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Scenic Design

We will be recruiting for the MFA program in Scenic Design in the spring of 2024 for admittance in fall of 2024.

The MFA program in Scenic Design is intended to prepare students for fulfilling careers in professional or educational theatre and the entertainment industry.

Emphasis is on the development of a process that will serve students in the practice of their art through a long and varied career. This is accomplished through a balanced training program of classes, work on realized productions, and individualized tutorials.

A limited number of students are selected each year on the basis of resumes, interviews, and portfolio reviews. A visit to Purdue is recommended, to allow the potential student to interact with students and the faculty.

The program is rigorous, time-demanding, and intense. Based on the principle that a good designer is well educated in many areas, Scene Design students take courses in consulting, drafting, art and architectural history, and rendering along with those in scene design. The emphasis in the scene design classes is the development of an aesthetic response to a script. The mastery of these subjects will provide a strong foundation upon which to build.

Skills training is an important component of the Purdue program. Coursework is intended to provide a solid basis for the student’s professional work in the theatre or a related field.

Upon completion of graduate study, the student should have the ability to communicate, both verbally and through renderings, an understanding of the principles of design, demonstrated ability in scene design and in related technical skills, an understanding of the work of the director and other designers, an ability to conceptualize and compile research, an ability to collaborate with others, and an understanding of the history of theatre and design.

During residency, the graduate scene design student designs in a variety of styles, and in a variety of spaces, ranging from a flexible black box to thrust and proscenium spaces.

Projects range from class exercises to one-acts, student-directed projects, dance, and mainstage productions. Each subsequent project has a greater support system of technical assistance and an increasing budget. A minimum of one realized design project is required each semester. The culmination of the program is a fully mounted production, which forms the basis for a terminal project or thesis paper.

In order to strengthen the relationship between design and technology, those MFA students awarded an assistantship with the Theatre Department work in the technical shop related to the area of study.

Given the professional focus of the program and the credentials of the faculty, attention in the classroom and in the shop is devoted to the practice of professional theatre. Areas of concern are procedures, techniques, personnel, and opportunities, especially in relation to regional theatres and allied entertainment fields.

MFA in Scenic Design Plan of Study

The MFA requires a 60 credit hour minimum for completion. Students, however, may need to complete a course of study in excess of 60 hours in some cases.

The MFA program at Purdue subscribes to the idea that a strong design best rests on a foundation of technical knowledge, and that the study of technology is enriched by an understanding of design.

Scene Design classes focus on developing the skills to read a script for its imagery, to develop an environment for dramatic action, to plan a production, to explore the dramatic possibilities of scenery, and to communicate ideas visually and verbally. Particular attention is paid to the designer/director relationship in developing a production concept. Technical skills are developed in various classes.

The applicant is required to interview with a Purdue representative and submit the following materials when applying to the MFA Scene Design program:

  • Theatrical resume
  • Transcript(s) from all schools attended
  • Statement of goals for undertaking the study of Scene Design
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • The Graduate School application fee is $60 (U.S. dollars) for domestic applicants and $75 (U.S. dollars) for international applicants. You must pay your application fee online with your credit card. Visa and MasterCard cards are accepted and processed using a secured online payment system. Your application will not be processed until your nonrefundable application fee has been paid.

Interviews are held at all University Resident Theatre Association sites or can be arranged on the Purdue campus. Those wishing to be interviewed at URTA sites are encouraged to contact Purdue by mail to assure an interview with a Purdue representative.



Faculty & Staff Contacts

For specific questions regarding the Scenic Design MFA program, contact:
Associate Professor of Practice:   Rich Dionne  

For general information about the Purdue Department of Theatre, please contact:
Theatre Operations Manager and Graduate Secretary: Beth Daugherty

Apply Online

Click here for application information or to apply online. (Select "Theatre" as the area of study.)