Javascript is currently not supported, or is disabled by this browser. Please enable Javascript for full functionality.

Skip to Main Content
University of Pittsburgh    
2018-2019 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog 
  Jul 14, 2024
2018-2019 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog [Archived Catalog]

Theatre and Performance Studies in Theatre Arts, PhD

Return to Academic Programs Return to: Academic Programs

The PhD program in Theatre History and Performance Studies is distinguished by its emphases on historical and contemporary engagement with exigencies of mobility, ranging from exile, migration, and diaspora to translation and adaptation. The program prioritizes the transnational, the global, and the decolonial in theatre history and performance studies. Gender, race, ethnicity, and class function as primary areas of scholarly and artistic enquiry across historical, historiographical, literary, performance, and practice-based research methodologies. The program prioritizes the integration of scholarship with teaching and artistic practice.

The PhD program in Theatre History and Performance Studies trains scholars in historiographical methodology; performance studies; critical theory; historical, performance, and textual analysis. By the completion of their training, students are expected to demonstrate fluency with established scholarly paradigms of the field as well as facility with emergent and cross-disciplinary approaches. The rigorous five-year curriculum is comprised of departmental seminars offered by the graduate faculty and complemented by a range of seminars from across the University’s thriving intellectual departments and communities, including History of Art and Architecture, Film Studies, the Center for Latin American Studies, the Global Studies Center, the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program, and the Cultural Studies program, among others. The PhD program mentors a students’ professionalization by actively supporting publication, conference participation, and membership in professional organizations. The program prepares students to participate in and contribute to scholarly conversations nationally and internationally. 

The program’s scholarly training is directly linked to teaching and artistic creation. All PhD students instruct a variety of undergraduate courses under mentorship of the faculty, which may include history, dramatic analysis, and/or performance. The PhD program is integral to the department’s BA’s stated goals of training the next generation of artist-citizens as well as to the creative and critical work of the department’s production season. Graduate students often serve as undergraduate mentors and advisors as well as artistic collaborators with the faculty. Through the Special Option, PhD students are mentored on an individual basis towards enhancing a primary, or developing a secondary, fluency with artistic practice and production processes, most often in the area of directing, dramaturgy, or playwriting. The PhD program welcomes applicants with MAs, MFAs, and other Masters degrees.

The PhD program in Theatre History and Performance Studies develops versatile, flexible graduate students with unique creative and critical aptitudes. Graduates of the program are well-qualified and competitive candidates for academic positions at a variety of institutions, post-doctoral research opportunities, and non-academic employment sectors.

Degree Requirements

A minimum of three years or six terms of full-time residency is required.  It is not possible to complete the degree on a part-time basis.

72 credit hours, of which 24 can be granted for an approved Master’s degree or its equivalent, are required past the BA, made up of courses stipulated in the curriculum and electives (including independent study, directed study, in-training programs, and dissertation credits).

Students are required to demonstrate advanced knowledge in one foreign language sufficient to read criticism and drama in the language and sufficient to allow them to attend a play in the language and understand it reasonably well. The language requirement may be fulfilled in four ways.

# of courses required (list core courses, etc.)

One, Two, or three sections of World Theatre (as designated by the Diagnostic Exam)

Nine seminar-level courses in history, literature, and critical theory of theatre and performance studies. During the first two semesters of a full-time PhD student’s program, she or he must take at least three of these seminars in the Department of Theatre Arts.

At least seven of the nine required courses will be advanced graduate seminars in the Department of Theatre Arts (2000 series). The others may be graduate-level (2000 series) listed in any appropriate University department. Courses labeled “research,” “directed study,” or “independent study” cannot be used to fulfill this requirement, except by approval of the Graduate Faculty. The student’s advisor will regularly monitor selection of courses, and approve the overall sequence chosen. No lower-level undergraduate courses numbered 0001-0999 may be applied toward a graduate degree.

PhD Prelim Evaluation

All students who enter the PhD program are required to take the preliminary examination. Students in their first year of doctoral study must take a minimum of three seminars in the department. Their work in those seminars shall constitute the basis for the prelim exam. The exam is designed to assess students’ critical thinking, facility with methodology, and writing skills as well as ability to articulately discuss the course material in the selected seminars. 

Comprehensive Exam

By the end of their second year, students should begin to consider and discuss with faculty areas for their comprehensive exam that fall into the three categories: Critical Methodologies and Theoretical Discourses; Historical Discourses; Textual Discourses. 
By the beginning of their third year, three areas of study should be approved. Through the comprehensive examination, students demonstrate both breadth and depth in regards to theatre and performance history, theory, and practice.


The prospectus proposes the subject and plan for the completion of the dissertation. The graduate faculty member who will serve as chair for the student’s dissertation committee will provide guidance for the completion of the prospectus. Once the committee chair has approved the prospectus, the student will schedule a defense with all of the members of their PhD committee.

Dissertation and Final Examination

The University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate and Professional Bulletin outlines the requirements for the final stage of the degree, which is the preparation and defense of a dissertation. This written work, which must embody an extended original investigation of a problem of significance to theatre arts or performance studies, is the capstone to the research program of a student’s training. 

Return to Academic Programs Return to: Academic Programs

Catalog Navigation