Theatre and Performance

Program Category: PhD Programs
Chairs: W. B. Worthen and Julie Peters
Director of Graduate Studies: W. B. Worthen and Julie Peters
Degree Programs: Full-Time: MA, MPhil, PhD

Administered by the Department of English and Comparative Literature and the Theatre Arts Program of the School of the Arts, the Doctoral Program Subcommittee on Theatre and Performance encourages students to explore the reciprocal relationships between performance and scholarship, criticism and creation, theory, and practice in one of the world's great centers of theatrical performance, New York City. 

The program is designed at once to provide the opportunity for students to familiarize themselves with the prevailing traditions of Western and non-Western drama, theatre, and performance scholarship, as well as to identify a specific trajectory of individual research. Overseen by an interdepartmental committee — faculty are drawn from the Theatre Program of the School of the Arts, the Institute for Comparative Literature, and the departments of English and Comparative Literature, Germanic Languages, Philosophy, Classics, the Barnard College Departments of Dance and Theatre, and others—the program encourages students to pursue interdisciplinary research across the wide spectrum of theatre and performance studies.

The relatively small size of the program ensures a close working relationship with supervising faculty; doctoral students in Theatre also work with doctoral students in other humanities fields, as well as with Theatre Program MFA students in directing, dramaturgy, and playwriting. Doctoral students are typically admitted with a six-year package of funding, which combines both fellowship and teaching support. In the past decade, PhD students from the program have been appointed to tenure-track positions in a range of fields (English, theatre, performance studies) at Stanford, Princeton, Boston University, Indiana University, King's College London, the University of Texas at Austin, and elsewhere.

To earn the MA degree, students must complete eight courses, a master's thesis, and demonstrate proficiency in any relevant language other than English through an examination or by satisfactory performance in an intermediate-level course.

Successful completion of the MA requirements is a condition of entry into the MPhil/PhD program, in which students complete eight additional courses, fulfill a second language requirement comparable to that for the MA, and pass an individually designed and committee-approved examination. This examination typically covers a major field and two minor fields, typically drawn from several fields in the theory and history of theatre and/or performance. Finally, for the PhD degree, students submit and defend a scholarly dissertation on their choice of topic, subject to approval by the interdepartmental committee and a faculty sponsor.

Fellowships are awarded in recognition of academic achievement and in expectation of scholarly success. Teaching and research experience are considered an important aspect of the training of graduate students. Thus, graduate fellowships include some teaching and research apprenticeship.

Note: This program offers the MA as a prerequisite to the MPhil and PhD degrees. There is no free-standing MA in Theatre in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Students interested in the MFA program in Theatre Arts should refer to the description of the Theatre Arts program, administered by the School of the Arts.

Certificate in Comparative Literature and Society

The Institute for Comparative Literature and Society (ICLS) awards a certificate in Comparative Literature and Society. For more information, see the ICLS website.

Special Admissions Requirements

In addition to the requirements listed below, all students must submit one transcript showing courses and grades per school attended, a statement of academic purpose, a personal statement, and three letters of evaluation from academic sources.

Application Requirements

*GSAS will accept up to four recommendations, regardless of the number required by your program of interest. However, to be eligible for admission at GSAS, at least TWO letters must be submitted by academic recommenders.

Additional Note: Applicants who have taken the GRE Exam may feel free to submit their scores as part of their application. If submitted, GRE scores will be considered by the admissions committee, though they are not required.