• Theatre set featuring houses designed by MFA Design students
  • Black and white Grecian theatre set designed by MFA Design students
  • Contemporary theatre set with purple, red and yellow lighting designed by MFA Design students

MFA (Design for Performance)


NIDA also offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Design for Performance) course.

Applications for 2020 will open on 1 July, 2019.

Express your interest

Contact NIDA

About the course

This course forms the capstone of the Bachelor of Fine Arts (Design for Performance), and expands the practice of design graduates and professionals. Students have comprised professionals and graduates from areas such as architecture, visual arts, fashion, lighting, interiors, technical theatre, or properties and objects.

With an unparalleled amount of face-to-face contact, support and a uniquely intense mentorship program, this course is for people seeking to expand their technical and theoretical understanding of performance design.

Students specialise in up to two majors from set, costume, lighting and/or video design. The degree centres around three major projects in which students design the Seasons of Student Productions, collaborating with guest directors, writers, performers and other creative professionals and students. As key members of a creative team, students develop the ability to make meaningful, well-informed design choices, and gain the practical skills to plan, develop and realise them.

Students are encouraged to foster their own artistic identity and practice, and the course is designed around each individual’s practice and goals.

In their final trimester, students embark on an international field trip, with professional placements at prestigious arts organisations such as the English National Opera and Music Hall Belgium, or with international designers, including NIDA alumni around the world.

Course structure

The duration of the MFA course is 15 months and comprises five subjects with a total 180 credit points.

Students will need to be resident in Sydney and available on a full time basis from late January to early December of the first year. In the final three months (January to March of the following year), students complete their research project and write up the results as a journal article. It is normally not essential that students be resident in Sydney during the final three months of the course.

Applicants should note that the course may involve interstate travel, and will include an international field trip.

The MFA (Design for Performance) is offered in full-time mode only.

Course dates

Course duration and contact hours

Students are at NIDA from 9am to 6pm from Monday to Friday. During production terms students may also be required for rehearsals after hours and on weekends.

Additional time also needs to be allocated to library work, research, preparation for classes and private study. For this reason it is difficult for NIDA students to maintain regular part-time jobs. Studying at NIDA is a big commitment so students need to manage their time and resources carefully. 

All NIDA Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees are three-year full-time courses. All NIDA Master of Fine Arts courses, except for Cultural Leadership, are 15-month full-time courses. 

Course dates

First Year Students
The academic year starts 4 February 2019, with courses continuing through 31 March 2020.

Second Year Students
Following the return fom the International Field Trip, the academic year runs from 4 February to 31 March 2019.

Holidays and Study Breaks
15-26 April
10 June (Queen's Birthday) 
1-19 July
9-13 September
7 October (Labour Day) 
23 December 2019 - 3 February 2020

Course overview

Design Creation (60 credit points)

The approach to this subject is both lineally progressive, following the conventional stages of creating a design from conception to realisation, and bifurcated, by being clustered around two major design projects which are fully realised.

The learning progression is evidenced through two major artistic outputs in the form of two fully realised productions.

Students undertake a major design project, as part of NIDA’s production program, in the first half of the year and then replicate that experience again in the second half of the year. Productions range in scale and can be based on an existing text, a commissioned text or from time to time may be a devised work. On both occasions students are encouraged to reflect on their experience with a view to continuous transformation and development of their practice. The first production is completed within a generous timeframe to allow scope for the development of ideas and experimentation, while the second is undertaken in a tighter timeframe that simulates professional expectations. Incorporated into the design experience of each project is the forensic and detailed investigation of a particular component of the design (such as millinery, footwear, hair and make-up, furniture fabrication, materiality, jewelry, lighting effects etc.).

Strategically placed between the two productions is an international field trip to observe current best practice at a world-class festival (e.g. Avignon Festival) or a centre of artistic excellence (e.g. Berlin, London). The field trip acts as a fillip to the students’ learning development, to the understanding of the practice within a broad creative context, and to the development of new concepts, techniques and ideas that are then able to be applied to the second project. 

