Photo from production of Lynn Nottage's Sweat. One actor breaking up a fight between two other actors.


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 Directing program offers students the opportunity to explore digital media for live performance, and entrepreneurship in the arts. 

There are three major components to the MFA directing program: 

  • 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 3 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 2023. Inquiries and applications will be accepted beginning in the fall of 2022. The application deadline is January 15, 2023 or by special request.

MFA Directing Program Admissions Requirements & Plan of Study

Guest Artists

  • 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. 

Financial Assistance

  • One Iowa Arts Fellowship is given to an incoming student which pays $20,000 plus full tuition and benefits in the first year, during which they do not teach; an assistantship is provided the following years.
  • All MFA directors receive a tuition scholarship from the Graduate College. Some fees are not included in this scholarship. Additionally, MFA Directors normally hold quarter-time (10 hours per week) assistantships, which currently pay $10,299.
  • Numerous Department Scholarships are awarded to students.
  • Travel grants are available for conferences and research through the Department, College, and University.
  • Associate Membership in SDC is provided at the end of the second year to all who are in good academic standing.

Internships/SDC Membership

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.

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

Continuation in the Program

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 GPA 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.

Iowa Directors, Past and Present

Link to a selection of current and recent Iowa Directors' credits.

More Information

Mary Beth Easley
Chair, Department of Theatre Arts
Head of Directing
Department of Theatre Arts
200 North Riverside Drive
Iowa City, IA 52242-1705