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MFA Theatre, Directing

Master of Fine Arts in Theatre, Directing

From the production of Hamlet, Hamlet is being confronted by the ghost of his Father.
Hamlet directed by Liz Fisher

The TXST Directing Program is a rigorous practice-based program that trains the next generation of live performance makers. Our highly selective program is only open to two directors each year. Students in the program direct extensively, including up to five full-length productions, one-act plays, staged readings, short scenes and class projects.

Our students develop a considerable body of work, and we provide ample opportunities for feedback and growth throughout their MFA. Students are also encouraged to take part in an internship with a professional theatre company during their three years.

In addition, the department offers specializations in musical theatre, new play development, and theater history/dramaturgy. Faculty mentors help guide student training and progress, along with clear landmarks that create a well-rounded portfolio for each student.

Moreover, we offer numerous opportunities for international summer study, including the Shakespeare in England study abroad program (6 hours), Oregon Shakespeare Festival Intensive (3 hours) and Internships for credit.

Recently, the TXST Directing program was highlighted in American Theatre Magazine.

Current Candidate and Alumni Accomplishments

Course Sequence       

1st Year Fall    1st Year Spring 
MFA Studio I  MFA Studio II 
Text Analysis  History
Conceptualization and Composition  Director and Designer Collaboration 
2nd Year Fall 2nd Year Spring
MFA Studio III  MFA Studio IV 
Choreography or Theory History
History of Directing and Scenography or Elective Elective
3rd Year Fall  3rd Year Spring
MFA Studio V  MFA Studio VI 
Exit Project or Elective Exit Project or Elective
Theory or Choreography History
Elective or History of Directing and Scenography   


To reach 60 hours for the degree, students will need to take an additional 6 hours of prescribed electives in two of the semesters or in the summers (see below).   Students will also enroll for 3 hours of Internship. Possibilities include; Shakespeare in England summer study abroad program with courses at the RSC/Birthplace Trust and Shakespeare’s Globe (6 hours), Oregon Shakespeare Festival Intensive (3 hours) and/or Internships for credit.

Details of Course Descriptions

Production photo from Tartuffe - 2017
Tartuffe directed by MFA Candidate Jessica McMichael

Directing Faculty 

Deb Alley, MFA (Department Chair)

Deb Alley joined the faculty at Texas State University in 2013 and teaches directing to graduate and undergraduate students. Prior to her arrival in Texas, she was head of the Master of Fine Arts directing program at Illinois State University where she received the University’s Outstanding Teacher award in 2005. She was artistic director of Illinois Shakespeare Festival from 2007 to 2012. Her association with ISF goes back to 1995 and includes associate artistic director and production manager positions. She currently is also chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance at TSU.

Charles Ney, MFA/PhD (Head of Directing)

Charles "Chuck" Ney teaches directing and acting in the Department of Theatre and Dance at Texas State University. His Directing Shakespeare in America: Current Practices and Directing Shakespeare in America: Historical Perspectives were published by Bloomsbury’s Arden Shakespeare in 2016 and 2018. He has directed productions for Illinois Shakespeare Festival, Idaho Repertory Theatre, Manhattan Theatre Club, Texas Shakespeare Festival, Manhattan Clearing House, Mary Moody Northen Theatre, and ZACH Theatre. His Richard III received seven nominations from the Austin Circle of Critics and A Midsummer Night’s Dream was named one of the ten best Austin productions of the year by the Austin Chronicle.  His Top Girls performed at the Kennedy Center.

Jerry Ruiz, MFA

Jerry Ruiz teaches directing at Texas State University. His directing credits include productions at Primary Stages, Denver Center for the Performing Arts, the Old Globe, Second Stage Theatre, Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, Playmakers Repertory Company, the Mint Theater Company, and Clubbed Thumb. He has developed work at the Public Theater, Atlantic Theater Company, Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the Playwright's Realm. From 2011 to 2015, he served as curator for the Crossing Borders festival of new plays at Two River Theater in New Jersey. He was a recipient of the 2009–2011 NEA/TCG Career Development for Theatre Directors Grant and a Van Lier Directing Fellow at Second Stage, 2007-2009.

William W. Lewis, PhD

Will is Lecturer in Directing at Texas State University. He is an interdisciplinary scholar/artist who focuses on intermedial, postdramatic, and devised performance that implements site specificity, gaming, interactivity, and social media to explore ethics and politics in the 21st century. His research explores the role of digital interactivity on contemporary audiences and the implications of constant connection to media on how we teach theatre-making. He trained in devised theatre and interactive theatre making with SITI Company in New York City, Blast Theory in the United Kingdom, and as a workshop director on new play development with NYU Tisch. He currently serves as ATHE’s Conference Planner for the Directing Program and will be the Focus Group Representative in 2020.  His work has been recognized by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation (Quantified Self) and the Kennedy Center College Theatre festival (Woyzeck: The Endless Cycle 1.0 ).