Design Realisation (60 credit points)

Design Realisation aligns directly with the lead subject, Design Creation, as students document and realise the design that they have developed. They do this through the vehicle of two productions, the second of which is the outcome of their experience with the first, and of their observations during the international field trip experience, on which they will have reflected.

In order to facilitate the realisation of each of the two productions, students acquire and demonstrate advanced knowledge of technical documentation requirements and techniques, simulating industry best practice. Students produce workshop costume drawings, prop drawings, and/or technical drawings of sets, or lighting designs. The documentation packages inform the build of the production and are a key component in the successful communication of the design.

Students then proceed to realise the build of their designs by supervising workshops and collaborating with the production team as the production is technically rehearsed and presented in a performance space.

The success of the design realisation will depend on the designer’s ability to communicate clearly with all parties and to respond rapidly to the various design problem-solving demands that arise. This will include responding to the performers’feedback as they engage with the costumes, set and lighting.

Once the production is in performance the designers are able to assess the relative success of their design through critical feedback from peers and the wider public attending performances. Thus, the performers and the audience have a direct and meaningful input into the final design that is created.

Dramaturgy (15 credit points)

The aim of this subject is to provide the designer with a theoretical background to the dramatic forms of Western playwriting and the practical application of the dramaturgical components of dramatic writing to theatrical presentation, particularly as it relates to design.

In order to achieve the aims outlined above, the subject is driven by four concepts or projects over the duration of the year. The content and experience of each term’s work influences the following term’s project.This pedagogical procedure posits that the learning of dramaturgy is best achieved by cumulative and problem-solving experiences.

This subject is undertaken collaboratively with students of the MFA (Directing).

Contextualising Practice (15 credit points)

This subject develops each student’s understanding of their site of cultural endeavour within the framework of a wider field of contemporary cultural enterprise. The subject is designed to facilitate engagement by arts practitioners as well as producers, executives and managers, with a view to contextualising the practice of a wide range of creative and cultural professionals.

The subject begins by introducing critical thinking, and a survey of cultural studies in the 20th and 21st centuries. The remainder of the subject is divided into topics that explore critical frameworks through which cultural practice might be understood. 

Generating Research through Practice (30 credit points)

This subject introduces students to the concepts and methods of practice-based research as these apply to the exploration and investigation of the arts.

Initially students are introduced to the concept of research and to research skills and related issues, including ethics, as these apply to practice-based research. Subsequently, students identify their research topic and design the research project, undertake investigation and gather data, and process the data and other findings. The subject culminates in the writing of a journal article as the final research output. Journal articles arising from this subject are posted to an internally accessible research journal. Students whose journal articles are assessed as outstanding are encouraged and supported to submit them to externally published journals.

Admission criteria

Essential requirements for admission

Admission criteria

  • All applicants must have completed an undergraduate degree in Design or a related discipline or have at least five years relevant experience in a related area.
  • Students must be proficient in written and spoken English, with international applicants required to have an English language proficiency equivalent to an overall band score of IELTS 8.0.  Information on IELTS and testing centres in your country is available at http://www.ielts.org

Essential requirements

We select students who:

  • demonstrate commitment, motivation and passion in relation to the arts, entertainment and related industries, to their chosen discipline, and to the course of study
  • provide evidence of their capacity to work creatively and imaginatively
  • demonstrate an aptitude to collaborate with peers as part of a creative process
  • demonstrate a range of knowledge, skills, technical abilities and/or problem-solving techniques relevant to their discipline
  • demonstrate cultural and contextual awareness
  • articulate and communicate ideas clearly
  • Applicants must have an undergraduate degree in Design or a related discipline or have at least five years documented professional experience in Design, preferably within a performance context.\
  • Graduates of NIDA’s Bachelor of Fine Arts (Design for Performance) who achieved a High Distinction result for both DFP7302A Design Interdisciplinary Collaboration, and DFP7302B Design Interdisciplinary Collaboration in the three year period prior to their application, will be offered automatic entry.
  • All other NIDA graduates will apply in the normal way.

