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Ph.D. in Theatre: Program Overview and Degree Info

Ph.D. programs in theatre generally include classroom instruction and hands-on theatrical work. They often incorporate studies from anthropology, philosophy, classics, comparative literature and musicology. Career opportunities are varied.

Essential Information

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) programs in theatre are sometimes combined with studies in drama or dance. Programs are research-centered, and courses may examine issues in dance, drama, theatre production, history, performance studies and comparative literature.

Programs generally last a minimum of six years. Students usually are required to pass comprehensive examinations and write an original dissertation. Some programs also require students to successfully direct or produce a theatrical event and demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language. Because of the intense research and potential production requirements, online study is typically not possible.

Prerequisites to enter a theater Ph.D. program include a bachelor's degree in theatre or a related field of study (some programs require a master's degree), transcripts, personal statements and writing samples. Extra classes might be needed based on previous coursework.


Doctor of Philosophy in Theatre

Students in Ph.D. programs in theatre read theatrical literature and learn about various periods, styles and playwrights. They study directing, production and performance theories. They also might learn to design theatre architecture, scenery, costumes and lighting. Theatre students are trained to analyze and critique plays and other productions.

Students learn research skills such as original thinking, conceptualization and creative problem solving. They may incorporate contemporary societal issues regarding politics, gender studies, cultural studies and emergent ideologies into their theatre work, and they also might study how theatre impacts society.

Due to the interdisciplinary nature of these programs, students often take courses from a range of fine arts, performing arts and social science subjects. Students usually have the freedom to choose most of their coursework. Some of the theatre subjects students may explore include the following:

  • Theatre historiography
  • Ancient theatre
  • Renaissance culture and theatre
  • Intercultural theatre
  • Dramatic literature
  • Performance studies

Popular Career Options

Graduates may go on to work as artists, researchers, educational administrators and postsecondary teachers.

Graduates of Ph.D. programs in theatre most often enter professional careers in academia. They could also work as the following:

  • Artistic director
  • Writer
  • Theater director
  • Production manager

Related Degree Programs

Students who are interested in studying theatre at the highest levels may also be interested in related Ph.D. programs in subjects like performance studies and dance. These programs can prepare students for research and teaching jobs:

  • Ph.D. in Performance Studies
  • Ph.D. in Musicology
  • Ph.D. in Dance Studies
  • Ph.D. in Comparative Literature

Students with an intense interest in theatre and the theater arts can consider applying to a theatre Ph.D. program. This degree is a great way to go into a career as a theatre educator in academia, as well as a variety of creative careers.


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