Production Photo of Perfect Pie
Perfect Pie directed by MFA Candidate Carly Conklin

Production Spaces and Directing Assignments

The Department of Theatre and Dance has four primary production spaces where MFA directors exhibit their work. In the Performing Arts Center is the  397-seat proscenium configuration Harrison Theatre. In the Theatre Center, students direct for the flexible configuration Mainstage Theatre; the 140-seat thrust configuration Studio black-box; and the 209 lecture hall.

MFA Candidates will undertake a series of directing assignments during their three years in the program. The first year is reserved for new-works, short plays, and class projects. In the second year, they will direct two full-length contemporary projects in the Studio. The final year is reserved for thesis projects staged in either the Mainstage or the Harrison.

Directors and Designers Collaborating During Tech Rehearsal
Tech Rehearsal in Harrison Theatre Auditorium
Rehearsal Image in the Studio Theatre
Rehearsal in the Studio Theatre

MFA in Directing Candidates

3rd Year

Isaac Byrne 

Isaac has been awarded the New York Innovative Theatre Award for Outstanding Direction twice and productions he has directed have been nominated for an Off-Broadway Alliance award, 26 NYIT awards, and 11 Planet Connection Awards. NYC Credits: Other Mozart (NYIT Outstanding Solo Performance, Nominated for Director), In Vestments (NYIT Outstanding Premier of a New Play), Rusalka(Planet Connections Best Production), To Nineveh (NYIT Outstanding Production), Tar Baby (DR2, PS122), 52 Man Pick Up (Ars Nova, Edinburgh Fringe), I Used to Write on Walls, Grimm Reality (Co-Production with Bryant Park), and Hazard a Little Death (Planet Connections Best Original Script). He has taught acting at the University of the Arts, the New York Film Academy, Texas State University, and the Matthew Corozine Studio. 

Tom Debello 

Hailing from Canada, Tom is in his final year as an MFA Directing Candidate here at TXST. Directing and acting have taken him around the world. Recent directing work in Texas includes: Cabaret (TXST), Speech & Debate (TXST), the workshop and upcoming production of Dylan Spencer’s Cat Obedience School (TXST), Assistant Director for Sunday in the Park with George and Million Dollar Quartet (ZACH Theatre), The World According to Snoopy (TXST) and the workshop reading of The Two Orphans (TXST). Other selected directing credits include: Carrie: The Musical (U of L), Survival Cycles (TheatrExtra), How Great Is My Calling (Shed Prod.). As a performer selected credits include: a member of the World Premier cast and the original Toronto cast of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Boys in the Photograph, the North American tour of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Phantom (Westchester Broadway Theatre), Oliver! (Gateway Playhouse), Mainstage Cast for Disney Cruise Lines and a Principal Vocalist for Princess Cruises.

Liz Fisher 

Liz is an interdisciplinary theater artist based in Austin. Selected directing credits: We Are Proud to Present, Constellations (Street Corner Arts); The Afterparty (Shrewd Productions); Deus Ex Machina (Whirligig Productions, Fusebox Festival, Shrewd); Please Don’t Feed The Trolls (Whirligig); Vodka, Fucking, and Television (Breaking String Theater). University directing credits: Hamlet, Lyon’s Den, Belleville, The Countdown, Akashic Permutations, The Demolition Downtown, and Tennessee Waltz (Texas State); Tartuffe (Southwestern University). She received the 2018 Princess Grace Award, the SDC National Directing Award (Kennedy Center) and a fellowship to the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. She has presented at numerous conferences on blending technology and theater, including SXSW Interactive. She is the Co-Artistic Director of Whirligig and Senior Program Coordinator for Shakespeare at Winedale.

Bruce Turk 

Bruce is a third-year MFA directing candidate. TXST Directing: Instructions For Dancing, A Doll’s House, Slough. KC-ACTF SDI National Finalist. Other Directing: North Coast Rep, Cal State Long Beach. Acting: Broadway- The Green Bird and Juan Darien, (both Julie Taymor, dir.). Off-Broadway-Titus Andronicus, King John, and Pericles (Brooklyn Academy of Music). Seven seasons at The Old Globe Theatre in San Diego (Craig Noel Award). Resident Artist at Hartford Stage (Connecticut Circle Award Nom. for Malvolio). Resident Member of Tadashi Suzuki’s Acting Company Mito, Japan. TCG/Fox Fellowship for Distinguished Achievement. Seasons and productions at the Goodman Theatre, Cincinnati Playhouse, Seattle Repertory Theatre, McCarter Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, Denver Center Theatre Company, Shakespeare Theatre Company, The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, Shakespeare Santa Cruz, Portland Stage, Pasadena Playhouse, and many more. Education: Northwestern University, École Philippe Gaulier.