NIDA encourages applications from students from diverse backgrounds, with different levels of experience in theatre, film, television or other areas.

Due to the volume of interviews carried out, we are unable to provide you with individual feedback. The decision of the audition panel is final.

It is not possible to defer an offer of a place at NIDA.

International students

We require all international applicants to:

  • attend an interview in Australia, although an initial interview can be conducted through Skype or equivalent
  • be aware of the visa conditions and financial obligations you are required to meet as an overseas student
  • accept full responsibility for all arrangements concerning entry into, and residence in, Australia (including visas and health insurance)
  • have an English language proficiency equivalent to an overall band score of 8.0 IELTS and bring evidence of your English language capability to your interview. Information on IELTS and testing centres in your country is available at www.ielts.org.

International students are able to apply for all full time courses at NIDA. Please note Cultural Leadership will only be offered part time in 2018.

International students should select the option ‘International- Offshore Applicant’ during the application process. A representative from NIDA will then be in touch via email to organise an interview over Skype which will suit both you and our staff.

For more information on applying as an international student, see international students.


Tuition fees

Domestic and international students are required to pay tuition fees by the due date each semester.

The tuition fees are reviewed each year and if you enrol you are liable for the additional tuition costs if the tuition fees rise during the course of your enrolments.

Domestic Students

Domestic students are Australian citizens, Australian permanent residents and New Zealand citizens.

Download the NIDA Domestic Graduate Student Fees Schedule 2019 (PDF 1115KB).

International Students

Fees and financial assistance vary for international students see International Students for full details.

Tuition fees overview

DegreeCourse duration2019 Annual tuition fee $AUD*Estimated course tuition fee*
Master of Fine Arts (Design for Performance) 15 months $31,462.20 $31,462.20

Tuition fee details

Subject codeSubjectCredit pointsEFTSL**Tuition fee*
Study Period 1    
DFP9101A Design for Performance Practice A 40 0.278 $6,991.60
DFP9102A Design for Performance Techniques A200.139$3,495.80
DFP9103 Design for Performance Analysis50.035$873.95
COM9101 Contextualising Practice150.104$2,621.85
Study Period 2     
DFP9101B Design for Performance Practice B400.278$6,991.60
DFP9102B Design for Performance Techniques B200.139$3,495.80
COM9102 Generating Research Through Practice15/300.104/0.208$5243.70
Study Period 3     
COM9102 Generating Research Through Practice15/300.104/0.208 
DFP9104 Design for Performance Professional Practice100.69$1,747.90
Total  180 1.25 $31,462.20

*The tuition fees are reviewed each year and you are liable for the additional tuition costs if the tuition fees rise during the course of your enrolment.

** EFTSL - Effective Fulltime Study Load: indicates the relative study load of a subject against a full time study load of 1.0 for academic year.

Administration fees

Administration and Other Fees 2019

These fees are payable at the time the service is provided or item purchased.

Item/ServiceDetail2019 Cost
Binding supplies1 comb,1 cover, 1 back$2
GraduationAcademic Dress Hire (gown, hood, cap), and two guests$35
Tickets for additional guests$20 per person
Student ID Card replacementReplacement of a lost student card$25
PhotocopyingB/W – single sided$0.05
B/W – double sided$0.10
Colour – single sided$0.10
Colour – double sided$0.20
Locker keyDeposit$25
Replacement of lost locker key$25
Testamur replacement1 testamur – domestic postage$80
1 testamur – standard international postage$90
Transcript replacement1 transcript – domestic postage$20
1 transcript – standard international postage$30

Additional costs

Equipment List

All items marked with * are to be purchased and labelled with your name prior to arrival at NIDA

This equipment will be checked by your tutors by 8 February 201/. You should consider your purchases as life-long investments. You may consider buying a toolbox.

Please Note: Design for Performance students are also expected to purchase their own art equipment, drawing paper, cardboard and other material for models and should allow around $1000 for this each year.

Required Tools *

NB: Brand names are recommendations only, Stanley, Sidchrome are considered reliable brands.

