MFA Scene Design

The Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in scene design at Boston University College of Fine Arts aims to develop a complete theatre artist by fostering a passion for theatre, storytelling, design, and the collaborative process. Students demonstrate a high level of technical and interpretive scene design skills sufficient to obtain professional positions in the performing arts.

Degree Type

  • Graduate


  • In-Person


  • Full-Time


  • On-Campus
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The MFA program in scene design at BU provides developing theatre professionals with the opportunity to cultivate their artistic identities while refining and enhancing their craft. Our intensive three-year program seeks to enhance artistic expression and communication skills through hands-on, mentored design experience within a wide range of production opportunities and classroom instruction.

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Explore creative collaborations with directors, actors, technicians, and playwrights. Develop a thorough understanding of professional working methods and standards. Create and explore new forms of theatrical expression for the next generation.

Collaboration is in our name.

What makes our MFA scene design program stand out? The care and work we put into cultivating collaborative and artistic work habits. We want you to be the best and most effective collaborative theatre artist you can be, while helping you create your own unique way of working and develop your artistic voice.

You’ll be proficient in all the skills required to create a design package for a professional production. You’ll effectively prepare and present your work to collaborators and producing companies. You’ll learn how to communicate wth craftspeople, artisans, and carpenters who’ll execute your work. And most importantly, you’ll know how to be a generous, knowledgeable, and dependable artist who makes theatre.

Program of Study

Training includes a rigorous curriculum, design opportunities on a varied range of projects, encouragement in creating collaborative partnerships with peers within the graduate directing and design programs, and the discovery and formulation of their own working process. The average class size consists of three students.

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MFA scene design students create practical work in many genres from new and developing plays, the classical repertory, devised projects, musical theatre, and opera. Multiple annual designs and related assignments where 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.

Students during their final year complete a thesis project, that explores specific and complex ideas of scene design, theatre, and artistic expression. Graduating students participate in The National Design Portfolio Review in their third year.

I’ve stopped using the word ‘set.’ To me, that means fake and artificial. Instead, we try to create a space that allows a story to be heard.

– James Noone, BU program head and associate professor of scene design

No small parts here. From a scale model to on stage.

BU School of Theatre Showcase | Photo by Qool Foto

Horizon Line | Photo by Andrew Brilliant


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. Gain all the skills required to create a design package for a professional production-drafting, model making, rendering paint elevations, and more.

Classwork and productions take place in BU’s state-of-the-art facilities, like the Joan & Edgar Booth Theatre and College of Fine Arts Production, which houses our classrooms and graduate design studio, as well as shops for properties, scene painting, and construction.

Learn from a professional faculty who work in many facets of American theatre, including, Broadway, off-Broadway, Regional, Opera, Musical Theatre, as well as internationally. Intensive collaborative journeys with students in the other design & production disciplines as well as directing, performance, and playwriting students. Participate in the School of Theatre Showcase held at the end of each year, where professionals within the theatre community and CFA alums are invited to attend.

Meet BU’s Scene Design Program Head

Working as a scene designer since 1983, James Noone’s teaching is informed by his extensive work on Broadway, Off-Broadway, in regional theatre, and with many major opera companies across America, as well as in national tours and on television. As program head of BU’s scene design programs and associate professor of scene design, Noone’s impact has made the program rank nationally as a top theatre design degree.

In CFA’s Faculty Feature series, Noone defines what scene design means in the present day, why an aspiring scene designer should pursue their studies at BU, and the correlation between the space and the story in a theatre production.

“Often design has been interpreted as reflecting the metaphors of the play, revealing how the artists feel about the play. You hear a young designer say, ‘This is how I feel about the play and this is how I want it to look,’ instead of going a little bit deeper. The question is: what do we want the audience to get from the play and how do all of the elements we’re putting into the design free up the audience’s imagination to see what’s more powerful to them?”

read Q&A with noone


Faculty Accolades

James Noone
  • Drama Desk Award and multiple Drama Desk nominations
  • American Theatre Wing Design Award
  • Two Helen Hayes Awards
  • LA Ovation Award
  • Backstage Award
  • Broadway World Award – Best Scenic Design of the Decade
Jon Savage
  • Tobin Award-Prague Quadrennial Award
Cristina Todesco
  • 5 Elliot Norton Awards
  • Independent Reviewers of New England (IRNE) Award

Meet some Scene Design Graduates

Afsoon Pajoufar (CFA’19), a New York-based set designer for plays, operas, and film, has designed for New Repertory Theatre, Gloucester Stage, Brooklyn Academy of Music, and many others. Trained as a painter in her native Iran, Pajoufar studied scene design at CFA, where her work on a 2017 production of Cabaret was chosen for the 2019 American Exhibit at the Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space. In CFA Magazine, Pajoufar shares what her set design method is and how satisfying it’s been to explore a wide array of disciplines. “Photography, printmaking, sculpture, graphic design. I bounce around the room during rehearsals, between the actors, taking photos. I can evaluate the design in my head when I share the space with the actors,” says Pajoufar.

Read more in cfa magazine

Get to know other Scene Design alums, including the following designers and scenic painters:

  • Jeremy C. Barnett (CFA’12), Scenic Designer and Installation Artist
  • Paul Dufresne (CFA’19), Scenic Designer for theatre and opera
  • Antjie Ellerman (CFA’94), Freelance Scene Designer for theatre, opera, and television
  • Eleanor Kahn (CFA’12), Chicago-based interdisciplinary artist with a focus on scenic and installation design
  • Julia Noulin-Merat (CFA’06), Opera Producer and International Production Designer
  • Ethan Sinnott (CFA’01), Scene Designer and Professor/Program Director at Gallaudet University School of Arts & Humanities
  • Cristina Todesco (CFA’94,’09), Set Designer and Lecturer in Scene Design at BU College of Fine Arts

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

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