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Ph.D. Program

Program of Study
Student Work
Tuition & Financial Aid
How to Apply

We train theatre and performance scholars, preparing our graduates to work at the highest levels of the field as university professors, arts administrators, dramaturgs, and critics.

The Ph.D. program provides comprehensive training in theatre and performance scholarship, embracing a wide definition of performance while maintaining rigorous training within a discipline core. The four year plan of study offers opportunities to engage with a full range of Western and non-Western periods from the ancient to the contemporary, from the traditional to the avant garde. Our small program is distinguised by the individualized attention and support that each student receives, both from faculty and colleagues, during their time here.


Our PhD is a four-year program:

YEAR ONE: Seminar, additional classwork, research, teaching, qualifying examinations
YEAR TWO: Seminar, additional classwork, research, teaching
YEAR THREE: Seminar, additional classwork, research, reading quarter, comprehensive examinations
YEAR FOUR: Dissertation, teaching, pre-professional activities (publishing, attending conferences, etc.)

Ph.D. students laugh during a seminar class
[Ph.D. students Carlos Salazar, Shelby Lunderman, and Weiyu Li, during a Ph.D. seminar class. Photo by Kyler Martin.]


Each quarter, you will take Ph.D. seminar, our core class, which provides thorough preparation in the major issues, periods, contemporary, critical, and theoretic approaches in the field.

The balance of your course schedule will consist of courses offered outside of the department, including fulfillment of a foreign language requirement. Each student is required to have a working knowledge of a second language. A working knowledge is defined as skills enough to allow one to conduct research in that language. Additional coursework wil be selected in consultation with your faculty, based on your interests and needs. Because the University of Washington is a Research I university, the range of courses available to our Ph.D. students in immense. 

Our program is a founding member of the Center for Performance Studies, hosted by the School of Drama. The Center is a consortium of graduate faculty from across the disciplines who all teach in the area of performance studies. Our constituent members range from more traditional departments, like Theatre, Dance, and English, to Comparative Literature, Anthropology, Ethno-musicology, Germanics, Classics, History, Spanish-Portuguese, the Asian Center, Social Work, and others, who all offer seminars in the study of performance and performance culture. Visit the Center for Performance studies website to view current and past course descriptions.


The fourth year of the program is devoted to writing a dissertation under the guidance of a faculty advisor. Recent doctoral dissertations have explored semiotics, feminism, medieval traditions, American theatre history, contemporary English and German drama, ethnicity and performance theory. Click here to view current and past dissertations.


Our program is dedicated to helping our students establish competence in teaching during their time here. Our Ph.D. students teach an array of undergraduate courses, including Drama 101: Introduction to the Theatre, a large, lecture course with smaller discussion sections, Drama 103: Theatre Appreciation, an online course, and Drama 201: Plays and Styles, a seminar-style course. To view course descriptions for these classes, visit the School of Drama course catalogue.


You won’t have to wait for graduation to begin building your connections to the professional world. Our students are encouraged to publish and attend conferences during their time here. At the most recent conference of the American Society for Theatre Research, five current UW Drama Ph.D. students presented papers alongside every member of our faculty and several alumni. 


Most applicants have theatre degrees and production experience, but on-going production work is not an integral part of the doctoral program. Our enrollment is small, and individual attention to scholarly projects --including private tutorials--shapes each student's experience throughout their course of study. Whatever their particular interests, Ph.D. students are expected to develop the broadest and deepest understanding of theatre and performance, theory, and history.

 People • Student Work • Tuition & Financial Aid • How to Apply