MFA Design/Production

MFA Design Graduate Advisor: Robert Gardiner
604.822.4200

Program and Graduate Secretary (Theatre MFA Design) Karen Tong
604-822-3880

Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies: www.grad.ubc.ca
604-822-2848

The Master of Fine Arts in Design and Production for Theatre is an intensive program intended to prepare students for work in the professional theatre.

The program admits 1-4 students each year, with applicants from all over the world. Instruction centres on a core of studio classes emphasizing development of conceptual, graphic, and research skills. In addition, MFA design and production students undertake considerable practical work, which may include assisting faculty and other practicing designers on projects outside the University, designing theatre productions at UBC and elsewhere, and working in film. The program generally takes 2 or 3 years to complete, and usually culminates in a thesis design or designs, usually for one of the UBC theatres. MFA design students also develop and assemble a portfolio of artwork and photographs to demonstrate and illustrate their abilities, so that potential post-graduate employers can review their work.

The Learning Environment

Project-based inquiry has been a central feature of our teaching since the beginnings of the Theatre Program. In this environment, students present the results of their creative work and research both in the classroom and to the theatre-going public. Students participate in projects at a level appropriate to their abilities, and as they progress, are able to assume leadership roles and make significant artistic contributions. The emphasis on teamwork, responsibility, productivity, and peer support provides the student with the building blocks of a successful future in the creative arts. We strongly believe that this approach to programming and teaching provides the student with excellent preparation for a leadership role in a wide range of endeavours.

Theatre at UBC Productions

The Theatre at UBC season provides a unique vehicle for the investigative and creative activity of students, visiting artists and scholars, and faculty. Theatre@UBC produces a subscription season of 4 – 6 fully mounted shows on our three stages, and between 5 and 10 small staged projects at various locations during the academic year. Students in the BFA Acting, BA Theatre, BFA Design and Production, and the MFA Design and Directing programs participate in all aspects of production work, under the supervision of the faculty and staff. Students emerge from the program with excellent work experience in their areas of interest. The Department has strong ties with Vancouver’s professional theatre companies, which sometimes can provide students with unique professional experience and exposure to the local theatre community. The students in the Department’s Film Production Program produce between 10 and 15 short or feature length films per year, and MFA Design students have frequent opportunities to work on these productions.

The Supervisors

On being admitted into the Department, all first year students are assigned a Supervisor, preferrably a faculty member with whom the applicant has corresponded and who has expressed willingness and interest in advising the student throughout her/his program. The Supervisor will assist the student during the program and will serve as the Thesis Advisor.

A program of study will be developed by the student and the Supervisor, in consultation with the Department, preferably before classes commence in September, and in any case no later than the end of the first week of the first term.

Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies has more detailed information on the Graduate Supervisor’s responsibilities at: www.grad.ubc.ca/students/supervision

Graduate Design Faculty:

  • Jacqueline Firkins
  • Robert Gardiner
  • Brad Powers

Admission to the Program

Deadline for submission of all application materials for September entry is January 15. You must complete and submit an online application in order to be considered for admission.

We encourage you to enquire about the program in person. You are also welcome to tour the facilities, see a show, and talk to students in the program. Please email the MFA Design and Production Graduate Advisor to make an appointment.

In order to be considered for full admission you must have a Bachelors degree or its acceptable academic equivalent, and must have received a grade of 80% or above in at least 12 credits of coursework in Theatre. Supplementary undergraduate courses may be required if your grades are not sufficient. Admissibility is determined by the UBC Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, not by the Department. See Minimun Academic Requirements: http://www.grad.ubc.ca/prospective-students/application-admission/admission-requirements.

You must submit a portfolio of work. A theatre design portfolio should include: examples of drawings, renderings, technical drawings, costume sketches, photographs of models (for set designers) and photographs of realized designs (especially for lighting designers). Also include examples of artwork in other areas if appropriate. Include material that demonstrates your abilities in 2 and 3-dimensional art and design, and whatever best shows your artistic personality and themes. Examples of successful portfolios have included everything from performance art and fashion illustration to folk art carvings and abstract expressionist paintings.

