MFA Stage Management Concentration

The MFA in Stage Management provides a contemporary approach for students who wish to pursue careers as professional stage managers. The program’s three-year curriculum is designed to expand upon two central principles:

1.    Stage managers must have portable, flexible, and scalable skill-sets that allow them to work in a variety of arenas.

2.    Modern stage management requires its practitioners to embrace the concept of the SM as a “hybrid CEO/COO,” an executive-level position that is at the top of any production’s organizational chart.

The coursework uses methodologies specific to commercial (Broadway) and not-for-profit theatrical stage management as a foundation. This allows students to build best-practices in many other areas: opera, dance, television, and corporate events (to name a few). Courses in dramatic literature and all aspects of theatre practice are mandatory; enrollment in relevant classes outside the Theatre Program is encouraged. Students are expected to develop a thorough comprehension of union regulations and theater administration, as well as a working knowledge of various theatrical aesthetics that enhance creative development on a production.

A major focus of the program is on leadership training: setting the tone, driving the process, and delivering results. Current trends in workplace culture, team dynamics, and human-resource management are actively analyzed and discussed across all program platforms.

Classroom courses are augmented by practical experience that gives students hands-on participation in the production process, in both academic and professional situations. Stage management students are required to work on departmental presentations, as well as complete at least two internships in professional theatre. Individually designed field studies allow for the exploration of ancillary interests in other realms of entertainment management. Finally, the program gives students the opportunity to build contacts with subject-matter-experts who are working at the highest industry levels; this gives graduates a leading-edge when they enter an intensely competitive job market.
Upcoming Q & A session:
Thursday, 12/29, 1:30pm
Hosted by Head of Stage Management Michael J. Passaro
RSVP here

Sample Curriculum

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Fall Semester – Year 1

Leadership for Stage Managers I: An Introduction – Michael J. Passaro and Jack Rouse

Stage Management Methodologies I – The Broadway Musical – Marybeth Abel

Seminar in Stage Management I – Team Dynamics – Peter Lawrence

History and Theory of Theatre – Arnold Aronson

Theatre Management & Administration I: An Overview – Adam Hess


Assistant Stage Manager on Columbia “Directors Thesis” productions

Spring Semester – Year 1

Collaboration – Anne Bogart

Directing For Stage Managers – Seth Sklar-Heyn

Production Management – Gene O’Donovan

Theatre Management & Administration II: Contracts – Laura Brown McKinnon

Special Topics in Stage Management: New Frontiers – The Metropolitan Opera – Raymond Menard


Assistant Stage Manager on Columbia productions


Fall Semester – Year 2

Stage Management Methodologies II: Plays – Linda Marvel

Stage Management Methodologies III: Cue Calling & Documentation – Bonnie Panson

Special Topics in Stage Management:  Technical Theater Practicum – Ira Mont

Elective in another concentration

Field Study

Production Stage Manager on Columbia productions

Spring Semester – Year 2

Leadership for Stage Managers II: Theory and Practice – Michael J.  Passaro and Jack Rouse

Stage Management Methodologies IV: The Next Steps – Diane DiVita

Special Topics in Stage Management: TV/Dance/Corporate Events – Jim Semmelman, Danielle Ventimiglia, Arturo Porazzi

Elective in another concentration

Field Study

Production Stage Manager on Columbia productions


Year 3

Production Stage Manager of a Columbia “Directors Thesis” Production

Stage Management Thesis Paper

Stage Manager for Classic Stage Company Young Company Production (or another AEA opportunity)

Additional Internship (or completion of required internships from Year 1)

Additional Requirements: 2 Professional Internships; 2 to 4 Production Assignments, including the stage management of up to two departmental thesis productions in Year 2; Collaboration Weekend Workshop.

*Recommended Electives include Issues in the National Not-for-Profit Theatre, Viewpoints, History and Theory of Comedy, Promotions and Audience Development, Fundraising and Marketing, Critical Writing for the Theatre, Budgeting and Reporting, Models of Dramatic Structure, Press, Publicity and Audience Development, Planning a Theatrical Season.
Stage Management Thesis Project: Students must satisfactorily complete a 40-page thesis in order to graduate: a position paper with a viable thesis statement that is supported by research, experience, documented sources, and (if applicable), interviews, statistical analysis, and exhibits. Ideally, the thesis will be based on actual recent and practical production or work experience; however, students may choose to write about historical, economic, and/or sociological topics that are directly related to stage management. Traditional “prompt” books and/or production diaries can be used as supporting documentation.

AEA Eligibility:
Two stage management MFA students per year will be eligible to join the Actors Equity Association through their participation as stage managers for the Classic Stage Company’s Young Company production. This production is held at CSC’s downtown venue every spring.

The Oscar
Hammerstein II
Center for
Theatre Studies
601 Dodge Hall
Mail Code 1807
2960 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
Phone: (212) 854-3408

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Columbia University School of the Arts offers MFA degrees in Film, Theatre, Visual Arts, and Writing, an MA degree in Film Studies, a joint JD/MFA degree in Theatre Management & Producing, a PhD degree in Theatre History, Literature, and Theory, and an interdisciplinary program in Sound Arts.