Actors on stage performing


Gain the specialized skills you need in acting, directing, playwriting, design, dramaturgy and stage management to become a successful theatre professional or post-secondary professor.

Write Your Next Scene at USD

With ties dating back to Ancient Greece, theatre has been a top art form for centuries. Today, it remains the innovative, crowd-pleasing type of entertainment as it was centuries ago. As a graduate-level theatre student at USD, you will hone and improve your skills at an in-depth level in the areas of directing or theatre design and technology with emphases in costume design, light and sound design, scenic design or technical direction. Gain a modern theatre education through intensive craft studies, close student-mentor relationships, supportive coursework and extensive production application in our newly renovated theatre facilities. The MFA at USD is ideal for those seeking careers in professional theatre or teaching in higher education. 

Degrees & Offerings

Theatre: Design/Technology (MFA)

  Vermillion Main Campus

In the MFA design theatre/technology program, you will select a specialized area to study (scenic design, lighting design, sound design, costume design or technical production). Through one-on-one instruction, you will become immersed in a program that is both theoretical and practical in nature. You will have design opportunities throughout the season and are continuously encouraged to build upon your analytical and communicative skills to hone your artistic craft. 

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Theatre: Directing (MFA)

  Vermillion Main Campus

You will experience a high level of individualized instruction to elevate your skills in text analysis,  interpersonal communication and director’s tools for effective storytelling. Graduate level coursework is focused on directing, performance, stage management, modern and contemporary theatre, technical design, script analysis and dramaturgy. 

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Program Details





Graduate Admissions

Known for Excellence

With qualities like small class sizes, specialized programs and incredible student opportunities, USD is not your typical university. What makes us unique is what makes your education exceptional.


As a graduate student at USD, the opportunities available to you extend beyond the classroom. Explore your interests, find your community and experience your education to the fullest extent through the following opportunities.

Gain valuable real-world, professional experience while enjoying paid employment and discounted tuition rates as a graduate student at USD. The affordability you gain through graduate assistantships and fellowships will equip you with valuable, professional-level skills that will set you apart after graduation.

Teaching and research assistantships are awarded by individual departments. If you do not receive an assistantship within your department, you are eligible for an assistantship outside of your academic program or within support offices (non-academic units) at USD. Further inquiries should be directed to the graduate director of the department.

Graduate School Assistantships

Real Accomplishments through Hands-On Experience

You'll find the mentorship and facilities at USD that you need to develop your artistic talents. Take advantage of all we have to offer in the College of Fine Arts from a newly renovated theatre to a fully equipped dance studio. 

  • The Wayne S. Knutson Theatre is a 400-seat theatre that houses 30 line sets, full-length side tabs and state-of-the-art equipment.
  • The Arena Theatre is a flexible configuration space capable of seating up to 70 patrons and serves as our studio performance space, as well as our primary room for acting, directing and voice classes.
  • Fully equipped dance studio featuring a wall of curtained mirrors and a sprung, wooden dance floor. The space is home to our dance, movement dynamics, stage combat and mask classes and can accommodate up to 50 patrons for performances. 
  • Our theatre department also has a fully equipped scenic shop and costume studio for the design, construction, dyeing and cleaning of costumes and crafts. 

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Build Your Artistic Community

USD is home to more than 170 student organizations, including several that are housed in the Department of Theatre. Whether you are interested in developing management and leadership skills or entertaining at the local senior citizen center, USD has opportunities to get involved on campus and in the community.

Student Theatre Cooperative

The Student Theatre Cooperative (STC) is an independent organization that produces original and cutting-edge theatre that typically would not get produced in our main stage season. STC provides opportunities for students to develop leadership and management skills, while also refining their craft through theatre production.

At weekly meetings, students will:

  • Select a season of plays and musicals
  • Assign production teams and plan productions
  • Participate in a Spontaneous Combustion event, where student playwrights, directors and actors write and produce original 10-minute plays in a 24-hour period

STC also engages in service activities with a variety of local organizations like the food pantry, the senior citizen center and SESDAC, a center providing support for persons with disabilities. STC also hosts an annual awards party and dinner each spring.

