MFA Lighting Design

The Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in lighting design at Boston University College of Fine Arts provides developing theatre professionals with the opportunity to cultivate their artistic identities while refining and enhancing their artistic expression and communication skills through hands-on, mentored design experience within a wide range of production opportunities and classroom instruction.

Degree Type

  • Graduate


  • In-Person


  • Full-Time


  • On-Campus
Link to the bulletin

The MFA program in lighting design at BU provides in-depth study and exposure to a wide variety of theatrical storytelling and design experiences that expands knowledge of the art and craft of design and further development as a total theatre artist.

request more info

As an MFA Lighting Design student, you’ll…

  • Deepen your understanding and appreciation of the collaborative nature of telling stories in the theatre
  • Strengthen your unique expression and individual voice as an artist
  • Improve your abilities in how light can support stories, themes, text, music, and movement
  • Develop professional-level skills as a lighting designer preparing you for a successful career in theatre design

Program of Study

A rigorous program of study in which your development is monitored and evaluated through assignments, classroom participation, and individual exploration. The average class size ranges from five to eight students, with a 2:1 student-to-instructor ratio.

Multiple annual design and related assignments where your application of skills and development of artistic expression can be observed and evaluated. It is the place where all the elements of theatre and study come together. MFA lighting design students work with professionals during specific on-site, hands-on internships. Students during their final year complete a thesis project, that explores specific and complex ideas of lighting, theatre, and artistic expression.

request more info

Panthera Tigris, a 360-degree immersive mixed media experience by MFA lighting design alum Kayleigha Zawacki (CFA’14,’21) | Photo by Cydney Scott

Behind-the-scenes with Kayleigha

In the 360-degree immersive mixed media experience, Panthera tigris, MFA lighting design alum Kayleigha Zawacki (CFA’14,’21) explored themes of sustainability and wildlife conservation using lighting, sound, scenery, and projected animation. Combining these, she created a one-of-a-kind interaction with one of Earth’s most regal, and endangered, species—the tiger. “I realized that there is a space for the kind of work that I want to do, creating mixed media works with an emphasis on storytelling. It would be a dream come true to partner with a conservation organization, and design a traveling installation that would potentially encourage folks to talk about these things,” says Kayleigha.

More on kayleigha’s work

There are so many opportunities at CFA. Every time I’ve asked for help on a project, I’ve gotten the help I needed. Dream big, plan ahead, and remember that it never hurts to ask.
-Kayleigha Zawacki (CFA’14,’21)


Explore your creative process through supervised production assignments and hands-on workshops, working with professional faculty members who are leaders in their fields. Enjoy exposure to the current practice and philosophy of design and production through connections with professional theatre organizations and the vibrant arts community in Boston.

Develop professional skills through production work, internships, and mentored work and design that will serve as a basis for your transition from the academic world to the larger community of theatre professionals.

One-on-one conferences and mentoring opportunities to explore the student’s understanding of assignments and encourage alternative ways of thinking and approaches to course material and production designs. Classwork and productions take place in BU’s state-of-the-art facilities, exposing students to an advanced tool kit for the study and creation of lighting design.


Meet BU’s Lighting Design Program Head

Having designed more than 200 premieres for New York City Ballet’s repertory, Mark Stanley, Professor of Lighting Design at BU and NYC Ballet’s Resident Lighting Designer, is a leader in lighting design and shares his wealth of knowledge with current theatre students.

In CFA’s Faculty Feature series, Stanley shares with CFA what makes him excited to teach lighting design at BU, his mission in helping students find their artistic voice, and the advantages of studying in a large research university in a major arts city.

The advantage of Boston, BU, in particular, is we have a committed professional faculty. All of us are working designers. We bring that experience to the classroom and use our work and connections to help build pathways to future careers. Boston has a vibrant arts community.

Mark Stanley, Professor

read Q&A

Faculty Highlights

  • Mark Stanley: Among the nation’s leading designers of lighting for theater and dance, having worked on over 225 world premiere productions over the last four decades with top choreographers, artists, and performers, including Peter Martins, Paul McCartney, and Santiago Calatrava. He has been the resident lighting designer for the New York City Ballet for 35 years.
  • Jorge Arroyo: Freelance lighting designer for over 25 years whose work has been seen at venues such as The Huntington, The Alley, The Apollo Theater, Carnegie Hall, Actors Theatre of Louisville, and many others. He has created designs for over 50 shows at both the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and Jazz at Lincoln Center for artists such as Alicia Keys, Gabriel Iglesias, The Wayans Brothers, and more.


Annie Wiegand’s mission: pushing artistic boundaries and working to increase industry diversity and access

Meet Annie Wiegand (CFA’10), a lighting designer who’s worked on Broadway and beyond, including with the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Dallas Theater Center, Huntington Theatre, and Milwaukee Repertory Theater. She’s also an assistant professor at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., teaching theater and dance program students in its school of arts and humanities. She’s also one of the only—and was probably the first—Deaf lighting designers in the country.

Despite some progress toward diversity in recent years, white men still hold a significant majority of lighting designer positions—as they do most offstage roles in theater. Very few of them have a disability, and Wiegand remains one of a small number of Deaf people in any backstage job.

She recognizes that improving accessibility can be a challenge, especially when so many arts organizations are battling tight budgets. However, there are grants and sponsorships targeted at theaters aiming to hire diverse artists. Having a more diverse staff leads to a better, more creatively exciting end product.

“I more strongly rely on my eyes and relate to the world visually, so I think that gives me an advantage sometimes—I see things in a different way than hearing designers do,” says Wiegand. 

During her time at BU, Annie studied with Mark Stanley, who first noticed her sense of color in her work. “Her portfolio for MFA admission showed a heightened awareness of color and how to use it effectively in telling stories. Her designs have always built on that sensitivity,” says Stanley.

read more in cfa magazine

Notable Graduates

  • Katy Atwell (CFA’04), Assistant Lighting Director, New York City Ballet
  • Yi-Chung Chen (CFA’13), Freelance Lighting Designer
  • Ryan Connealy (CFA’08), Resident Assistant-Guthrie
  • Marcus Dillard (CFA’83), Freelance Lighting Design and Professor
  • Jessica Elliot (CFA’15), Arc3Design, Freelance Design
  • TJ Gerkens (CFA’92), Freelance Lighting Designer
  • Aja Jackson (CFA’18), Freelance Lighting Designer
  • Tyler Lambert-Perkins (CFA’14), Lighting Designer, Los Angeles Ballet
  • David Rosenberg (CFA’89), Theatre Projects
  • Mary Ellen Stebbins (CFA’11), Freelance Designer

MFA Design & Production Theatre Graduates Present at National Design Portfolio Review

An introduction of talented, emerging designers to the industry included five BU MFA grads

Read More

Next Steps for Applicants

The best way to determine if BU is right for you is to explore our admission requirements, financial tools, and resources.

Fill out our request for info about BU theatre programs form to receive additional information about your program of interest and to send us any questions you may have.


We are happy to discuss your educational interests and career goals.




Explore More

News & Events