  • 1 pair of protective goggles
  • 8 metre metric steel tape (eg Stanley)
  • 1 pair all purpose scissors
  • 1 pair combination pliers (eg Sidchrome)
  • 1 pair heavy duty rubber gloves
  • 1 glue gun (decent quality)
  • Respirator mask + filter, e.g. Protector single filter + RC 56R cartridge
  • 1 snap blade cutting knife
  • 1 steel edge ruler
  • 1 cutting mat – A3 minimum
  • PVA glue

Essential rendering equipment *

  • Selection of paints (inks, acrylics, watercolours and gouache)
  • Selection of brushes, sketching pencils and rubbers
  • 1 A2 Bond paper pad
  • 1 A3 watercolour paper pad
  • Charcoal sticks
  • Selection of chalk pastels

Required Clothing *

Safe working clothing is COMPULSORY when in the workshop area. Closed shoes must be worn at ALL times in the workshop studios and theatres. Protective footwear such as rubber-soled Blundstones are compulsory for use in all workshop areas and theatre spaces so you must have these at the beginning of your course.

Shortly after arriving at NIDA you will be required to have a set of black clothes (ie. long sleeved black top and long black trousers) for production work.

Technical drawing equipment

  • Scale rule: 300mm scale rule with 1:25 scale (this is not a common scale), e.g. Kent 63M
  • Scale rule (the cheapest), Staedtler Mars 561 70-3 AU, AS 1212-3/300 metric (the red one) or similar
  • Pencils: two mechanical pencils (0.5 mm), OR two clutch pencils and a clutch pencil
  • Sharpener
  • Assortment of suitable leads: H, F, HB and blue
  • Plastic pencil eraser: Staedtler Mars Plastic 526 50 (for pencil) or similar
  • Compass Set: Kent Speed Bow Compass Set 8004 or similar
  • Masking tape: 25mm wide 3M General Purpose Masking Tape or similar

You can buy these drafting items yourself or take advantage of a NIDA package deal with Draftex to supply these items as a drafting kit at a very reasonable price. If you are interested in this deal, speak to your Theatre Drafting tutors early in the first semester.

Recommended Reading

While students are provided with the script of any plays they are involved in as part of the NIDA Production Program, students are encouraged to purchase other scripts and textbooks for subjects such as Performance and Ideas.

Information Technology Recommendations

To access NIDA wireless (iWIRE) network, students are required to have access to a Laptop (Windows 7 and later), Macbook (Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard or later) or a Tablet (less than three years old with wireless facility). All the devices should comply with 802.11a/b/g/n WPA-Enterprise security. All notebooks should be secured with a Kensington lock to help prevent theft.

For file transfers and data backup, a 500GB hard drive or higher and an 8GB USB stick are also recommended, as is a DVD burner, for optimum visual graphics on your computer(Laptop/MacBook/Desktop etc.) a 1GB dedicated graphics card is recommended but not required.


Australian citizens and holders of permanent humanitarian visas are eligible for an Australian Government FEE-HELP loan for all or part of their tuition fees. For more information about FEE-HELP please read the information below and visit Study Assist.

FEE-HELP is the Australian Government loan scheme that assists eligible students to pay their tuition fees, so that students do not have to pay tuition fees up-front. FEE-HELP can cover all or part of a student's tuition fees. In 2018 the FEE-HELP lifetime limit is $102,392.

The government pays the amount of the loan directly to NIDA. Students repay their loan through the tax system once their incomes rises above the minimum threshold for compulsory repayment.

For more information go to studyassist.gov.au

Who is eligible for FEE-HELP?

You are eligible for a FEE-HELP loan if you are either:

  • an Australian Citizen; or
  • hold a permanent humanitarian visa.

The following students are NOT eligible for FEE-HELP:

  • New Zealand citizens - refer to the Study Assist website
  • Australian permanent residents
  • Overseas students.


Entry requirements FAQs

Entry requirements for each course are available under the ‘Interviews and how to apply’ tab on individual course pages.

Is there a maximum age restriction for students?

There is no maximum age restriction for any NIDA undergraduate or graduate course.

