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Theatre Design and Technology - Master of Fine Arts

Availability: Hattiesburg Options

Earn your terminal degree in Theatre

Unleash your creativity and become the visionary behind theatrical designs with our Master of Fine Arts in Theatre with an emphasis in Design and Technology. Our goal is to furnish you with a broad understanding of theatrical design, allowing for specialization in areas like costume, lighting, and scenography.

You'll cultivate proficiency in drawing and illustration techniques tailored to theatrical design, ensuring your ability to document decisions and generate essential paperwork and working drawings for various production elements — such as scenery, properties, costumes, makeup, lighting, and sound. Moreover, you'll gain practical insights into allied crafts and management techniques associated with your chosen specialization.

Our curriculum adopts a hands-on, collaborative approach, emphasizing script analysis, image development, preliminary design creation, and design revisions. This collaborative process extends to interactions with various stakeholders, including casts and fabrication crews.

Over the three-year residence, you'll enjoy numerous opportunities to hone your craft in a supervised environment, gradually developing the capacity to work independently. The pinnacle of the program is a final creative project where you'll showcase your ability to work with minimal supervision, producing a design of exceptional aesthetic value. This project is supported by comprehensive documentation, spanning the entire design process from inception to opening night.

Furthermore, you'll engage in self-evaluation, critically assessing the effectiveness of your designs in relation to the text, artistic team interpretation, and the broader aesthetics of design. It's a transformative journey that not only equips you with the skills for success but also encourages introspection and continual growth in your craft.

NAST Accreditation

The University of Southern Mississippi is an accredited institutional
member of the National Association of Schools of Theatre.

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5fully produced shows each year
3dedicated performance spaces
3year terminal degree completion

What Will I Learn?

We tailor our programs to suit your career goals, within reasonable limits. If you're looking to acquire the necessary skills for employment in design and production within your chosen specialization, or adapt successfully to a changing artistic and employment landscape, this program is crafted just for you.

Meet our faculty, a remarkable blend of seasoned educators and dynamic professionals deeply rooted in the professional theater industry. With a team comprising 9 full-time faculty members, occasional adjuncts, and dedicated professional staff, including a costume shop supervisor and a scene shop supervisor, our experts are committed to providing a rich and dynamic learning experience.

  • Head of Costume Design and Technology, Associate Professor J. Theresa Bush (she/they) is an active USA Local 829 and IATSE member whose recent Broadway credits include Flying Over Sunset at Lincoln Center Theatre and A Wonderful World premiering at New Orleans’ Historic Saenger Theatre. Theresa is an Affiliate Faculty with Theatrical Intimacy Education focusing on consent-based costume practices. Theresa is an ACUE Faculty Fellow and winner of the IHL Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion Award. 
  • Head of Lighting Design and Technology, Professor Craig Dettman (he/him) is the has been at The University of Southern Mississippi since January of 2008 and has an M.F.A. in Theatrical Lighting Design and Technology from San Diego State University. Credits include: The San Diego Opera, San Diego Civic Dance Association, Theatre in Old Town, San Diego Rep, Balboa Puppet Theatre, The Old Globe Theatre/San Diego- Assistant LD, props artesian at The La Jolla Playhouse. He has worked stage crews with performers such as Journey, Motley Crue, George Strait, U2, N’Sync among others. In addition, he has over 150 production credits both academically and professionally.
  • Head of Scenic Design and Technology, B. Nelson Moses (he/him) is a life-long educator, designer, student, and self-professed Comic-Con geek that has designed over 100 shows nationally. He specializes in modern design elements such as the utilization of augmented reality within the design process and frequently presents on the use of XR technology in the scenic design process at conferences. 

We ensure our MFA students expand their professional networks by regularly inviting guest artists to campus. Recent guests include:

  • Jerrilyn Lannier-Duckworth, founder of Bridging the Gap: a Look Into African American Hair and Makeup for Theatre, USM alumna and professional costume designer.
  • Aleshea Harris, Obie Award winning playwright of Is God Is.
  • Gab Reisman, playwright, director, and immersive theatre maker and Rosa Parks Playwriting Award recipient
  • Robert Icke, Broadway and London Director, recipient of Critics’ Circle Theatre and Laurence Olivier Awards

Graduate Studio is virtually always composed of design students from all the major design areas. Students demonstrate their competence in the unification of all design elements used in professional production.  The Graduate Design Studio and Graduate Directing Studio also combine to bring graduates of both programs together for topic related discussion and project work.

Graduate students complete at least three seminars. Options include Period Styles for Designers and Directors, Script Analysis, Theatre Production Research, Contemporary Trends in Theatre, Dramatic Theory, and a Seminar in Theatre Production. These are on regular rotation, allowing students to tailor their choices to their personal goals and training needs.

Southern Miss Theater is an active participant in the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF), a national program devoted to celebrating college theater across the United States. Operating within KCACTF Region IV, our mainstage productions undergo adjudication by a KCACTF respondent, making them eligible for regional and national recognition as well as prestigious awards. The festival, with its regional gatherings, workshops, and accolades, serves as a platform to promote excellence and acknowledge the exceptional talents of our students.