Students are often required to supplement their graduate program with undergraduate courses, to address deficiencies in breadth of knowledge and / or artistic skills. Six credits of these undergraduate courses can be applied to the Masters Degree.

Proof of proficiency in the English Language in the form of a TOEFL test is required except for those whose first degree is from Canada, USA, Great Britain, The Republic of Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and British West Indies. Information on the TOEFL test can be found at http://www.grad.ubc.ca/prospective-students/application-admission/english-proficiency-requirements

If you meet all of the above criteria, you qualify to be considered for full admission. If you do not meet all the above criteria, you may be required to take additional remedial courses or you may be eligible for admission to a qualifying year. You must submit an online application in order for us to advise you regarding the possibilities.

If you don’t meet the criteria for full admission, but are eligible for a Qualifying Year, you can take courses to augment your eligibility for full admission. However, completion of a Qualifying year does not guarantee full admission, and credit for courses taken in the Qualifying year cannot be applied to the Graduate degree. See Qualifying Student Status: http://www.grad.ubc.ca/current-students/student-status-classification/qualifying-students

Requirements for the Degree

Upon admission, you must meet with the Design Faculty to plan your program. A plan of study will be agreed upon by the student and his/her Supervisor, and recorded in the student’s file. In most cases, two to three years will be required to complete the degree.

  • You must successfully complete the required coursework or its equivalent. (see below)
  • You must successfully complete an acceptable Thesis Project. (see below)
  • You must assemble a Graduating Portfolio, which will include your Thesis Project, and which will be reviewed by Faculty during a Graduating Portfolio Review. (see below).

A Minimum of 30 CREDITS are required for the degree (not including any courses required for a qualifying year). 24 credits (including Thesis) must be numbered above 500

Your Program MUST include:

at least 18 credits chosen from:

  • THTR 505 (3 credits), THTR 507 (3 credits), Scene Design
  • THTR 506 (3 credits), THTR 508 (3 credits), Costume design
  • THTR 407 (3 credits), THTR 551 (3 credits), Lighting Design
  • THTR 550 (3 credits). Historic Design
  • THTR 549 Thesis, (6 or 12 credits – see Thesis, below),

and at least 6 credits chosen from:

  • THTR 500 (3 credits) Research Methods
  • THTR 547 (3 – 6 credits) Directed Studies
  • THTR 562 (3 credits) Graduate Seminar

Up to SIX credits of coursework numbered below 500 may be counted toward the degree, with the approval of the Design Program Graduate advisor. In order to address any deficiencies in your breadth of knowledge, you may be required to enroll in selected undergraduate Design and Production courses.

In order to address any deficiencies in your breadth of practical experience, you may be required to enroll in selected undergraduate Practicum Courses.

THTR 505, or 506, or 407, or 551 must be taken during the first year of the MFA program THTR 500 and THTR 562 may be offered in alternate years. Many students take more courses than the minimum requirement of 30 credits.

All coursework is determined on an individual basis. You may take coursework in other departments subject to faculty approval.

MFA students usually design more than one production while in residence at UBC. Design and Directing Assignments (including Thesis Assignments) are made by the Production Committee of the Department in consultation with the candidate’s Advisor. Non-Thesis Production and Design assignments are credited in either THTR 547, or Thtr 499, or (rarely) another directed-studies course. You may design, assist, or work in some other capacity that serves your training. You may work on an outside production. You must consult with your Advisor regarding all such projects.
You must thoroughly document all your work in the program, and arrange it in a professional portfolio. The faculty reviews your Portfolio with you each year. You should voice your academic and artistic concerns or questions during these sessions. Your grades in Design courses are based on our evaluations of your work as it appears in your Portfolio.

Your professional portfolio should include graphic evidence of your design and related experience (photographs, drawings, etc.). Design work completed during your MFA program, previous projects, and projects completed outside the University during your program should all be included. All of the work must meet Associated Designers of Canada standards for graphic presentation and completeness, and – in the judgment of the Design Faculty – constitute a significant body of professional calibre design and production achievements.