Allison Price 

Allison is a second-year MFA directing candidate.  She is an excavator of the human heart; focusing on works that are contemporary, intimate, and emotionally violent with a specialization in new work development and performance elevating the female voice. She has been awarded the Kennedy Center SDC Directing Fellowship, the WildWind New Play Development Residency, and the Stage Directors and Choreographer's National Directing Award (Kennedy Center). In 2019 she will serve as an Opera Directing Apprentice with Opera Orvieto in Italy. Her recent credits include Gruesome Playground Injuries, How I Learned to Drive, and What We Scream Underwater When No One Can Hear Us.

Alex Rodriguez 

Alex is a Cuban-American Actor, Director, and Choreographer who primarily works in musical theater and commercial entertainment. Previous directing credits at TXST include: References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot, Imagine That, Touch Me I’m Bronze, and Stone Pebble Girls. Select directing and choreography credits outside of TXST include: RENT, The Last Five Years, Five Guys Named Moe, Jerry’s Girls, Reefer Madness, Grease, Spunk, and Passing Strange.Performance credits include: Carnival Cruise Line, Flat Rock Playhouse, The Alhambra, and The Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra.  Alex has worked as a Casting and Booking Assistant and Seasonal Singer Supervisor for Carnival Cruise Line and served as the Education and Outreach Director at Players by The Sea. SDC (Associate)

1st Year

Holly Nañes 

Holly is a multidisciplinary LatinX artist from South Texas.  She is currently an MFA Graduate candidate of Directing at Texas State University, c/o ‘21. Some of her current work includes: “New Works Festival: Women at Work” at Texas State University where she directedIn a Dark Room, Lord Only Knows, Holes in Human Flesh, and Labels. With Teatro Audaz, she directed Avalanche for the “Teatro Mundial Play Festival” and Chimichangas and Zoloft earlier that year. She is a co-founder of FIRE Collaborative a collective of multi-disciplinary performance artists who produce new and original work on a working-class schedule and budget.  She is a member of Jump-Start Performance Company where she has performed, written for, and directed on numerous occasions.  Her most recent directorial work at Jump-start includes, Gen and Mabel and Lamentations from the Ice Box (They call this a blanket!?) original work written/directed and performed by Sophia the Clown (AKA Holly Nañes).  Some of her future work can be seen in the 2019-2020 season at Texas State University where she will be Directing Lydia by Octavio Solis and Blu by Virginia Grise. 

Aaron Sparks 

Aaron is a first-year directing candidate who holds a BFA in Theatre from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. He will direct The Harvest and Men on Boats as part of the Texas State 2019/2020 theatre season. NYC directing credits include Jean Genet's Deathwatch (New York International Fringe Festival), Disorder (United Solo Festival), The Jazz Age (Dialectix Group) and David Rabe's The Orphan (The Tank). Regional credits include Blood Clots (Coconut Grove Playhouse) and the upcoming My Name is Asher Lev (The New Jewish Theatre). Aaron's work as an actor includes A Soldier's Play (NEC, Audelco Award - Best Revival), Eve and Her Neighbors, Good Good Trouble..., and Exodus (all FringeNYC), and Fiddler on the Roof and Oliver! (The MUNY).

Graduate Assistantships/Scholarships/Tuition


Almost all graduate students receive a $12,000-13,000 assistantship, paid over 9 months. The assistantship comes with in-state tuition

Typical assignments include:

Introduction to Fine Arts (Teaching Assistant)

Introduction to Fine Arts (Teacher)

Acting 1 (Teacher)

Directing 1 (Teacher)

Assistant to Head of Graduate Studies or Head of Directing

To receive a full assistantship, students teach or assist two classes a semester. Acting and Directing classes are usually assigned to our 3rd year directing students.


In addition, there are scholarships available through the Graduate College and through the Department of Theatre and Dance. They can range anywhere from $1500 to $3000 per year. Most applications are due by March 1 each year. Outstanding Graduate Merit Fellowship is $2500 awarded in the first year. It is possible to receive more than one award. Additional support is available for thesis research – up to $2000.

Production Photo of Mr. Burns as Post Electric Play. 2018
  Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play directed by MFA Candidate Isasc Byrne

Application Deadline

March 15

Send your application to

Graduate College
Texas State University 
601 University Drive
San Marcos, TX 78666

How To Apply

The graduate program in theatre requires that students work together closely and that potential candidates need to bring skills, temperaments, and goals that are in cohesion with the department and the cohort of students they will join. For this reason, semi-finalists will be invited to on-campus or Skype interviews/auditions.

  • Complete an application online using the Apply Texas Application
  • Once you have applied and received your Net ID, upload documents to the Graduate Admissions Document Upload (GADU) tool when your application has been received by the graduate admissions office.
  • Submit two letters of recommendation
  • Submit a current theatre resume
  • Submit a statement of purpose that details your experience in directing, related background information and your goals for pursuing the MFA in Directing

For More Information Contact:

Chuck Ney, Head of Directing
Texas State University 
601 University Drive
San Marcos, TX 78666