Letter to Prospective Students
Thank you for your interest in the Ph.D. Program in Theatre at the CUNY Graduate Center. Located on Fifth Avenue, across the corner from the Empire State Building, our Program is uniquely situated to take a broad view of theatre studies and theatre practice (intellectually and geographically).
We're just a subway stop or short bus ride from Broadway, where you will find so many theatres (and the half-priced tickets line); and within walking distance of the current redevelopment of the old theatre district on 42nd Street, as well as the off-Broadway bonanza of Theatre Row. We’re also only a short subway ride from the downtown performance scene, in which LaMama, the WOW Café, Theatre for the New City, Henry Street Settlement, Dixon Place, the Knitting Factory, the Kitchen, the Ridiculous Theatre, HERE, P.S. 122, and other producing organizations house some of the most important, groundbreaking current American performance; and a slightly longer $2.50 subway ride to the Brooklyn Academy of Music, which offers one of the most distinguished avant-garde subscription series in the United States. These and more are the theatre- and performance-going experiences on which your Ph.D. scholarship at CUNY can draw.
In addition to the theatre events that contribute to the vitality of our Program, our curriculum is rich and varied. Of the 60 credits necessary for graduation, only 12 are required. Each entering student takes this core curriculum, a four-course sequence in theatre historiography, literature, theory, and research and bibliography. Rather than a survey of content, however, our core courses are taught as seminars, focusing on methodologies with which to think about history, for example, and on pedagogy, so that students can gather ideas about how to teach theory and play structure.
After the core curriculum, students may take advantage of the numerous course offerings in other disciplines, opting to focus, for instance, on the interdisciplinary research that's very much influencing academic thought and institutional structures currently. Formal interdisciplinary study is available in American Studies, Cultural Studies, and Nineteenth-Century Studies; certificate programs, in which Ph.D. students may choose to take a formal four-course sequence in an allied field, are offered in Medieval, Renaissance, Women's, and Film Studies.
The Film Studies certificate program is offered under the auspices of the Theatre Program, which facilitates a close relationship between these disciplines. Minoring in Film Studies, or even focusing on cinema as a dissertation or qualifying examination topic, may open more career and teaching options.
The CUNY Graduate Center also houses centers that organize research and intellectual events in cultural studies, the study of women and society, lesbian and gay studies, Jewish studies, and others. The Martin E. Segal Center (MESTC) maintains a close association with the Theatre Program, sponsoring symposia and conferences and publishing three journals: Slavic and East European Performance, Western European Stages, and the Journal of American Drama and Theatre. Students in the Ph.D. Program work as managing editors and editorial assistants on these publications, gaining important experience and connections in theatre studies publications.
The Theatre Program employs a consortial arrangement with New York University, Columbia, and other New York City area colleges and universities. Many of our students take courses at NYU's Department of Performance Studies.
Our program is competitive, typically entering 8-12 students per year from a national applicant pool. We are interested in applicants with verbal GRE scores above 600; high undergraduate GPAs; some practical experience in theatre; and, most importantly, a clearly articulated statement of purpose that details the beginnings of a research program complementary to our faculty’s areas of expertise. Given our large, wide-ranging faculty, this opens a number of research possibilities.
Because the Ph.D. Program is not directly affiliated with an undergraduate theatre department, we cannot offering teaching assistantships as part of student financial aid packages. Our Program facilitates adjunct teaching opportunities for our students. Although we cannot guarantee such experiences, a number of our students hold prestigious, three-year Graduate Teaching Fellowships (GTFs).
The financial aid packages we do award include tuition scholarships and fellowships, some of which carry work assignments. Students gain experience editing journals, working with the Martin E. Segal Center, and as research assistants for faculty. CUNY remains an affordable place to study for an advanced degree. Out-of-state students can petition for New York State residency after one year.
Doing graduate work in theatre studies in a city that's truly a center of ethnic and cultural diversity offers you a range of extracurricular experiences that more idyllic campuses often can't provide. The Theatre Program at CUNY situates you squarely in theatre studies, while encouraging you to take advantage of the numerous interdisciplinary offerings at the Graduate Center and in the city.
I hope you'll consider applying to our Program. I encourage you to come visit us for an informal interview, to explore our location, to talk to current students, to meet our faculty, and to see for yourself whether there might be a fit.