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University of Pittsburgh    
2023-2024 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog 
  Jun 13, 2024
2023-2024 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog

Theatre and Performance Studies in Theatre Arts, PhD

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The PhD program in Theatre and Performance studies prioritizes the integration of scholarship with teaching and artistic practice in order to prepare students to be competitive candidates for academic positions at a variety of institutions, post-doctoral research opportunities, and employment sectors beyond academia. In line with the department’s intellectual vision, the program integrates theory and practice and focuses on underrepresented groups and areas of research, including migration, disability studies, race, gender, sexuality, religion, and transnationalism, across historical, historiographical, literary, performance, and practice-based research methodologies.

The program integrates scholarship with experiential learning opportunities through a curricular requirement called the Immersive Practice Credential. Each student develops a 12-15 credit program of individualized study focused an area of artistic practice, such as directing, dramaturgy, or playwriting, or a professional career outside of the academy, such as Public Humanities or Education and Community Engagement. In their Immersive Practice Credential coursework, students work with Theatre Arts faculty and MFA students as well as pursue professional training and internship opportunities outside of the university. 

Mentored by faculty, each student develops their pedagogy through scaffolded teaching opportunities. These experiences allow students to acquire and practice pedagogical skills in smaller practice-based classes as well as larger lecture and discussion courses in theatre history, performance studies, and script analysis for majors and non-majors. 

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 30 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.

Up to 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, they 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. 

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