MFA in Design


UCIrvine provides a challenging and creative environment for the curious and resourceful design student. We believe a strong foundation in design for the theatre and the opportunity to explore digital tools will develop unique and thoughtful artistic collaborators. With a UCIrvine education, the designer will be exceptionally well-suited to a career in the theatre and related entertainment arts.


Incoming students specialize in one specific discipline: sound design, lighting design, costume design, or scenic design. Study of that specific discipline is at the heart of the student's education. Students will also develop a solid working knowledge of the basic principles and procedures of the other disciplines in order to foster more productive collaboration. In addition, the design curriculum includes the study of theater history, art history, and dramatic literature.

Instruction is focused on the growth of each student's individual design abilities. Students will work in a shared studio space, creating an atmosphere of constructive critique and support. Beyond the regular course load, additional learning opportunities can occur during weekly roundtables, design tutorials, masterclasses, and post-performance critiques.

The Design program is in the final stages of creating a new curricula for graduate students. Details and a press release can be found here.

Training Methodology

The Design program provides professional training that respects our theatrical heritage and the traditional skills of a designer. In addition, a strong emphasis is placed on new technologies and how they affect and enhance contemporary design practices. Training on high-end computers and equipment using the latest software is required in all design disciplines, preparing students for a seamless transition to the professional world.

Production Opportunities

A special emphasis on production exists in the Design program. In order to ensure ample design opportunities, the number of graduate students admitted each year is intentionally limited. Students should typically expect to design between four and seven fully-supported projects in as many as five different venues over the course of their education. The interdisciplinary organization of the Claire Trevor School of the Arts at UCIrvine provides additional design opportunities in opera, dance, video and performance art. Faculty mentor each project, providing guidance throughout the design process and offering helpful feedback upon its completion. In addition, the school brings in professional guest designers to critique each third-year student's work.

As a professional training program, attention is given both to the aesthetics and the pragmatics of creating theatre. Production schedules, budgets and processes are modeled on the common practices of American regional theaters. Highly-trained staff support all realized productions and create a professional environment in which the students work.

Details for the Prospective Student

The design program typically accepts eight (8) students a year, two in each discipline. There are seven (7) core faculty members in the design area. Though all Design faculty continue to be active in professional theatre, they all regard their work at UCIrvine as their primary focus. Full-tuition fellowships and assistantships are awarded to most qualified design students for three years of study. Assistantships typically involve work in a production capacity related to a student's area of interest and may include teaching opportunities. Students are given a shared studio space to work in, equipped with computers, printers, and other necessary design tools. Subsidized housing is available for all graduate students on the UCIrvine campus. In addition, applicants are also encouraged to apply for assistance based on financial need through the Office of Financial Aid.


Lonnie Rafael Alcaraz, B.A. & M.F.A. University of California, Irvine.
Head of Lighting Design

Holly Poe Durbin, B.A. Vanderbilt University, M.F.A. University of California, Los Angeles.
Head of Costume Design

Marcia (Marcy) Froehlich, B.A. Principia College, M.F.A. University of Michigan.
Costume Design

Dipak (Dipu) Gupta, B.A. University of Pennsylvania, M.F.A. University of California, Los Angeles
Head of Scene Design

Mike Hooker, B.F.A. University of Arizona, M.F.A. CalArts.
Head of Sound Design

Vincent Olivieri, B.A. University of Richmond, M.F.A. Yale University.
Sound Design, Head of Design

Jaymi Lee Smith, B.F.A. DePaul University.
Lighting Design, Associate Head of Design