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About the Program

The Ph.D. Program in Theatre and Performance offers students a solid grounding in the theory, history, and criticism of theatre studies, while encouraging interdisciplinary thinking. The program takes advantage of the rich resources of New York City, with its professional theatre specialists, institutions, and myriad productions, as well as its library and museum facilities and its archives and private collections.

The Program also features:



Course Requirements

The Ph.D. Program in Theatre and Performance requires 60 credits of approved graduate work, including acceptable transfer credits. At least 30 of these credits must be taken in residence at The Graduate Center. Each student is further expected to spend at least one year in full-time resident study, which will consist of a schedule of no fewer than 12 credits or the equivalent in Weighted Instructional Units for each of two consecutive semesters.

First-year doctoral courses may be taken at one or several of the senior colleges of the University; advanced doctoral seminars are offered at The Graduate Center and through an academic consortium with New York University and Columbia University.

Doctoral courses in theory and criticism include such topics as dramatic genres, film study, theatre theory and criticism, and theatre and related performing arts. Doctoral courses in dramatic structure include seminars in individual playwrights, movements, themes, national traditions, and comparative drama.

Doctoral courses in history and production include seminars in theatre history and production of a given period and country, seminars in aspects of contemporary performance theory and technique, and seminars in varying aspects of theatre organization and development.

Directed independent study and externships in theatre for credit are also available.

Core Curriculum

Of the 60 credits necessary for graduation, only 12 are required. Each entering student takes a four-course sequence in theatre research and historiography, dramatic readings, and theory which is called our “core curriculum.” 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.
All students in the Ph.D. Program in Theatre will complete the following core courses during the first year of study: Theatre Research, Contextual and Intertextual Studies in Drama, and History of Theatrical Theory. To help students prepare for the First Examination, each of the first three core courses has a final written and/or oral examination. After successfully passing the First Exam, all students will be required to take Advanced Theatre Research.

Recent Seminars

  • Embodying Performance: Corporeality, Affect, and Identity
  • Japanese Theatre and Performance: Traditions, Modernity, Globality
  • History of Scenic Design
  • Rock & Roll & Film & Video: Noise and Image 1954-2014
  • Marxism, Theatre, Performance: Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, Pierre Bourdieu, and Raymond Williams
  • Early Modern English and European Theatre and Performance: Spectacle, Sport, and Play
  • Tennessee Williams in Context
  • Film Art: Visual/Verbal Interrelations
  • What about Time? The Provocative Conjunctions of Theatre and Temporality
  • Weimar on the Hudson: Music Theatre between the World Wars
  • French Cinema and French Thought in the Twentieth Century
  • Media Studies: Archives and Repertoires
  • Black Box/White Cube
  • Performance and the Latin American City
  • History of New York Theatre before 1900
  • Extending Queer: Theory and Performance (1990-now)
  • Twentieth- and Twenty-First-Century Dance
  • Four American Directors: Huston, Scorsese, Jarmusch, Soderbergh
  • Symbolism, the First Theatrical Avant-Garde (1890-1918), and its Legacies
  • Theatre of the Middle East
  • African Cinema: Toward an Alternative Globality
  • Mediatized Performance
  • Rootless Cosmopolitans: Yiddish Theatre and the Aesthetics of Diaspora
  • Heeding the Ordinary: Theatre History as Microhistory
  • Dramaturgy and the Reinvention of Contemporary Theatre
  • Performance and the State
  • Performing Blackness from Stage to Screen
  • The Rock Musical
  • Classicism, Root and Branch
  • The Borders of Latino-American Theatre and Performance

Program Requirements


First Examination
The First Examination, a written and oral qualifying examination covering general knowledge of the field, is to be taken after students have completed 30 credits of graduate work and must be passed by the time they have completed 45 credits.
Foreign Language
Students must demonstrate a reading knowledge of two appropriate foreign languages through one of the procedures described in the program’s student handbook. They are not required to retake examinations in languages that they have passed for the M.A. degree.
Second Examination
The Second Examination may be taken only after students have completed all other requirements except the dissertation. This examination will test in depth the student’s knowledge of three areas of advanced study.
Under the supervision of a faculty member, the student will complete a dissertation. The completed dissertation must be approved by the faculty director and two other faculty members appointed by the Executive Officer in consultation with the sponsor. Candidates must defend their dissertations before an examining committee consisting of members of the Doctoral Faculty in Theatre and Performance, and other examiners as appropriate.



The program's faculty, consisting of distinguished scholars as well as critics of the professional theatre, is very much concerned with the professional opportunities and careers available to its students. Students are encouraged to take full advantage of the resources of The Graduate Center as well as to explore avenues of interdisciplinary cooperation.

Theatre and Performance program faculty are either Central Appointments, who teach only at The Graduate Center, or Constituent College Appointments, who also teach at one of the CUNY colleges. Central Appointments have offices at The Graduate Center and function as the core faculty of the Program, serving as mentors to incoming students.

Current Central Appointments are Marvin Carlson, Peter Eckersall, Jean Graham-Jones, Frank Hentschker, Erika T. Lin, and David Savran.