STC meets weekly at 5:15 p.m. on Thursdays in the Arena Theatre. All students enrolled at USD, as well as faculty and staff, may attend. Email with questions.

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Graduate & Professional Student Association (GPSA)

Join your fellow graduate and professional students at USD. We aim to build a sense of community between graduate and professional students. Build your resume, network with others and gain experience and the unique opportunity to represent the interests of graduate students to the greater campus and community.

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Departments & Facilities

Explore the departments, facilities and centers that contribute to your education.
An overhead shot of main campus during the sunset.

Black Hills Playhouse

The Black Hills Playhouse, a division of the University of South Dakota College of Fine Arts, is a regional theatre located in Custer State Park. 

USD Theatre Production


Whether you are interested in a career in acting, musical theatre, design technology or a related field, the real-world experiences and connections you find in the Department of Theatre will help you get there.

Faculty & Staff

Get to know the faculty and staff in the Department of Theatre. Our faculty are experts in their field, contributing research and fostering student engagement and leadership.
Bio Image for Faculty Member Rai Genna

Rai Genna



Theatre History, Critical Theory and Analysis, Performance Studies
Bio Image for Faculty Member Sabrina Egeland

Sabrina Egeland

Assist Prof of Practice, Costume Techn & Mgnt


Costume Technology, Costume Shop Management
Bio Image for Faculty Member Chaya Gordon-Bland

Chaya Gordon-Bland

Associate Professor
Bio Image for Faculty Member Scott Mollman

Scott Mollman

Bio Image for Faculty Member Matthew Nesmith

Matthew Nesmith

Associate Professor
Bio Image for Faculty Member Victor Shonk

Victor Shonk

Associate Professor
Students, Alumni and Community gather outside Black Hills Playhouse

Regional & National Opportunities

  • Intern at the Black Hills Playhouse located in beautiful Custer State Park, South Dakota. 
  • Paid positions with the South Dakota Shakespeare Festival in Vermillion, South Dakota. 
  • Participate in the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. KCACTF is an annual event where students share work and compete for awards on the regional and national levels. 
  • Network with professional guest artists. 
Newly renovated interior seating of Wayne S. Knutson Theatre

State-of-the-art Facilities

The USD Department of Theatre is home to two performance spaces, the newly renovated Wayne S. Knutson Theatre and the Arena Theatre. The Knutson Theatre is a 400-seat theatre that houses 30 line sets, full-length side tabs and state-of-the-art equipment. The Arena Theatre is a flexible configuration space capable of seating up to 70 patrons and serves as our studio performance space, as well as our primary room for acting, directing and voice classes. The department is equipped with a studio space for dance, movement dynamics, stage combat and mask classes. Our theatre department also has fully equipped scenic, property and costume studios. 

Surprisingly Affordable

Whether you’ve recently completed your undergraduate degree, or you want to kick your career up a notch, graduate school is the next logical step. The good news is there is funding for both online and on-campus students to get you through your program. 
GA (Resident*)
Tuition (1 cr.)
GAF Fee (1 cr.)

More About Tuition & Fees

Tuition rates are subject to change and may vary depending on the program or department. Visit the Graduate Tuition & Costs page for more information.

* Graduate Assistant (GA) rates are available for resident, non-resident and online students.

** Resident rates may be available to you through the SD Advantage, Child of Alumni or Western Regional Graduate Program. To see if you quality, visit

alum success story

Photo of Lucas Granholm
I took courses in all aspects of theatre, in addition to my specialty in lighting design. Due to the holistic approach, I had an expanded portfolio with specialized training in my field of choice and was able to assist in all areas of theatre, from costume design to technical direction. USD's program gave me the tools I needed to be successful right away!

Lucas Granholm

MFA Design Theatre & Technology '14
Assistant Professor, University of Minnesota Morris
Arden Hills, Minnesota

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