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Stage managers and crew prepare a stage. Photo: Manuel Rotenberg
Photo: Manuel Rotenberg.

Stage Management MFA

Stage managers are the orchestral conductors of the theatrical process. The stage manager takes the words and compositions of others and interprets them, using a unique approach. Stage managers artfully integrate the needs of a production as well as the personalities of all collaborators. Traditionally, the work of a stage manager is on a continuum through all five phases of production: pre-production, rehearsals, technical rehearsals, previews, and performance. As the only collaborator involved in all of these phases, the stage manager supplies the artistic continuity of the production, creatively orchestrating the unfolding of the process.

The stage management curriculum at UC San Diego wholeheartedly embraces the practical and the theoretical, acknowledging that the most fertile ground for learning is where the two intersect. We teach stage managers how to set intentions and goals, which allow the cultivation of a supportive space for creative collaboration. Stage Management students approach each production with a keen collaborative sensibility, aided by a strong knowledge of directing, design, acting, and all production areas. Students are encouraged to be curious about their collaborators, and to view themselves as artistic partners.

Financial Support

For a more detailed description of the financial support package for MFA students, download the MFA Program's Graduate Student Funding Policy.


Students are given, over the course of the three-year program, theoretical and practical tools to approach the process. We assist them in identifying what attracts them to the work, and help them practice the skills that will lead them to flourish as stage managers. This does not simply involve opening a textbook and listening to a lecture. Students are expected to be as curious about themselves as leaders as they are about a particular play or performative technique. They are open to working with the team dynamics created by each new production and they learn to thrive within a fluid and flexible cohort.

The MFA in Stage Management offers the unique theory series that is specifically designed to cultivate each student’s diverse array of leadership skills. These courses include Group Dynamics, Ethics, Collaborative Leadership, Experiential Process, and Leadership and Communication.

All first-year students take a core curriculum in Stage Management Process that explores the role of the stage manager in professional theatre and offers a comprehensive investigation of the work from pre-production through closing. All students attend the Stage Management Seminar, which serves as a weekly forum for sharing insights and solving problems on current production assignments, as well as examining the bigger picture of stage management and theatre in America today. Additional courses include Non-Traditional Theatre, Not-for-Profit & Commercial Theatre, Directing Process for Stage Managers, Professional Practice, as well as special topics such as production management, technical direction, opera, touring, design, dramaturgy, and the collaborative process.


Each year, students typically serve as both stage managers and assistant stage managers on a number of productions in a variety of venues. In addition to established scripts directed by MFA, faculty, and nationally prominent guest artists, students also work on new plays by graduate or guest playwrights, as well as faculty, guest, and student choreographed dance concerts. Great emphasis is placed on the student's ability to apply the theories learned in class to the production process. The graduate stage management students are taught to cultivate a unique and individualized style in the context of traditional theatrical work as well as non-traditional productions such as dance, site-specific theatre, and corporate events.


Each student is guaranteed at least one production opportunity at La Jolla Playhouse, or a comparable professional residency experience. Recent residencies have included the world premieres of Up HereCome From AwayBlueprints to FreedomChasing the SongEther Dome, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Many students have the opportunity to receive their membership to Actor’s Equity Association during the residency.

Research and Other Opportunities

Students are encouraged to work in professional venues whenever their schedules permit, both in the summer and -- subject to approval by their faculty -- during the academic year. During their time at UC San Diego, students have participated in internships or professional positions at Roundabout Theatre Company, The Old Globe, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Goodspeed Opera House, Shakespeare and Company, and other comparable venues. Students sometimes accompany faculty to work in global venues such as international arts festivals and intercultural productions. Students have also had the opportunity to work in the corporate theater environment with companies such as Google, Qualcomm, and others. These professional opportunities are always subject to the student’s abilities as well as availability.


In addition to the full-time faculty, Lisa Porter and Lora Powell, students work closely with nationally respected guest faculty on their academic and production work. Regular guest faculty includes Wendeline DeZan, Leila Knox, and Colleen Kollar. Past visiting guests have included Martha Donaldson (Come From Away, Next to Normal), Peter Lawrence (Shrek, Miss Saigon), Linda Marvel (Hands on a Hardbody, Fela), David O’Brien (Wicked, Godspell), Bonnie Panson (Evita, Bring It On -The Musical), and Ron Vodicka (The Lion King).


UC San Diego is proud that our alumni are working actively in theatre, dance and film/T.V. Recent alumni credits include the Broadway productions of Significant OtherThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the NighttimeSideshowThe Real Thing, Spider-Man: Turn Off the DarkHands on a Hardbody and Next to Normal and the National Tours of Hamilton, Wicked, and Les Miserables, as well as such reputable theatre companies as The Brooklyn Academy of Music, The Public Theater, The Juillard School, Atlantic Theatre Company, Playwrights Horizons, Manhattan Theatre Club, The New Group, Classic Stage Company, Roundabout Theatre Company, Hartford Stage, Mark Taper Forum, Long Wharf Theatre, Dallas Theatre Center, Huntington Theatre Company, The Shakespeare Theatre, Signature Theatre, Alley Theatre, South and Coast Rep. Recent film and Television include Pixar, Disney, Dreamworks, Warner Brothers Animation as well as such T.V. shows as CastleGlee24CSI: New York and Parks and Recreation.

Alumni Testimonials

“The Stage Management program gave me the foundation to become a collaborative manager in the arts. I approach my work with a general sense of how to support an arts organization and with a desire to learn and adapt to the unique nature and needs of each company or project. That strength is, in part, due to the variety of experience I gained in my education and the variety of professionals I was able to meet and learn from through practical assignments, classes, and seminars.”

“Because of direct relationships developed at UCSD, I was able to get my first NYC-based job 2 months following graduation, which led to another, and another, and another. The very phrase "I got my MFA from UCSD" opened countless doors to me as I made my way in a new city.”

“Theatre is a highly competitive largely freelance profession, and the training and connections that I gained in the course of my graduate program at UCSD prepared me well to enter this world at a very high level. The UCSD Department of Theatre and Dance offers the best combination of instruction, practicum experience and internship opportunities of any MFA program in the nation.”

“I found my grounding as a theatrical and event stage manager and acquired a necessary skill-set for pursing a fruitful career in the field after graduation. The program supports a strong emphasis on practical experience through maintaining a solid learning environment with case studies, classroom work, and experience on well-funded, fully-staged productions.”

“My three years at UCSD were the most exciting, challenging and rewarding years I had ever experienced. I grew not only as a stage manager, but also as a person, refining my stage management style and developing an understanding of how I could facilitate the collaborative process of theater.”

“As I begin to progress through my professional career, I continue to use the skills I developed at UCSD. My ability to work well in a team, to be a clear and confident leader and a skilled communicator help me daily to succeed as a stage manager.”

Find out more on the Stage Management MFA Admissions page >>

 If you have questions or would like more information about our Graduate programs, call the Graduate Coordinator at 858-534-1046 or email at