Apr 23, 2024  
2018-2019 Graduate Catalog 

Master of Fine Arts in Theatre Arts

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The M.F.A. program is designed to provide intensive artistic training in theatre arts for careers in theatre and theatre-related areas. Students will graduate with a specialization in acting or design and technology (the latter with areas of study in costume design, lighting design, scene design, and theatre technology).

Check departmental information for any additional requirements.

The student learning outcomes for this degree are located at http://www.niu.edu/assessment/clearinghouse/outcomes/index.shtml.


Admission to the M.F.A. program requires a baccalaureate degree, preferably with a major in theatre, or master’s degree in theatre arts with adequate experience in the specialization the applicant wishes to pursue as an M.F.A. candidate as well as basic knowledge and skills in both the performance and the production aspects of theatre. Students holding the baccalaureate degree in other fields may be eligible for admission to the program if they can demonstrate their ability to proceed at an advanced level.

Applicants for the specialization in design and technology must submit a portfolio of their work. Applicants for the acting specialization are required to audition and interview as part of the admission process. For candidates living 500 miles or more from campus, a videotaped audition and telephone interview are acceptable. Applicants for the directing specialization must submit a director’s analysis of a play they have directed. Applicants for the acting and the design and technology specializations are not required to take the General Test of the GRE.

All applicants must submit a statement of their reasons for seeking admission to the program.

Applicants who appear qualified on the basis of the above qualifications will be invited to a personal interview with admission representatives from the School of Theatre and Dance. Favorable recommendation by the representatives is required for admission.


Upon admission, students embark on a probationary year, during which they must successfully complete course work and a major artistic project. In order to achieve candidacy, they must receive positive faculty evaluation for the work completed during this period.

Limitation of Time

All requirements for the degree Master of Fine Arts must be completed within the seven consecutive years immediately preceding the date of the student’s graduation from that degree program. This time limit applies to enrollment in all graduate course work in the student’s program including work for which transfer credit is allowed.

If an NIU course taken to complete the requirements for an M.F.A. degree does not fall within the seven-year period indicated in the preceding paragraph, the School of Theatre and Dance may require the student to retake the course for credit or may allow the student to demonstrate current knowledge of the subject matter. In the latter case, currency must be demonstrated to the satisfaction of the department offering the course through successful completion of an appropriate examination or other assessment if available from the department. Otherwise, the outdated course work must be deleted from, and other course work must be substituted in, the program of courses. Transfer courses falling outside the limitation of time cannot be used in a graduate program.

Courses for Which Graduate Credit is Allowed

At NIU only courses which are numbered 500-798 carry credit toward the master’s degree. At least 50 percent of the minimum number of semester hours required for the M.F.A. degree must be earned in courses numbered 600 and above.

Student-at-Large and Transfer Credit

With the approval of the School of Theatre and Dance and the office of the dean of the Graduate School, a combined total of up to 21 graduate semester hours either accepted in transfer from other accredited institutions or earned at NIU as a student-atlarge may be applied toward the requirements for the M.F.A. degree in theatre arts.


Students in the M.F.A. program must earn a minimum of 72 semester hours beyond a baccalaureate degree, exclusive of work taken to remove deficiencies, with a GPA of at least 3.00 in all graduate courses required in the student’s program of courses (excluding deficiency courses taken for graduate credit) as well as in all graduate course work taken at NIU. Study may be interrupted for an approved internship, although not before the first three semesters of study in the acting specialization. The program requires the following.

Three major artistic projects in an area of study or specialization, including a final project.

An internship or an equivalent experience prior to graduation. Students in the M.F.A. acting specialization must participate in SummerNite, if available, to satisfy this requirement.

A final project (requiring enrollment in THEA 799), supported by a project documentation that is reviewed and approved by a committee of the faculty. The project may be done in conjunction with an internship.

Satisfactory completion of a final examination in the nature of an oral defense of the final project.

Completion of a minimum of 58 semester hours in consultation with the school in one of the following specializations.

Completion of the following core program of study (11)

Specialization in Acting

Students in the acting specialization are required each semester to audition for and participate in departmental productions. Students failing to maintain a 3.00 GPA in their acting, voice, and movement courses will not be permitted to perform in any production sponsored by the school. Private individual interviews, followed by written synopses of such reviews, will be held at least once a year to monitor the progress of the student. The performance faculty review committee reserves the right to place on casting probation or discontinue the candidacy of any M.F.A. acting candidate who shows unsatisfactory progress as determined by the committee.

Specialization in Design and Technology

Course work from one of the areas of study selected by advisement (58)

Costume Design

Lighting Design

Scene Design

Theatre Technology

Final Project

A student’s work in the Master of Fine Arts program in the School of Theatre and Dance culminates in a final project, the final examination on which serves in lieu of a final comprehensive examination. The project and a project paper must be reviewed and approved by a committee of the faculty consisting of at least three members. The majority of the committee members must be regular faculty members at Northern Illinois University; a majority must be members of the graduate faculty in the School of Theatre and Dance; and the chair must be a graduate faculty member in the School of Theatre and Dance.

In special situations, and only with the approval of the faculty director(s) and committee(s), students may collaborate on some aspects of the work contributing to their final projects. However, each project documentation submitted to the Graduate School for approval must be a unique product with the degree candidate as the sole author and with due acknowledgment of the contributions of collaborators; and the author must demonstrate to his or her committee satisfactory command of all aspects of the work presented.

A student intending to prepare a final project should identify a prospective project director, who must be willing to serve as director, meet Graduate School qualifications, and be approved by the school. The director and committee will judge the acceptability of the work. A faculty member may decline to serve as director of any particular final project, in which case the school will assist the student in seeking a director. If a student, with department approval, changes director, the student may need to undertake additional work, or to change projects, in accordance with the expectations and expertise of the new director.

The project may be done in conjunction with an internship. To undertake the project, the student must register for THEA 799. Registration for this purpose may be in absentia. If circumstances prohibit continuing progress on the work, the student may request a leave of absence from the dean of the Graduate School. If a student interrupts registration in course number THEA 799 without obtaining a leave of absence, then upon recommendation of the School of Theatre and Dance, the student’s admission to the degree program will be terminated. After a student’s first enrollment in THEA 799, he or she should register as an auditor in THEA 799 each term until the project receives final approval from the school. Additional instructions about the project and the written documentation are available from the School of Theatre and Dance.

Application for Graduation

When nearing completion of requirements for a graduate degree, a student must submit an application for graduation to the Graduate School. See “Graduation” in the General Regulations section of this catalog.

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