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The Misanthrope. Photo: Jim Carmody (2019)The Misanthrope (2019). Photo: Jim Carmody.

MFA Design

The Design program trains students in the best professional practices of regional and commercial theatre. The design faculty are award-winning working professionals also committed to teaching. The design training program stresses an interaction with the works of many visual artists from a wide range of disciplines. We teach students traditional methods, but also encourage spontaneity, free of preconceptions. We train students to create designs that "comment" on the play and the text, not merely "illustrate" it. Students' talent and design work are showcased at a number of venues that have directly resulted in many national grants, awards, and other work opportunities for our alumni.

Financial Support

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


All students take a core curriculum of first-year Design Studio classes in scenery, costume, and lighting (taken together with directors), and a Design Seminar where all three years come together in a forum to share production experiences, portfolios, and professional career techniques and skills. This is followed in subsequent years by more specialized Advanced Design classes that combine with production work in the student's own area of concentration. We are also able to offer a double-emphasis study (such as scenery and costume design combined) to appropriate students. Classes in other areas (drafting, text analysis) are also normally offered. In addition, students are encouraged to take advantage of the rich offerings available in the Department of Visual Arts to supplement their design coursework.


We offer a generous number of fully executed production opportunities, and generally all UC San Diego Theatre & Dance productions are designed by students. Designers collaborate with student, faculty, and internationally prominent guest directors. Students are fully supported by a professional workshop staff and are not expected to build or run their own productions.


UC San Diego and the Tony Award winning La Jolla Playhouse share a three-theatre complex. Student designers participate in a residency program at the Playhouse, and normally work as assistants to visiting professional designers. However, there are also some opportunities for talented students to be hired as principal designers by the Playhouse during their season. In recent years, design students have worked with John Arnone, Anne Bogart, Howell Binkley, Doug Stein, Susan Hilferty, Peter Maradudin, Susan Denison-Geller, Robert Falls, Robert Woodruff, Des McAnuff, James Ingalls, Michael Greif, George Tsypin, Robert Brill, Mark Lamos, Mark Wendland, Allison Reeds, Ken Posner, Dennis Parichy, Alan Moyer, and Peter Sellars.

Research and Other Opportunities

Students may also be offered opportunities to travel with faculty as assistants on professional assignments to major regional theatres, Broadway, England, or Europe. Modest funds are sometimes available for student research and travel to see productions, attend conferences and workshops. Recently students have traveled to London, New York, Paris, the Edinburgh International and Fringe Festivals, and the Prague Quadrennial Festival.


Our visiting faculty have included: John Arnone, Ralph Funicello, Susan Hilferty, James Ingalls, Andrei Serban, Robert Woodruff, and Tina Haatainen. To see a list of our current faculty, with photos and bios, please visit our faculty page.

Find out more on the MFA Design - Costume page >>

Find out more on the MFA Design - Lighting page >>

Find out more on the MFA Design - Scenic page >>

Find out more on the MFA Design - Sound page >>

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