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MFA Costume Design Concentration

“The mixing up of young actors and designers with first class professionals is manifestly the only right method of training future theatre artists.”
– Clarence Brown

The Costume Design program at UTK is a challenging yet rewarding program intended to prepare the successful candidate for a career in the professional world of Theatrical Design. We strive to identify and nourish the individuality and talents of all our students, and do not tolerate mediocrity. Here at UTK, we believe that superlative design lies in interesting and unique interpretations of the play script expressed through strong, evocative visuals. Therefore, a large portion of the training is focused on dramaturgical research and conceptual investigation. Ideal student work demonstrates intellectual and emotional connection to the source material and artistic self-expression of that connection.

A majority of the strengths in this program are founded on its connection to the professional world. The Clarence Brown Theatre is a LORT D venue, which hires outside professional artists in all training areas: scenic, lighting, costumes, sound and digital media; as well as actors and directors. This provides the students with unique access to a wide range of artists already established in the field. Another specific strength is the amount of design experience available to the student. Costume Design candidates will realize
at least three-five designs, with budgets ranging from $1,000 to $12,000, and produced by a fully professional costume shop. They will also have the opportunity to assist both faculty and outside professional designers. The curriculum is flexible enough to be adapted to individual students’ strengths, weaknesses and personal interests. We encourage students with diverse backgrounds to join us, as our students not only learn from our faculty but from each other as well.

The opportunity to study abroad with some of Europe’s top designers and to collaborate with the professional directors and designers at the Clarence Brown Theatre, place this among the most unique training programs in the country. In the first year, students will gain valuable insights on how to navigate a professional design career by meeting with professional designers and assistants during an intensive 5-day seminar in NYC. In the second year of study, the students will embark on an international journey of exploration involving master classes with some of the most influential designers in the profession. A range of other prominent artists and designers will be brought to UTK during the 3-year program of study to connect with the design students through workshops, providing learning opportunities and professional connections for the student.

This competitive three year program accepts two new students every other year. First-year students will be on campus with third- year students. This allows for both creative exchange and an informal mentoring environment. In the second year of study there are fewer graduate students in residence, providing a favorable student to faculty ratio (2:1) and giving more personal attention during a design intensive year. Teaching responsibilities are also a part of the second and third year curriculum.

This is an exciting and rigorous program specifically designed to place students into the profession by providing them with the tools they need to negotiate a successful design career and the portfolio of professional designs necessary to be nationally competitive.

Lauren T. Roark
Head of Graduate Costume Design