Southern Arena Theatre (SAT) is our professional summer theatre program, that provides a unique experience where you can work alongside professionals in the industry. SAT is known for producing high-quality, innovative productions in a repertory format during the summer months. The program not only serves as a platform to gain real-world experience but also offers the community a chance to experience live theatre during the summer season. 

If teaching is part of your career goals, you'll get firsthand teaching exposure by serving as Teaching Assistant and eventually become Teacher of Record after receiving 18 credit hours. In recent years graduate students have taught Intro to Theatre Design, Introduction to Costume, Stage Makeup, Intro to Lighting and Sound, Stage Craft, and Scene Painting Studio. 

Our state-of-the-art facilities provide an unparalleled environment for artistic exploration and practical skill development.

With three distinctive in-house performance spaces, including

  • The Martha R. Tatum Theatre: a 275-seat thrust stage
  • The Gilbert F. Hartwig Theatre: a versatile 3400 sq. ft. black-box space
  • The intimate Woods Theatre: a 70-seat proscenium layout, students have diverse platforms to showcase their creativity

The backbone of our production capabilities lies in the fully equipped 4000 sq. ft. Scene Shop, boasting cutting-edge tools such as a water-cooled CNC Machine, comprehensive metal and woodworking capabilities, a scenic paint shop with a ventilation booth, and a dedicated properties construction studio. The CAD Lab/Makerspace further enhances design possibilities with both filament and resin 3D printers and a state-of-the-art laser cutter. 

The lighting and sound shop, strategically located between the Tatum and Hartwig Theatre catwalks, features the latest ETC Light Boards, an extensive inventory of over 600 lighting instruments—including LED and Moving light technology—and opportunities for hands-on sound design. 

Our costume shop is a hub of creativity, equipped with three large cutting tables, four industrial ironing stations, an array of industrial and domestic machinery, on-site costume stock, a craft room with industrial dye equipment, a dedicated fitting space, and a full hair and makeup studio. 

Together, these facilities provide an immersive and dynamic learning environment for aspiring designers and technicians.


Prospective candidates seeking admission to the Master of Fine Arts in Theatre (Design and Technology) program are obligated to complete the application process via the graduate admissions portal, which entails the submission of the following documents:

  • Resume
  • Statement of Purpose
  • Academic Transcripts
  • Three Letters of Recommendation

Additionally, an interview with the respective area head (Costume, Lighting, Scenic) will be arranged. During this interview, candidates are expected to present their portfolio, showcasing a nuanced comprehension of the fundamental elements within the realm of theatre design and technology specific to their disciplinary domain. Preference will be given to candidates with professional experience.


The School of Visual and Performing Arts at USM invites dedicated individuals to apply for Graduate Assistantships within the MFA Theatre Design and Tech Program. 

  • As a Graduate Assistant, you will benefit from a comprehensive package that includes a 100% tuition waiver, covering in-state, out-of-state, and international student fees. 
  • You will receive a stipend of $11,700 over 9 months annually, providing financial support throughout your academic journey.
  • This opportunity extends beyond financial assistance, offering hands-on experience as you will have the chance to design at least three shows prior to graduation.
  • In this program, you will play a vital role in our instructional and supervisory teams, contributing to Costume, Lighting/Sound, and Scenic design areas.
  • Graduate Assistantships require a commitment of up to 20 hours per week in the specialized shop area, providing a unique blend of academic and practical experience for aspiring designers and technicians.

Join us at USM to embark on a transformative journey in the world of theatre design and technology.

Please contact the Area Head of your specific area of interest:

Faculty Spotlight

J. Theresa Bush, assistant professor of costume design at USM, recently designed costumes for Southern Miss Theatre's Ah, Wilderness! She has also served as Associate Costume Designer to Toni-Leslie James for broadway musicals, including A Wonderful World Broadway in New Orleans and Flying Over Sunset in Lincoln Center Theatre.

Designing costumes for Ah, Wilderness!

J. Theresa Bush




Degree Plan Availability
Theatre (Design and Technology) MFAHattiesburg

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School of Performing and Visual Arts

Theatre and Dance Building (TAD) 202D

Hattiesburg Campus

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  • Director
  • Scenic Designer
  • Costume Designer
  • Actor
  • Lighting Designer
  • Theatre Professor
  • Yolanda Williams, Directing
    Producing Artistic Director/Co-Founder at Blue Light Underground Ensemble
  • Rasheeda Moore, Performance   
    Improv Actor, Chicago credits at iO, The Second City, ImprovAcadia and The pH Comedy Theatre
  • Sean Scrutchins, Performance, 
    AEA Actor Denver, Henry Award for Best Actor and another for Best Ensemble
  • Hali Hutchinson, Costume design and technology
    Costume Lab cutter/draper UNC, Charlotte
  • Sheldon Mba, Performance
    Assistant Professor of Music and Dance, Friends University
  • Lauren E. Turner, Performance
    Producing Artistic Director of No Dream Deferred, listed among “6 Theatre Workers to Know in American Theatre” by American Theatre Magazine/Theatre Communications Group
  • Rachael Schwartz, Performance
    AEA Actor, Professor of Acting at University of Wisconsin-Parkside
  • Jonathan Andrew, Performance
    Theater Arts Instructor, Campbellsville University
  • Courtney Brown, Performance
    AEA Actor, Associate Professor, Kent State University