Apr 19, 2024  
2023-2024 Graduate Catalog 
2023-2024 Graduate Catalog

Theatre Department

Graduate Program Director and Department Chairperson: Raimondo Genna, Ph.D.

Department of Theatre
Warren M. Lee Center for Fine Arts, Room 184A
414 E Clark Street
Vermillion, SD 57069
Phone: 605-658-3485




Patricia Downey, Ph.D., University of Missouri, Columbia. Specialization: Dance, Musical Theatre.
Scott Mollman, M.F.A., Wayne State University-Detroit. Specialization: Technical Direction, Scenic Construction and Rigging.

Associate Professors:

Raimondo Genna, Ph.D., University of California, San Diego. Specialization: Performance and Theatre Studies, Theatre History, Dramatic Literature, Text Analysis, Film Studies.
Chaya Gordon-Bland, M.F.A., University of Pittsburgh. Specialization: Movement for the Stage, Stage Combat, Acting Period Styles, Shakespeare.
Matthew Nesmith, M.F.A. and M.M., University of South Dakota. Specialization: Musical Theatre, Vocal Performance, Directing.
Victor Shonk, M.F.A., Ohio State University. Specialization: Scenic Design, Scene Painting.

Assistant Professors:

Michael Matthys, M.F.A, University of Minnesota. Specialization: Acting and Voice Dynamics
Tyler Micheel, M.F.A., University of South Dakota. Specialization: Lighting and Sound Design and Technology
Kristina SneshkoffM.F.A., Florida State University Specialization: Costume Design and Technology
Mary Elaine VansantPh.D., University of Missouri. Specialization: Directing and Playwriting.

Costume Studio Manager:

Sabrina Egeland


Christopher Larson, M.M., University of South Dakota. 


Master of Fine Arts, Plan A and Plan B


Design Theatre/Technology  (with emphases in Costume Design, Light & Sound Design, Scenic Design or Technical Direction)

Program Description

The University of South Dakota is an accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Theatre. The Department of Theatre prepares students for a career in the theatre and encourages personal and creative growth. We do this by providing a comprehensive liberal arts education, supplemented by intensive craft training, in which classroom study and practical experience are of equal and complementary value. The Department promotes excellence in education, research, and service; fosters student engagement and leadership; develops creative and pragmatic problem-solving skills; explores new questions, techniques, and practices in theatre; and inspires students to become life-long learners who contribute to their disciplines and professions while enhancing the cultural lives of the University and their communities.

All USD theatre classrooms and production studios are housed in the Warren M. Lee Center for the Fine Arts. Facilities include well-equipped scenic, costume, and lighting/sound studios that are conveniently located near the 450 seat Wayne S. Knutson Theatre and a 90 seat, flexible, “black box” Arena theatre. The dance studio provides additional class, rehearsal, and performance space.

WICHE Western Regional Graduate Program (WRGP) eligible program. 

Graduate Degree Offered:

The Master of Fine Arts degree is designed for the student seeking a career in professional theatre or higher education. Through intensive craft studies, close student-mentor relationships, supportive course work, and extensive production application, the 60-credit hour M.F.A. degree is offered in the areas of Directing and Design Theatre/Technology with emphases in Costume Design, Light and Sound Design, Scenic Design or Technical Direction.


  1. Completed Graduate Application form found at: https://www.usd.edu/grad/how-to-apply and a non-refundable application fee of $35.
  2. Official transcript(s) verifying receipt of an undergraduate degree and previous graduate credit (in English or with translation). Transcripts must be complete (e.g., if currently enrolled, work-in-progress coursework must be included, foreign transcripts must include a grading scale, and for countries that issue, copy of degree certificate/diploma i.e., India, Nepal, etc.). The USD Graduate School and/or academic units retain the right to require credential evaluations from organizations, such as Educational Credential Evaluators/World Education Services (ECE/WES), for a student if such an evaluation is deemed necessary.
  3. M.F.A. applicants should have an earned baccalaureate degree from an institutionally accredited institution in theatre or its equivalent (minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.7), including coursework in acting, directing, technical production, and design, as well as, at least, a year-long survey of the history of theatre and drama and/or graduate cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better, based on a 4.0 scale, on all graduate coursework is required for full admission. Each graduate program may admit students on provisional status per university policy.
  4. Applicants with degrees from countries other than the United States who have obtained an undergraduate or graduate degree from an institutionally accredited American college or university or from an accredited institution in the following English-speaking countries: United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, Canada (Excluding Quebec), Australia, and New Zealand are not required to submit an approved English proficiency exam score. For all other applicants, a minimum score of 71 on the Internet-Based TOEFL (iBT), 550 on the Paper-Based TOEFL (PBT), 8 on the TOEFL Essentials, 6.0 on the IELTS Academic, 53 on the PTE, or 105 on Duolingo is required for graduate admission.  

Additional Program Admission Requirements:

  1. Three (3) professional letters of recommendation are required from professionals associated with the applicant’s work and abilities.
  2. M.F.A. applicants should have substantial preparation in their areas of specialization; M.F.A. Design Theatre/Technology applicants should have background in scenic, costume, and lighting design, as well as art history.
  3. M.F.A. applicants must submit a resume, statement of professional objectives, and prescribed examples of creative work (see below) to the Graduate School. If the applicant has an online portfolio, the web address must be submitted to the Graduate School.
    1. M.F.A. Directing applicants must submit the following: written statement of directorial approach to a full-length play; samples pages (a scene) from a work script/promptbook; and if available, a video from a directed scene.
    2. M.F.A. Design Theatre/Technology applicants must submit the following: portfolio featuring examples of creative and/or technical work.

Subject to faculty approval, those who do not meet all of the criteria above may be admitted on a provisional basis.

The Black Hills Playhouse

The Department of Theatre maintains a close association with the Black Hills Playhouse, a semi-professional summer stock theatre located in beautiful Custer State Park. Since its founding in 1946 by Dr. Warren M. Lee, the Black Hills Playhouse has provided a full and varied bill of high-quality theatrical entertainment to the scenic Black Hills area in western South Dakota, as well as an intensive production experience for USD students and faculty-artists working with other theatre professionals, students, and teachers drawn from across the nation.

Application Deadline

  • Four weeks before the start of the semester
    • Fall and Spring starts

Student Learning Outcomes for Theatre - Design Theatre/Technology (M.F.A.)

  1. Students will demonstrate proficiency in text analysis as it relates to design/technology projects. 
  2. Students will demonstrate ability to communicate though oral presentation of group work. 
  3. Students will be able to demonstrate the ability to manipulate the principles of design and  current practices of technology to create a theatrical object or effect. 
  4. Students will demonstrate ability to create graphics to communicate theatrical concepts at a professional entry level.

Student Learning Outcomes for Theatre - Directing (M.F.A.)

  1. Students will demonstrate the ability to analyze, interpret, and effectively stage plays representing different historical periods and theatrical genres. 
  2. Students will demonstrate a collaborative style of leadership which incorporates a common language for working with theatre artists and effective interpersonal communication.  
  3. Students must demonstrate a knowledge of the work-finding process.