The Graduating Portfolio should normally contain evidence of at least six productions:

  • realized designs for small-scale presentation equivalent to “equity waiver,” “community,” or “low-budget” productions.
  • “professional production” experiences as designer or design assistant outside the University. “Professional production” is indicated by the involvement of one or more of the following: Actor’s Equity, IATSE, ADC, PACT, LORT, Director’s Guild, Screen Actors Guild, or similar organizations.
  • realized design for the Theatre at UBC Subscription Season, which has been constructed to ‘professional’ standards using a fully staffed shop.
  • any other appropriate material. Film, Television, or Performance Art Projects may be substituted for the above – with consent of the Faculty – provided that they are “equivalent” to these listed.
  • studio “paper” projects. These will typically be designs for large-scale production.

Every MFA Design student’s work is evaluated by a Supervisory Committee consisting of a Thesis Advisor and other members of the faculty. This Committee must be identified before the Thesis Production, but we recommend that this committee be identified as soon as possible in the student’s program. Throughout your program, committee members can advise, critique and advocate for you, conduct portfolio reviews, and evaluate practical projects. Committee members fulfil the role of second reader of the Thesis report, conduct the graduating portfolio review, and must approve the student for graduation. Committee members may also serve as additional advisors.

Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies has more detailed information on the Supervisory Committee responsibilities.

When, in the opinion of the Design Faculty, the candidate is deemed sufficiently prepared, the candidate will be assigned a Thesis Project; often (but not necessarily) at the end of the second year in the program. Students register in THTR 549 – Thesis at the beginning of the first year, but will not receive a grade until completion of the Program.

The Thesis should be a “realized design for moderate scale production” as described above. This is often the design for one of the shows in the Theatre@UBC season. A number of equivalent alternatives are possible, provided that the project is of comparable scope. Design in one of the areas of set, costume, lighting or multimedia is consiered a 6 credit Thesis, Design in 2 areas is a 12 credit Thesis.

The acceptability of “equivalent alternatives” must be decided by Faculty on a case-by-case basis. You may propose another form of thesis project which will also be decided on a case-by-case basis.

All aspects of the design process must be documented and assembled in a written submission: the thesis report. The thesis report format must conform to the regulations set out by Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. For more details, see http://www.grad.ubc.ca/current-students/final-dissertation-thesis-submission/document-requirements.

The thesis report should contain:

  • An abstract.
  • A succinct statement describing the particulars of the production: the area (s) designed, the director, the venue, and the other designers.
  • A brief synopsis of the action and short discussion of the play’s genre, dramatic structure, and general place in theatre literature, if relevant.
  • A simple statement of the “concept,” “metaphor,” or “style” selected for this production and a brief explanation of the process that led to the choice.
  • An explanation of the way in which your design choices illuminated or expressed this “concept – metaphor – style.” You should discuss matters such as symbolism, historical detail, pictorial composition, dramatic focus, color choices, and so on. You should describe the design choices you made, and you should explain why you made those choices. This section forms the body of the paper.
  • A short summary of the practical requirements and limitations (space limits, budget, actor type, quick change, # of available dimmers, etc.). Describe how these matters affected the design choices.
  • A conclusion, briefly re-stating the way in which the thesis design supported, enhanced, and expressed the production, and stating the designer’s artistic and professional evaluation of the project.
  • Copies of the design documents. These must be presented according to the Associated Designers of Canada format and be a “complete” design according to ADC Standards. Color copies are acceptable, folded bluelines are acceptable for drafting, slides are not acceptable. The ADC Standards are discussed in various classes and are available online at http://www.designers.ca

Upon completion of the Thesis report you must present a graduating portfolio containing all the above listed work including the Thesis report with its documentation to the Supervisory Committee for comment, discussion, and questions.

You are responsible for arranging the date and time of the committee meeting with all the members, since the review is contingent upon completion of the documentary paper. You must consult the UBC calendar for deadlines: you are responsible for meeting them.

