Theatre Design, BA

Theatre Design, BA

As a Theatre Design student, you’ll study all aspects of the creation of theatre and visual live performance, with the ability to focus your work in the field of your choice. You can choose from advanced courses to focus on a single area of design and production, or you can explore many passions.

Our Theatre Department puts on up to 40 theatrical productions a year, and the Theatre Design students design, produce and manage all of them. You’ll learn the professional approaches and standards of the field as you work on projects ranging from black box productions to the Main Stage season. You’ll work as a designer, technician, running crew member, stage manager, scenic painter and more.

You’ll create a portfolio demonstrating your skills and expertise. Your final year culminates with Senior Showcase, where Chicago professionals view your photos, models, drawings and production books, and where you’ll begin your career in this exciting industry.

What to Expect Your First Year

Theatre students from all disciplines and majors come together in two first-year Theatre Foundation courses. In your first-semester Theatre Making course, you’ll explore the artistic processes of theatre making within the contemporary landscape of the discipline. You’ll be part of a small cohort of students from all backgrounds working together in a collaborative atmosphere. In your second-semester class, Performance, you’ll work with faculty to learn specific performance techniques in voice and movement.

As a design student, you’ll have a chance to crew, hang lights, and build sets and costumes. You’ll crew the Main Stage shows, build puppets and create a spectacle for Manifest, our end-of-the-year celebration. You will not wait for opportunities to get involved. At Columbia, you’ll work on shows the minute you walk through our doors.

What to Expect Your Last Year

By your last year, you will have designed multiple shows and investigated various aspects of theatre design: prosthetics, concerts, millinery, toy theatre. You will have honed your passion and gained experience to focus your craft. You may have designed a Main Stage show, or will be doing so in your final year. You’ll be part of a collaborative team of skilled craftspeople and friends and immersed in the professional Chicago theatre community. You’ll get jobs and internships, including crew work in the industry, shadowing alumni, or assisting your faculty mentors on productions across the city.

In your Career class, you’ll craft your portfolio, develop interview skills and learn about the many job possibilities in the field—some that may not even exist today. 

Detailed Program Information

Download a Four-Year Plan

For More Degree Requirements and Transfer Plans, Visit the Catalog

Real-world Opportunities

What experience will I get outside the classroom?

The Theatre Design program offers many interdisciplinary opportunities to explore and deepen your skills and interests. Makeup or costume designers can find opportunities to collaborate with Fashion, Cinema Art and Science, or Television students and faculty. If you focus on lighting, you’ll likely have the chance to try your skills in concert, event or dance lighting. Scenic designers collaborate with Cinema students as well, and with exhibitions and installations. We’re constantly growing and exploring new partners, opportunities and ideas.

What are my internship options?

Internships are strongly suggested for juniors and seniors.

They emphasize your exposure to professional theater and expand your awareness of the industry. The internship experience in Theatre Design can be diverse. You may work as a crew member in a professional theatre, sometimes in a designer’s studio. Or, you may work weekly on many aspects of creating and maintaining a theatre’s season, or on a specific show for a brief, intense period. Often you will assist one of the faculty members on their professional work. Internships are crafted to your interests, skill sets and schedule.

We host two internship fairs each academic year, with attendees ranging from prominent theaters like Steppenwolf, Victory Gardens and the Goodman to small storefronts and everything in between.


Ready to Apply?

We’re happy you’re thinking of joining our creative community. We work hard to make our application process as simple and fast as possible, but should you run into any concerns, we're here to help at any time.

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