Application FAQs

How do I apply for a full-time course at NIDA?

The first step is to fill in an application form, available online from July 2018. You must then prepare for your audition or interview, the details of which can be found on the course pages.

Can I apply for more than one course?

Yes, however a separate online application form and payment of application fee $150.00 will be required for each course you would like to apply for.

My application form isn’t working/loading!

Online applications are open from July annually.

If you are having difficulty using the online application form, check your internet browser: Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari are the recommended browsers. You should also turn off any security that blocks pop-ups, as this may prevent the application screen from opening.

What do I do if the interview dates are not suitable?

NIDA aims to accommodate all Australian states during the audition/ interview period. If the dates provided are not suitable to individuals we will try to work with you to create a suitable alternative.

If you cannot attend any of the available dates during the application process, please select the option ‘Other- Dates provided not suitable’ and email applications@nida.edu.au to discuss further options

International students (all courses other than acting) should select the option ‘International- Offshore Applicant’ a representative from NIDA will then be in touch via email to organise an interview over Skype which will suit both you and our staff.

What do I do if I haven’t received details of my interview?

Once you have submitted your application and paid your application fee you will be emailed a receipt as well as further details regarding preparation for your audition/ interview. If you do not receive any emails from NIDA please check your junk/ spam filter or promotions filter (Gmail). If you are still experiencing difficulties please contact us at: applications@nida.edu.au

Interview FAQs

What do I need to prepare for my interview?

All the details for interview requirements can be found on the individual course pages under the ‘Interviews and how to apply’ tab.

Does NIDA give audition/ interview feedback?

Due to the large number of people being auditioned/ interviewed, it is not possible for NIDA to provide individual feedback, either orally or in writing. However, the audition/ interview are learning experiences, particularly through the opportunity in the auditions to observe the presentation of audition pieces by other applicants and any redirection suggestions provided to you or other applicants by members of the audition panel.

Where will my interview take place?

During your online application you will have the opportunity to select the date and location of your audition/ interview. The specific location details will be sent to you with your receipt once you have submitted a complete application form. You will also be sent further information for how you can change the location/ date of your audition/ interview if necessary. Please note that NIDA reserves the right to amend your audition/ interview date/ location at any time depending on availability.

What happens after my interview?

Final selections are made for each course by mid- December when study offers will be distributed to successful applicants via email.

Please note applicants who do not make it through to the recall stage for Bachelor of Fine Arts (Acting) and Master of Fine Arts (Directing) courses have not been successful for the 2017 intake.

Studying at NIDA FAQs

How are NIDA’s courses structured?

NIDA offers a conservatoire based method of education and training based around intensive practice-based learning.

There is formal class work, practical instruction, lectures and, for some courses, periods of placements in the arts industry. Each course has dedicated time to discipline-specific immersion, as well as common subjects undertaken by students of all disciplines.

NIDA Play Productions and screen work provides practical learning experiences, giving students the opportunity to apply learnt technical skills. Play productions are an important part of NIDA’s higher education courses with usually five productions being produced each semester.

More detailed information about course structure can be found on the individual course pages. 

What facilities does NIDA offer?

NIDA’s award winning campus includes a range of facilities available to students:

  • the Parade Theatre, seating over 700 people, is equipped with advanced technology in sound, lighting and scenery
  • performance spaces of varying sizes. The Parade Studio, Parade Playhouse, Parade Space and Atrium are also utilised for productions
  • the state-of-the-art Reg Grundy Studio is used for film and television recording
  • the Rodney Seaborn Library, specialising in the performing arts
  • computer-aided design (CAD) and multimedia studios
  • rehearsal rooms, teaching spaces and music practice rooms
  • and workshops for the manufacture of scenery, properties and costumes.

What student services does NIDA offer?

Because of NIDA’s close relationship with UNSW, in addition to the NIDA library, NIDA students have access to the UNSW Library, The Learning Centre, health services and the UNSW Fitness and Aquatic Centre, all located close to NIDA.

NIDA students have access to student counselling services provided through UNSW.

Indigenous students can also use the services of the Nura Gili Indigenous Programs Centre at UNSW.

