The discussion of the value of MFA's is getting a bit heated in my comments section, and I guess that isn't surprising given what is at stake. My attitude toward MFA's is very similar to my attitude toward taking acting classes: know exactly what you want to get out of them, don't just do it because it is starting to seem "expected."
I understand the idea that MFA's can be good networking tools -- that prominent people might work with you and then promote you as a result. To some extent, that was my experience in my Master's Program. As a result of my contact at the school, I was hired to write instructor's manuals for McGraw-Hill, and later I was hired back first as an adjunct and a year later as an Assistant to the Dean. This, along with having served as Associate Artistic Director of the Illinois Shakespeare Festival, gave me the experience I needed to be hired as a Chair of Drama at UNC Asheville, where I currently am.
That said, I did not receive that sort of support from City University of New York, where I got my doctorate. After a couple years, I fell afoul of the powers-that-be, and found little assistance from them when it came to...well, pretty much anything.
So it is a mixed bag. But if all you want is to get a foot in the door with somebody important, I'd almost recommend contacting them and offering to work as an intern. Offer to pay them tuition directly, if need be, for the opportunity. But why run up a huge debt when you could just pay your way into employ for much cheaper?
Mac Rogers' advice -- that you only do an MFA for the art, not for any instrumental purpose -- is very good, and I endorse it whole-heartedly.
As far as being able to focus for three years on only your art -- well, yeah, but couldn't you do that without paying tuition? Not and receive valuable feedback, which brings us back to wanting to study with a particular person.
In some ways, what lies at the center of all of this is the student loan and education policies in this country, which only will give loans if you are enrolled in a institution of higher learning. But in an area like theatre, one could argue that more could be learned faster with an apprenticeship system. If a low-residency MFA could be set up that apprenticed young artists to someone willing to take them under their wing, with supplemental on-line courses that encouraged reading, I think that might really be effective, and maybe get around the loan issues. I don;t know whether NAST would accredit such a program, but don't you think that would be worthwhile for many people?
Here at UNC Asheville, we have had the benefit of several visits from Broadway costume designer William Ivey Long, who seems very open to taking on apprentices, and I'll bet would do a great job introducing them to a variety of design opportunities.
That said, I'm not in favor of such a program for undergrads. I think undergrads should avoid all conservatories and even BFA programs like the plague. Artists need to be educated, not trained. Read Anne Bogart's And Then, You Act if you don't believe me. There is a woman whose whole career is based on broad learning. Or Tony Kushner's A Modest Proposal, which also is pretty persuasive.