Whether training to be an actor, director, playwright, designer, stage manager, or technician, students will rigorously practice their individual disciplines while sharing an academic curriculum designed to provide a well-rounded and comprehensive understanding of their craft.
The program offers an MFA in theater degree with concentrations in acting, design, production, and playwriting.
Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Theater
Theater is a creative and collaborative art in which true excellence can only be achieved through exploration of craft. Our focus in the theater department at Mason Gross School of the Arts is to provide aspiring theater professional with a unique experience including intensive studio classes, innovative academic curricula, and ground-breaking fully-supported productions.
MFA degrees in theater include concentrations in:
Concentration in Acting
The Acting Program offers an integrated and challenging 3.5-year course of study for students who aspire to a career as a professional actor.
This unique program features two full years of the Meisner Technique, a year at the Rutgers Conservatory at Shakespeare’s Globe in London, and a professional development semester designed to prepare students for life as a working actor.
All of this activity will challenge students in a full and complex way to deepen their understanding of theater, help contextualize their work, and give our graduates a distinct advantage in the world.
- Year 1: Exploration, Improvisation, Discipline
- Year 2: Form, Expansiveness, Text
- Year 3: Language, Language, Language
- Year 3.5: Integration, Transition, Professional Placement
The first year is spent exploring and mastering fundamental concepts, developing a background in theater, and establishing the work ethic of the profession.
- The actor begins intensive training in the Meisner Technique, developing a truthful instrument and identifying personal meaning through exercise work and two scene opportunities. The student is encouraged to take risks, create spontaneous life, and shape a performance based on careful reading of the text.
- Voice, Speech, and Movement support the student’s effort to develop an open and technically sound instrument.
- Theater History and Clothing and Culture expand the student’s theater vocabulary.
- The year culminates in Performance Ensemble, an actor-generated performance piece.
The second year of the Meisner Technique focuses on text—the introduction and application of Script Analyses: beats, objectives, actions, quality of playing, and the process of building a character.
- In acting class, the student is challenged to make choices that adjust his or her “natural” behavior, thus propelling them out of their comfort zone.
- The scene work begins with contemporary American Realism and progresses into more complex language-based material.
- Voice, Speech, and Movement underscores the concept of expansiveness and assist the actor in entering “the world of the play.”
- Global Theater places the actor’s study in a wide context.
- Script Analysis, Dramatic Structure, Scene Study, and Physical Acting Techniques deepen the connection to the text.
- Casting in departmental productions is integral to the second year of study.
The third year places the student in London, studying at Shakespeare’s Globe. The course of study is a solid foundation in classical training. Students ultimately achieve clarity, expressiveness, and spontaneity in acting Shakespeare, culminating with a performance on the world-famous Globe stage with a public audience.
- Intensive work in classical acting training from leading United Kingdom teachers, practitioners, and professionals. Conservatory classes in Acting, Voice, Speech, Text, Movement, Stage Combat, Singing, Accents, Western European Historical Dance, Texts, and Context.
- Shakespeare’s Plays curriculum focuses on vital fundamentals including: mastering verse, rhyme, and prose; comprehending and appreciating the form of the text; contextualizing the written word; and owning Shakespeare’s language.
- British Arts and Culture includes weekly hours spent at museums, landmarks, and theaters to enhance the educational experience.
The final semester is a rich and important period that allows students to synthesize experiences and begin transitioning into the profession.
- Actors participate in productions staged by professional directors on campus.
- Students prepare for Rutgers Actor Presentation, an annual showcase of the graduating actors held in New York City for agents, managers, and industry professionals.
- Classes and workshops are offered in Actor/Playwright Collaboration, Career Transition, and Voiceover and On-Camera Techniques & Auditioning. Industry professionals are integrated into the semester to provide critiques, insight, and advice. Each acting student graduates with a demo reel of filmed material.
- The Professional Development Seminar looks at the business of being an artist, from the presentation of oneself as a working professional to the handling of finances and a freelance lifestyle.
Concentration in Design
Theater design students are part of a dynamic 3.5-year professional training program that includes a six-week residency in London. Our program provides students with essential design skills as well as a strong foundation in theater history and theory. The faculty are distinguished, working professionals who provide students with one-on-one mentoring and prepare students for a presentation to industry professionals in New York City.
The first year provides the foundations of design theory, skills, and history. All first-year students take core classes together, providing a strong sense of community and an appreciation of the collaborative nature of theater.
The second year builds on the foundations learned in the first year and provides more in-depth explorations into the areas of concentration, as well as “Global Theater,” which analyzes current theater styles and theories across the globe.
All design students spend six weeks of their third year in London at Shakespeare’s Globe, where they study with distinguished British designers and take full advantage of London’s dynamic theater and cultural opportunities. Field trips to theater productions, museums, and galleries are all part of the program. While at Rutgers, students pursue in-depth training in their area of design.
Students spend the final semester studying their specialized design area in further depth, with a special focus on career transition and portfolio presentation. Professional contacts are developed with the Mason Gross faculty and through internships. Design students are presented to the industry at a design portfolio presentation in New York City in January.
Areas of concentration include costume, lighting, and scenic design.
Costume design students at Mason Gross study with professional design and costume technology faculty members; work in spacious, well-equipped shops; design several productions in various venues; shop fabrics for those designs in New York City; research those shows in New York City museums and libraries; and visit annual special fashion exhibits at the Fashion Institute of Technology, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and others.
This rigorous and comprehensive training includes a carefully integrated series of courses in costume design, history, and rendering as well as construction and draping.
Lighting design students can expect rigorous and comprehensive training in the theory, skills, and techniques necessary to pursue a professional career. During the 3.5-year program, students take a carefully integrated series of classes in lighting design, technology, drafting, studio drawing, and projection design. Students will have opportunities to design department shows to see their ideas realized on stage in performance and build their portfolio. Visiting professional designers and directors provide additional opportunities to learn and create a network for after graduation.
Scenic design students can expect rigorous and comprehensive training in the theory, skills, and techniques necessary to pursue a professional career. Our professors are working professionals and bring access to the best current ideas and practices. The 3.5-year program is a carefully integrated series of classes in scenic design, drafting, history, and drawing. Students have opportunities to design department shows to see their ideas realized on stage in performance and build a portfolio. Visiting professional designers and directors provide additional opportunities to learn and create a network for after graduation.
Concentration in Production
Production students are part of a 3.5-year program designed to train students to be professionals in the fields of costume technology, stage management, or technical direction. The program combines integrated knowledge and respect for all aspects of theater at a variety of production levels to create artistically astute, well-versed, thoughtful production professionals. Core training and curriculum come together in production practice and informs the process on each play. Working from a core artistic sensibility, production students support the work of the contributing artists as they all bring the performance to realization.
Area of concentration includes costume technology.
Costume technology students will acquire the essential skills needed to pursue a professional career. The curriculum includes a carefully integrated series of classes in technical and construction skills, supported by costume history and design courses. Students will have numerous opportunities to work on department productions and see projects realized on stage and in performance. Visiting professional costume shops and designers provide students with additional opportunities to learn and create a network after graduation. Students will present their portfolios to the industry at a Design Portfolio Presentation in New York City.
Concentration in Playwriting
In the playwriting program, each playwright is encouraged to develop, stretch, and experiment with their individual voice. This is a place to hone one’s craft, to engage with emerging and established theater artists, and to study the new, the ancient, and the innovative in the unique alchemy of performance