The Master of Fine Arts in Directing program combines rigorous professional training with a highly innovative curriculum. As a department committed to the development of new work, we believe that directing is both a generative and collaborative art form. Students work closely with the MFA Playwriting program candidates, developing and directing diverse new plays in classroom, workshop, and full-production settings.

Our focus is to train the theatrical leaders of the future: dynamic artists who understand and promote the development of new work, visionaries who believe in the transformative power of this art form.

Toward this aim, we admit students with demonstrated expertise from a variety of theatrical and artistic backgrounds, who possess these vital attributes: They are socially conscious, personally disciplined and hungry for knowledge. They are willing to challenge assumptions and break through boundaries. They are storytellers, open to taking creative risks that deepen the sociological, political, and aesthetic impact of their work. Most importantly, they have lively imaginations and a passion for exploring the human condition. Through our course work and productions, we train directors to engage their own unique visions, while learning to make theatre that opens audiences to new ways of seeing and being in the world.  

Along with immersive course work in the craft of direction, the MFA in Directing program offers students the opportunity to explore digital media for live performance, and entrepreneurship in the arts.

MFA directing program's three major components

Course work

A series of courses, totaling a minimum of 62 semester hours, forms the academic core of the program; students with previous training and/or practical experience may request some substitute courses.

Practical experience

Students direct minimally one play or workshop every semester, including a spring production in Iowa’s New Play Festival.

Teaching or administrative work

Directors also teach or work in an administrative capacity; depending on their skills, they may lead sections in acting or dramatic literature courses. For this service they receive a salary, full tuition, and health benefits.

We normally admit students to our directing program every three years. This allows us to fully focus our attention on the needs of each class.

Our next class of directors will begin work in the fall of 2026. Inquiries and applications will be accepted beginning in the fall of 2025. The application deadline is Jan. 15, 2026 or by special request.

Degree requirements

You develop a plan of study during your first semester. The plan takes into account the normal program requirements as well as your particular background and special interests. It is developed in conjunction with the Head of Directing and signed by the program faculty (which may include one faculty member outside the program), who serve as the student’s committee.

It must be submitted to the Head of Directing and the Director of Graduate Studies by Nov. 15; it is then reviewed at the end of each academic year. The Head of Directing, your committee, and the Director of Graduate Studies must approve modifications to your plan of study.

Typical plan of study

First Year Fall
Course Title Semester Hours
Director's Seminar I: Applied Kinetics and Analytic Techniques 3
New Play Dramaturgy 3
Playwrights' Workshop 1
Orientation to Graduate Studies 1
Scenic Design 3
First Year Spring
Course Title Semester Hours
Director's Seminar II: Directing Modern Drama 3
Acting: Directing from Actor's Viewpoint 3
Digital Arts: Installations 3
Theatrical Analysis: Modern Drama 3
Second Year Fall
Course Title Semester Hours
Director's Seminar III: TBA 3
Design 3
Elective in digital arts, entrepreneurship, literature, or dance 3
Elective in digital arts, entrepreneurship, literature, or dance 3
Second Year Spring
Course Title Semester Hours
Director's Seminar IV: Directing Classic Plays 3
Acting: Shakespeare 3
Theatrical Analysis: Classical Drama 3
Elective in digital arts, entrepreneurship, literature, dance, or design 3
Third Year Fall
Course Title Semester Hours
Director's Seminar V: Production and Career Prep 3
Acting: Movement or Combat 3
Elective in digital arts, entrepreneurship, literature, dance, or design 3
Elective in digital arts, entrepreneurship, literature, dance, or design 3
Third Year Spring
Course Title Semester Hours
Director's Seminar VI: Opera and Music Theatre 3
Thesis 3
Elective in digital arts, entrepreneurship, literature, dance, or design 3

Adjustments may be made to this template.

Semester 1: Applied Kinetics and Analytic Techniques

Through exercises and projects designed to expand perceptual, analytical, and collaborative skills, students will gain a thorough understanding of the three interrelated components of living theatre: auditory, visual, and kinetic.

Each of these components consists of specific elements, principles, and transformative goals which combine to bring unity to dramatic art. Students will work with these components and begin the process of putting them together in a manner expressive of their individual vision.

Semester 2: Directing Modern Drama

This course will provide the director with a comprehensive system for analyzing text for transformation into theatrical event. Focus will be on plays, both tragic and comic, from Ibsen to O’Neill, and will be coordinated with the dramatic literature course in modern drama. Students will also focus on new work to be presented in the Iowa New Play Festival.

Semester 3

To be determined

Semester 4: Directing the Classics

This course will focus on the challenges and joys of directing great plays, tragic, and comic from the Greeks through the Restoration. One project will focus on the direction of a portion of a classic play. Each student will also research and make a presentation on the work of a director from previous centuries.

