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Ph.D. Program

Program of Study
Student Work
How to Apply

/ Graduate Tuition & Financial Aid

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 five-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 distinguished by the individualized attention and support that each student receives, both from faculty and colleagues, during their time here.

The Ph.D. program is committed to the School of Drama’s Anti-Racist Action Plan, including decentering whiteness in our teaching of theatre history and performance studies. “[W]hen we say we value tradition, we mean that we value the long tradition of theatrical storytelling from all cultures, and that we do not value the traditions of exclusion, marginalization, and colonialism.” Read the full Anti-Racist Action Plan here:


Our PhD is a five-year program:

YEAR ONE: Drama seminars, additional classwork, research, teaching, qualifying examinations
YEAR TWO: Drama seminars, additional classwork, research, teaching
YEAR THREE: Drama seminars, additional classwork, research, teaching, pre-professional activities (publishing, attending conferences, etc.)
YEAR FOUR: Reading quarter and comprehensive examinations in Autumn; Dissertation, teaching, pre-professional activities (publishing, attending conferences, etc.)
YEAR FIVE: 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.]


As a student you'll take a minimum of 12 graduate seminar courses from your home department of the School of Drama. Seminars provide 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 will 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 is 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 and fifth years of the program are 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, Latin American/Latinx performance, historiography, and Asian performance. 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. Our Ph.D. students, alongside every member of our faculty and several alumni,  regularly present work at meetings of the American Society for Theatre Research (ASTR), the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE), the Mid-America Theatre Conference (MATC) and other national and international organizations.


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.

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