.

Office: (814) 865 7586

Fax: (814) 865 5754

Tickets: (814) 863 0255