Semester 5: Production and Career Preparation

Focus will be on career planning, business communication, resume writing, and fellowship and grants resources. Guest artists will discuss their work in person and through Zoom interviews.

Semester 6: Directing for Opera and Musical Theatre

Working with the Director of the UI Opera Theatre, students will learn to study a libretto and musical score, conceive a musical production, and work with singers. They will direct scenes for the opera workshop.

MFA directing students must satisfactorily complete production assignments to fulfill the requirements for graduation. You are expected to direct at least one public presentation every semester, though the specific number and scheduling of assignments may vary. Directors must demonstrate consistent development in production work.

Other requirements

  • Comprehensive review covering first two years of study
  • Written thesis: Director's Production Book/Analysis of Thesis Production (or other appropriate directed production)
  • Cumulative B average
  • At least 18 credits in “graded” courses (i.e. not Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory grading)
Note: The curriculum and requirements are subject to change, and students may apply for adjustments.

The thesis normally forms the centerpiece of the third year in residence. The thesis typically consists of a full-length work presented by the department and a written document–that includes analysis and preparation materials. The production and the written document form the basis for the student's final evaluation.

Thesis proposals must be submitted in writing to the program committee and to the play selection committee for approval during student's second year. The format of the written thesis must comply with the guidelines as outlined by the program committee and the Thesis Manual of the Graduate College.

Create your academic path

You'll find degree overviews, requirements, course lists, academic plans, and more to help you plan your education and explore your possibilities.

Current course list

The MyUI Schedule displays registered courses for a particular session and is available to enrolled students. The list view includes course instructors, time and location, and features to drop courses or change sections.

Directing alumni

Ariel Francoeur

MFA '16

Co-Founder and Producing Artistic Director of The Navigators, a New York-based theatre company

Marina Bergenstock

MFA '16

Visiting Assistant Professor, Beloit College in Wisconsin

Mario Mendoza

MFA '16

San Francisco Director and Playwright of Devised Projects

Nina Morrison

MFA '16, MFA '18 in Playwriting

Provost's Postgraduate Visiting Writer, University of Iowa

Learn more about directing at Iowa

  • Guest artists are brought in each year to lead workshops with the directing candidates.
  • The Iowa New Play Festival brings in nationally recognized artists who respond to the productions. Emphasis is placed on both the work of the playwright and the director.
  • The Partnership in the Arts program consists of cutting-edge artists brought in to create/develop new work. Graduate directors have the opportunity to participate in that process.

MFA directors may propose an internship to take place during one semester of graduate study. The purpose of the internship is to augment your education and encourage the development of professional contacts. Ideally, you should serve as directors or assistant directors on one or more productions at an appropriate theatre.

At least one semester prior to beginning an internship, you will submit a written proposal to the Head of Directing. The proposal should include a list of goals and duties, the time commitment, the name of the supervisor and other contact information. Internships may be completed with or without academic credit; credit may require a tuition charge.

Learn more about internships

MFA directing students who satisfactorily complete the degree will receive associate memberships in SDC, the professional union of stage directors and choreographers.

The first year is a probationary period for all graduate students. During that year program faculty will determine whether you are to be invited to return for a second year. This decision will be based on demonstrated talent, potential, originality, discipline, and satisfactory progress in course work and productions.

During the second year, you present two productions, which will help determine if you are prepared to proceed to the third year and direct a thesis production. For the comprehensive examination in the spring of the second year, you prepare a written self-assessment, resume, and plan for the thesis production. Throughout your training, you must present work of distinction in your academic and production assignments; failure to do so may be grounds for dismissal.

Students accepted into the second year normally proceed to satisfactory completion of the degree. Nonetheless, evaluation is an ongoing process and a student may be dismissed from the program if his or her course or production work is unsatisfactory. If a student’s grade-point average average falls below 3.0, it must be raised to that level by the end of the following semester. Failure to do so may be grounds for dismissal from the program.


Portrait of Mary Beth Easley, MFA, BFA

Mary Beth Easley, MFA, BFA

Associate Professor
Chair of the Department of Theatre Arts
Head of Directing

Get Involved

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Directing faculty

Portrait of Mary Beth Easley, MFA, BFA

Mary Beth Easley, MFA, BFA

Associate Professor
Chair of the Department of Theatre Arts
Head of Directing
Portrait of Daniel Fine, MFA

Daniel Fine, MFA

Associate Professor
Director of Graduate Studies
Portrait of Johanna Kasimow, MFA, BA

Johanna Kasimow, MFA, BA

Assistant Professor