Does NIDA offer credit transfer for study undertaken elsewhere?

Yes, NIDA grants credit for formal study undertaken in recognised higher institutions in Australia, including universities, colleges, TAFE and other post-secondary education institutions and for study at recognised overseas institutions, where the applicant has met the learning outcomes, attained the knowledge and/or developed the skills relevant to a specific subject. An application for credit must be submitted and approved prior to commencement of the course. For further information see NIDA’s credit transfer policy.

NIDA Student policies FAQs

Can I defer my studies at NIDA?

Due to the highly competitive nature of NIDA’s admissions process, you must enrol for the year for which you have been offered a place. You cannot defer acceptance of a place. If you want to enrol in a subsequent year, you will need to apply again the following year and go through the interview process again. There is no guarantee that you will be offered a place next time.

Application for leave of absence by continuing students must be made in writing with reasons to the Head of Course for consideration and recommendation to the Director/CEO. Approval for leave of absence can only be granted by the Director/CEO and only under exceptional circumstances.

Can students be suspended from NIDA?

In addition to cancellation of enrolment for non-payment of tuition fees, a student’s enrolment at NIDA can be suspended or cancelled on the grounds of misconduct.

See NIDA student policies for more information. 

Fees FAQs

What are the tuition fees for accredited courses?

Full information about tuition fees and FEE-HELP is available under the ‘Fees’ tab on individual course pages. 

Financial assistance FAQs

Are there scholarships available for studying at NIDA?

NIDA is pleased that through the generosity of the Luminis Foundation, we will now be able to offer the Luminis Foundation Indigenous Fellowship in Cultural Leadership for the 2018 intake. This Fellowship will support the successful applicant by funding 50% of their Master of Fine Arts (Cultural Leadership only) course fee.

NIDA does not offer other scholarships that cover the cost of tuition fees.

NIDA students, who are Australian citizens, are able to access FEE-HELP loans for assistance with their tuition fees. For more information on FEE-HELP loans see www.studyassist.gov.au or the ‘Fees’ tab on individual course pages.

Is financial assistance available for Master of Fine Arts students?

The Master of Fine Arts courses are not approved courses for students to receive Austudy, Youth Allowance (student) and Pensioner Education Supplement through Centrelink. Master of Fine Arts students enrolled in a full-time course are eligible to apply for a NIDA bursary

NIDA offers full-time students the opportunity to apply for financial assistance (bursaries) at the beginning of each year to assist with living costs. The bursaries are made available through the generosity of donors to NIDA and from bequests. Bursaries are paid on a fortnightly basis during the NIDA year, with the value of individual bursaries in 2015 ranging from $1,600 annually to $4,000 annually, depending on need and the year and course of study. Bursaries are only available to students currently enrolled at NIDA in full-time courses.

NZ and international students FAQs

Is there a limit on the number of international students accepted each year?

NIDA welcomes applications from international students. While there is no quota for international students, there are limited numbers of students in each course.

What are the English language requirements for international students?

Students must be proficient in written and spoken English, with international applicants required to have an English language proficiency equivalent to an overall band score of IELTS 8.0 for Acting, Directing and Writing for Performance, or IELTS 7.0 for other higher education courses. Information on IELTS and testing centres in your country is available at www.ielts.org.

International applicants who are short-listed for the Acting course after the recall audition must provide evidence of their English language capability by the end of the first week in December in order to be considered in the final selection process. International applications for other courses should bring evidence of their English language capability to their interview.

Where can I find more information about international students at NIDA?

More information about studying as an international student at NIDA can be found at International students

How to apply

Applications for 2019 courses are now closed.

Express your interest

Application Process

Application to NIDA is by direct entry. Applicants apply online via the NIDA website.

Entry to the MFA (Design for Performance) is by interview. See below for details on how to prepare or download the MFA Application Guide for 2019.

How to apply

There are six steps to successfully applying for a NIDA course:


Create your application account (link to be provided from 2 July).

You will then be sent an automatic email with your log in details to continue your application.


