MFA in Scene Design

*The MFA Scene Design program recruits new classes every other year.  We will accept applications beginning October 2024 for admittance to the 2025-26 academic year.*

Design Philosophy

Scenic Design is a process of discovery. As designers explore their design ideas, they discover what will best clarify, support, and re-contextualize the story being told. A design itself becomes the series of choices made by designer, director and actor that define the world of the play. Each individual choice is not judged inherently worthy or valid, but rather the designer must assess whether in concert they create a unified whole; i.e. a system of meaning that creates resonance with the viewer. The scenic design program at UCIrvine bases its curriculum on developing a robust process of discovery and creating a generation of alert, collaborative and incisive theater artists.

All good design begins with a nuanced reading of the text. The design is then developed through thoughtful conversations with colleagues and critical engagement with their work. As the shape of the design develops, the Designer must cultivate the ideas to help create the most vital moving event on stage. We strive to create designers who are first and foremost storytellers. It is our firm belief that this training also provides students the best background for work in related fields like television, film, and commercial design.

Curriculum Structure

Key tools in this process of discovery are the designer's eye and hand. The development of the hand involves training in technical design and graphic skills. These are addressed in a series of technique-based classes that include hand-drafting, CAD drawings, 3D modeling, and Digital Imaging. The development of the designer's eye occurs in a series of core design courses that emphasize the "discovery" of design ideas, critical engagement with one's own work, and critical response to the work of fellow classmates. In addition, designers take dramatic literature and visual literacy classes to enrich their ability to work in a sophisticated and modern manner.

Production Opportunities

Production work begins for students in their first quarter of their first year. Typically, students will have both an assisting and designing assignment throughout each of their three years. Through productions students are able to both see their work realized and learn about the collaborative process. Scenic Designers learn to lead the design process and advocate for their ideas with directors and colleagues while maintaining a focus on what will serve the play as a whole. Great design inspires one's colleagues to create the most vital, exciting choices in the rest of the production.

Design at UCIrvine is a rigorous enterprise that prepares students both for work in the professional industry as well as a lifetime of creative exploration. Incoming students should expect a difficult, but rewarding experience in which setbacks are seen as fundamental aspect of the art-making process. Although specific experience in scenic design is not a pre-requisite of acceptance, prospective students should have an ability to express their ideas visually and verbally.

Core Faculty

Assistant Professor Efren Delgadillo Jr heads the scenic design program. He is a scenic designer, projection designer, painter, and fabricator. His work has been seen in LORT theatres across the nation and he has created site specific works in Europe.  Efren has been involved with multiple theatre companies developing plays in workshops as well as prototyping scenographic elements.

At UCI’s Claire Trevor School of the Arts, he is joined in instruction and mentorship by guest teaching artists in areas such as production design for film and TV, art direction, and scenic painting. Professor Delgadillo maintains a professional design career, but regards his work at UC Irvine as a primary responsibility. He welcomes emails of inquiry from prospective students and others interested in the set design program at UCI. He is a member of USA Local 829 in scenic design.

Facilities and Support

UCIrvine has 5 main performing venues: the 750-seat Irvine Barclay Theatre (proscenium), 350-seat Claire Trevor Theatre (proscenium), 399 seat Winifred Smith Hall (thrust), 99-seat experimental Robert Cohen Theatre (black box), 99-seat Little Theatre (proscenium). Graduate students are provided with studio space and computer labs equipped with CAD, and imaging software, scanners and large-format output devices. Qualified graduate students typically receive Tuition and Fee waivers, Teaching Assistantships, on-campus graduate student housing, and health insurance.