The committee will discuss your Thesis with you, discuss your work and portfolio with you, and members may query you regarding your knowledge of material covered in any of the required or recommended courses. The most important factors in the evaluation are the quality of your represented work and your ability to maintain your presence of mind and enthusiasm. Following the review, the committee will assign a grade for THTR 549 (Thesis), and notify Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies of the result.

The granting of the degree is determined by successful completion of the required courses and the thesis. You Must Apply To Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies In Order To Graduate.

All Master’s Degree students must complete their programs within five years of initial registration (excluding qualifying year).

All students admitted to Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies must register when they begin their studies. Students must remain continuously registered until the degree is completed, except for periods of time for which the student is away on an approved leave of absence. Failure to register for two consecutive terms may result in the student being required to withdraw. For details on part-time study, leaves, extensions and other policies, see http://www.grad.ubc.ca/current-students/managing-your-program/leave-absence.

Overall average grades below 68%, or individual grades below 60% may require withdrawal from the program. http://www.grad.ubc.ca/faculty-staff/policies-procedures/withdrawal

Registration is done through the SISC. If you have trouble consult with the MFA Design Advisor.

Fees & Financial Assistance

The cost of living in Vancouver is high.

In addition to living expenses and tuition, students in the MFA Design program need to own a considerable quantity of art and design supplies, tools, and materials. You should plan to spend at least $1500 in tools and supplies.

Students of Set Design will need a computer, Adobe Photoshop, and Vectorworks or AutoCad. Students of Lighting Design will need a computer and Vectorworks.

For more information on costs, see the UBC Calendar: Fees and Financial Assistance http://students.ubc.ca/calendar/index.cfm?tree=14,0,0,0

All domestic and international students who are accepted and registered full-time in our department’s graduate programs (Ph.D., M.F.A., M.A.) will be eligible for financial assistance from teaching assistantships, research assistantships and Graduate Support Initiative (GSI) funding allocated as entrance awards, multi-year funding awards, tuition awards and/or scholarship top-up awards.

Please visit our Graduate Funding Opportunities page for details.

The Theatre Program administers a few scholarships and awards, all of which usually go either to senior undergraduate or graduate students. The amounts are small and awards are made by a committee of Faculty. Where possible we give them to students who do not have other funding and who have demonstrated excellence and high potential. If you want to be considered for an award, notify the Design Graduate Advisor when you apply, and apply early.

Hundreds of external agencies and governments grant Scholarships, Fellowships, and Bursaries: please investigate fully all that may apply to you.

For information about Students Loans, see Fees and Financial Assistance: http://students.ubc.ca/calendar/index.cfm?tree=14,0,0,0

International Students

UBC takes great pride in its position as a major international institution, and our committment to International Students is clearly demonstrated. The Theatre Program is very much a part of that commitment, and regularly admits students from around the world. A rich variety of background, experience and culture lends great vitality and dynamism to our learning environment.

A non-Canadian student wishing to study at the University of British Columbia must obtain a student visa from the Department of Immigration before entering Canada. Acceptance at a Canadian University is a precondition for a visa. Under current immigration policies, a foreign student cannot enter as a Landed Immigrant or apply for Landed Immigrant status while in Canada.

Foreign nationals may be employed by the University, and may be eligible for scholarships and fellowships, but require a work permit to seek gainful employment outside the university. Work permits for students are difficult to obtain.

For more information about the servies that UBC has for International Students, please visit www.international.ubc.ca/index.cfm

UBC recognizes a wide range of educational credentials from around the world. To find out what we require for graduate admission from your country, please visit Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies: http://www.grad.ubc.ca/prospective-students/application-admission/admission-requirements

TOEFL Students applying for admission whose first language is not English are required to write the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), administered by:

TOEFL
Box 899
Princeton, NJ, 08541 U.S.A.

or the Michigan Test, administered by:

The Testing and Certification Division
English Language Institute
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109, U.S.A.

Please see Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies website TOEFL and Other Language Tests: http://www.grad.ubc.ca/prospective-students/application-admission/english-proficiency-requirements

Online Resources