Log in, select the green ‘New Application’ button and complete the online form.


Upload the following documentation to the online form:

  • Evidence of your most recent qualification (e.g. school report, Higher School Certificate, university transcript or testamur).
  • Proof of identification (e.g. passport, driver’s licence, birth certificate; ID must show your date of birth).
  • A passport style photograph (less than six months old, in colour, well lit, plain background).
  • Academic IELTS or equivalent (international applicants only)
  • Any course related documents/portfolios.


Make payment of the AUD$75 administration fee by credit/debit card.


Book your audition or interview date in your nearest capital city.


Attend your audition or interview, having prepared the relevant material for your course.

Interview Dates

2018 interview dates to be confirmed.

Your Interview

What to prepare


The following should be uploaded with your application:


  • You should upload a detailed CV highlighting your education and training, professional work and other relevant information.


  • You will need to provide proof of your university degree/s or five years of professional experience in a relevant area. This can be a scan/photograph of your transcript or testamur from the awarding institution; if you are offered a place in the course you will be required to provide a certified copy.


  • You may upload a digital portfolio with your application; otherwise you can bring one with you to your interview. You should prepare examples of past work that you feel will support your application and demonstrate your suitability for a career in design and the arts and entertainment industry. These may include (but are not limited to) photos, life drawings, renders, illustrations, technical drawings, models, sculptures, and paintings. The purpose of the portfolio if to provide an insight into how you think as an artist.

If you are articulating from the NIDA Bachelor of Fine Arts (Design for Performance) you are required to prepare items 1-3 only.

If you are NOT articulating from the NIDA Bachelor of Fine Arts (Design for Performance) you are required to prepare items 1-3, as well as the following design project (items 4 and 5).

The following should be prepared in advance to be discussed at your interview:



  • Prepare your design development according to the requirements and bring it along to your interview for discussion.

What to expect on the day


Interviews are conducted by two NIDA staff members, in person. Interviews will run for approximately one hour. The interview is in two parts:

  • First, there will be a brief talk about NIDA, the MFA (Design for Performance) course and what will happen during the interview. There will be an opportunity for you to ask any questions you may have about NIDA or about the interview itself.
  • Each applicant will then be interviewed for around 45 minutes. During the interview, we will discuss your project; your ideas about theatre, film and the broader creative industry; and why you want to study Design for Performance at NIDA.

Interview tips

  • Preparation! The more time and effort you put into the project and interview preparation in advance, the more confident you’ll be and the more you will benefit from the interview and discussion.
  • Come with a clear idea of why you want to study Design for Performance at NIDA.
  • Plan your journey to the interview. Give yourself plenty of travel time to allow for delays.
  • We know that interviews can be stressful, but every effort will be made to ensure your experience will be as interesting and enjoyable as possible. The interview is designed to give you the very best opportunity to show your potential and readiness to study at NIDA.

Design Project Information

Design project options

Select one production from the list below for your project. The texts that have been nominated should be readily available from your local library, bookstore, or online. Should you have any difficulty obtaining any of these texts, please contact NIDA.

  • Buried Child by Sam Shepard (play)
  • Away by Michael Gow (play)
  • The Tempest by William Shakespeare (play)
  • Cabaret by John Kander and Fred Ebb (music theatre)

Design project requirements

Your design project specifications will either be targeted towards EITHER a) Set and Costume Design OR the b) Lighting Design.

