Theatre M.F.A - Directing for Musical Theatre

The School of Theatre will be accepting applications for the MFA in Directing in the fall of 2020. This will be for entrance into the program in fall of 2021. Application instructions and deadlines will be announced in spring of 2020.
Please include the following in your packet:
Letter of Intent, no more than three pages in length, discussing your reason for applying to the program at PSU and your goals and aspirations for residency. 
Unofficial transcript from your undergraduate institution.  Should you be accepted into the program, you will be required to have an official transcript sent to the graduate school at Penn State. 
Please send these materials to:
Penn State School of Theatre Application:
Graduate Directing Program
116 Theatre Building
University Park, PA 16802

Program Overview

The School of Theatre at Penn State offers graduate training in directing for the musical theatre stage. This unique three-year Master of Fine Arts degree program combines traditional director training with the special tools needed for directing in the professional musical theatre. Integrated into the School's other MFA programs and its nationally recognized Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre program, the applicant will train with acting, dance, voice, and design faculty. The degree candidate will direct a minimum of five projects including a fully mounted thesis production. Additional opportunities include a semester internship with a director of a professional Musical Theatre production.

We believe that a student learns to direct by directing. With a small enrollment every other year, the directing program emphasizes constant practical directing experience. Further, learning to direct in musical theatre requires a solid foundation in directing non-musical plays, acting, and dramatic analysis. Ultimately, a director must be prepared to stand alone -- to survive, to make a statement, to share a vision, to challenge the conventional, to create exciting and stimulating theatre.

Believing that theatre functions as an artistic ensemble in which the director serves as a creative leader, we train directors who are collaborators. The faculty works much the same way, providing the student director with diverse input while sharing a common belief in what constitutes quality theatre. Graduate directors will work closely with musical theatre faculty, performance faculty, and design faculty. The director training program emphasizes preparation for work in the professional musical theatre where the broadest spectrum of training and experience is necessary. The program offers a balance between seminars, tutorials, classes, studios, projects, and production assignments.


The first year of training focuses on process -- play selection, text analysis, casting, rehearsal methods, and working with actors. Directors take two directing courses, two years of theatrical literature research/seminar courses, a costume history course, and direct at least two studio projects. They also take the first semester of graduate acting studio. Most material in the first year centers on contemporary American and British realism and includes staging for the proscenium, arena and thrust. The first-year director also serves as assistant director on a mainstage production directed by faculty or professional guest artists.

The second year of training emphasizes the visual aspects of production and directing for the musical theatre stage. In addition to two directing seminars, course requirements include a class in scene design. Students also have an opportunity to continue their studies in dance and/or voice. During the second year the graduate director directs at least two projects, a 70-minute cutting of the musical, and a classical verse piece or a musical theatre revue. Projects increase in length, complexity, and production values during the course of the training, and the faculty adviser serves as a mentor for each project. Directing students enjoy access at all times to the expertise of the entire professional faculty for assistance in vocal and dialect coaching, fight choreography, dramaturgical advice, and other aspects of directing.

One semester of the third year centers on directing a fully mounted musical theatre production, and one semester offers an internship with a professional director in the Broadway, Off Broadway or Regional arena.


All graduate directors participate in the Theatre 100 Company. This creates additional opportunities to direct advanced graduate actors in scenes of different genre and styles. Further, graduate directors serve as teaching assistants in several of the BFA musical theatre performance classes.

Class Size and Candidate Profile

Two directing candidates are admitted each recruiting year depending upon the quality of applicants and availability of assistantship support. Enrollment is small to in order to provide student directors with an appropriate number of actors, faculty guidance, and production facilities. Because directing students impact and interact with all areas in the School of Theatre, prospective candidates must possess both maturity and directorial credits beyond the classroom or lab theatre level. The applicant should possess a substantial professional and/or academic musical theatre background. Candidates with dance and choreographic background should also feel encouraged to apply.

For more information contact

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Contact Us

Address: Penn State School of Theatre, 116 Theatre Building, University Park, PA 16802 USA.

Office: (814) 865 7586

Fax: (814) 865 5754

Tickets: (814) 863 0255