Theatre Design Curriculum

This is a 3-year, 6-semester, 60-hour course of study consisting of three components: the design studio with a production laboratory, a critical thinking/writing component, and skill building. There is a menu each semester of skill development courses such as drafting, drawing and painting, composition, color, vectorworks, photoshop, and portfolio. You and your advisor will choose the combination of skill building courses that are appropriate for you. 


This course of study revolves around the following core group courses: 

  • 6 semesters of Design Studio- (Costume, Scenery, Lighting). Topics covered in the Design Studio may include: Devising Performance, Designing TV and Film, Designing New Work, Collaboration, Critical Thinking. Each semester of design studio will also include the design of realized productions in a variety of performance genre (theatre, dance, opera, video, film, entertainment). This course includes a daily drawing laboratory.
  • 6 skill-building courses in the area of choice. The student may select from choices in draping, tailoring, pattern making, drafting, model building, vectorworks, drawing, painting, robotic lighting, audio, composition, color and other choices. The skill building courses are chosen by the student with the advice and guidance of the design faculty and the primary mentor. 
  • 2 semesters of theater history, criticism, theory, or performance as public practice.
  • 1 semester Research Methods
  • 2 semesters of Electives
  • Portfolio Thesis (see "Thesis" below). Thesis candidates will continue to meet with the design studio for the final two semesters of the three year program. 

Students may also select courses from the other departments of the University, such as Art and art History, Fashion and Textiles, or RTF (Radio, Television and Film). Should students wish to carry a heavier load, they may take more than two electives, with the consent of the head of the theatrical design program.


The graduate DESIGN thesis should be a seminal event in the candidate's graduate career at the University of Texas at Austin. It is an opportunity for the M.F.A. candidate to express her/his aesthetic, artistic, and intellectual, voice. The thesis review is based on the highest standards of the professional theatrical design arena and the standards of university research methods. The thesis consists of two parts: Part I is an original scholarly or creative work with artistic merit. Thesis subjects should display innovation, reveal vision and demonstrate craft. The thesis project may encompass many forms of presentation, exhibition, design and performance. Each student is encouraged to embrace a thesis topic during the second year of study. Part II is the presentation of the candidate's portfolio and an oral defense of both parts I and II.

Conferences, Internships, Opportunities 

The program is primarily completed on campus, although we do encourage travel and participation for professional and cultural education. The Prague Quadrennial, USITT, LDI, Design Assisting, and NYC Fabric Shopping are often part of the student experience during graduate school at UT. Many students have participated in internship programs at major theatres, professional New York costume shops, major opera companies and television studios. In some cases, partial financial support is available from the University for these opportunities.