  • Prepare a scale model of how you would like to see the production staged (See links below to download the plan and section of the theatre).
  • Make your model from any suitable materials that effectively show how you would stage the production in the Parade Theatre at NIDA – common examples are balsa, cardboard or foam-core, but you can choose anything, that is appropriate to communicate your idea (See David Neat’s Model-Making: Materials and Methods, 2008).
  • Use the scale of 1:25 and use a scale rule for accuracy – this is essential.
  • Build the model on a strong base – plywood or thin particleboard.
  • Your model should indicate the colour and finishes of the set.
  • Your model should include at least one human figure (at 1:25 scale) and scale furniture to give a sense of scale.
  • Demonstrate your lighting ideas – create at least three lighting states. These may be used to convey temperature, mood, time of day, change of seasons etc. This can be done through sketching or photographing the model and manipulating the image in Photoshop.
  • Prepare at least six full colour costume drawings for the central characters in your production. Drawings should be on A3 paper.
  • Keep all your research and provide this in a research folder and development sketches etc. as evidence of your process (for all set, lighting and costume designs).
  • Prepare a scale model of how you would like to see the production staged (See links below download the plan and section of the theatre).
  • Make your model from any suitable materials that effectively show how you would stage the production in the Parade Theatre at NIDA – common examples are balsa, cardboard or foam-core, but you can choose anything, that is appropriate to communicate your idea (See David Neat’s Model-Making: Materials and Methods, 2008).
  • Use the scale of 1:25 and use a scale rule for accuracy – this is essential.
  • Build the model on a strong base – plywood or thin particleboard.
  • Your model should indicate the colour and finishes of the set.
  • Your model should include at least one human figure (at 1:25 scale) and scale furniture to give a sense of scale.
  • Demonstrate your lighting ideas – create at least ten lighting states. These may be used to convey temperature, mood, time of day, change of seasons etc. This can be done through sketching or photographing the model and manipulating the image in Photoshop.
  • Keep all your research and provide this in a research folder and development sketches etc. as evidence of your process (for all set, lighting and costume designs).

Consider the following questions when creating your design and for discussion at interview:

  • Why have you chosen this play/opera/musical? Why is it important to you? Why will audiences want to see it?
  • Text: What ideas is the playwright/librettist trying to express? What relevance does the play/opera/musical have for contemporary Australian audiences?
  • Characters and actors: What kind of people are the characters in the play/opera/musical? In what kind of world do they exist? If you had complete freedom of choice, which actors would you cast in the production?
  • Design: How would you describe the imaginative world of the play/opera/musical? Where is it located? In what period/time is the production based? Is the story told in real time, or over a broken time frame?
  • Costume, sets, lighting and props: What is required in each of these areas?
  • (For guidance on how to develop a design, please see Stephen Curtis’s STAGING IDEAS: Set and Costume Design for Theatre, 2014)

Bring your entire project along to the interview – do not send it in advance.

Theatre Plans

Download the theatre design documents you will need for your project here.

Theatre Plan (PDF 1.6MB)

Theatre Section (PDF 1.3MB)

Advanced standing

The collaborative nature of NIDA's conservatoire training means that NIDA does not encourage advanced standing/academic credit/recognition of prior learning, particularly for discipline based subjects. However a student can apply for academic credit or recognition of prior learning at the time of enrolment. Details are available on the student policies page.

See definitions for common terminology (PDF, 33KB).

Student work

What does it take to put on a show?

Take a peek behind the curtain to see how our students collaborate each year on our June and October Student Production seasons.

See student work from productions, events, classwork and student projects.


The MFA (Design for Performance) equips students with the specific knowledge and skills to pursue careers such as:

  • Stage and screen set/production designer
  • Stage and screen costume designer
  • Art director
  • Lighting designer
  • Properties designer
  • Event designer
  • Design educator

Our graduates have won numerous Academy Awards, BAFTA Awards, AACTA Awards, APDG Awards, Green Room and Sydney Theatre Awards. They have designed for AquamanThe Amazing Spider-ManThe MatrixRomeo + JulietBatman v Superman: Dawn of JusticeThe Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 and 2Watchmen300Garden StateThe FavouriteGame of ThronesThe Great GatsbyMoulin Rouge!Jindabyne21 Grams and more.

See NIDA's list of Alumni.

Further Info

For more info, check the course guide (PDF, 2.5MB)

If you have any further questions about the application process, please contact:

Email: applications@nida.edu.au

Phone: +61 (02) 9697 7614
+61 (02) 9697 7611
+61 (02) 9697 7654


215 Anzac Parade
Kensington NSW 2033

Further information:

NIDA Undergraduate and Graduate policies and procedures
Commonwealth Register
National Register of Higher Education Providers

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