Theater Studies

Director of undergraduate studies: Nathan Roberts, Rm. 102, 220 York St., 432-1310;


Professors Daphne Brooks (African American Studies, Theater Studies), *Toni Dorfman (Adjunct) (Theater Studies), *Daniel Harrison (Music), *Lawrence Manley (English), *Deb Margolin (Adjunct) (Theater Studies), Donald Margulies (Adjunct) (English, Theater Studies), *Charles Musser (Film & Media Studies, American Studies, Theater Studies), Tavia Nyong'o (American Studies, Theater Studies), *Joseph Roach (English, African American Studies, Theater Studies), *Marc Robinson (School of Drama, Theater Studies, English), *Robert Stepto (African American Studies, English, American Studies)

Associate Professors Joan MacIntosh (Adjunct) (Theater Studies, School of Drama)

Assistant Professors Emily Coates (Adjunct) (Theater Studies, School of Drama)

Lecturers Daniel Egan, Grant Herreid, Annette Jolles, Nathan Roberts

*Member of the Executive Committee for the program.

As a branch of the humanities and as a complex cultural practice, theater claims a rich history and literature and an equally rich repertoire of embodied knowledge and theory. Theater Studies emphasizes the reciprocal relationship between practice and scholarly study. The major combines practical training with theory and history, while stressing creative critical thinking. Students are encouraged to engage intellectual and physical approaches to explore diverse cultural forms, historical traditions, and contemporary life. As the study of theater is interdisciplinary in scope and global in perspective, students are expected to take courses in cognate disciplines such as history, philosophy, anthropology, political science, film, art, literature, and foreign languages. Faculty members are affiliated with a range of departments; their diverse expertise lends breadth and depth to course offerings and enables students to devise a course of study reflective of their developing interests.

Special features of the program are the production seminars, guided independent study projects, and senior project. Each production seminar concentrates on study, through practice, of one aspect of work in the theater; examples are approaches to acting, directing, writing, dance, design or digital media in performance. Each seminar involves numerous projects that grow out of the term's work. For example, the project may be production of a play or several plays, adaptation or translation of existing works, or creation of original plays, performance pieces, or set design. Independent study projects give the student freedom to pursue individual and group-generated projects under the guidance of a Theater Studies faculty member. All production seminars require permission of the instructor (by application or audition). Independent study project courses are open only to majors.

The major The major consists of ten term courses beyond the introductory prerequisites (THST 110, 111), one of which must be THST 210, Introduction to Performance Concepts. Students are encouraged to enroll in a balanced combination of courses involving studio work and courses with literature, history, and theory content. Of the ten required term courses, four must focus on dramatic literature or theater history. At least one of the four courses should include dramatic literature originating in a language other than English. Students are urged to read plays in the original languages whenever possible. Students should choose additional courses to develop the perspectives achieved in the production and literature courses. 

Credit/D/Fail Courses taken Credit/D/Fail may not be counted toward the requirements of the major in Theater Studies.

Senior project requirement Majors satisfy the senior project requirement in one of two ways. They may undertake a one-term senior project (THST 491) or, with the approval of the director of undergraduate studies, they may take one of the dramatic literature or theater history courses as a senior seminar. Senior projects may take the form of directing, designing, or writing a play, performing a role, choreographing a dance piece, or writing a critical essay. Performance-oriented projects are in addition to a senior essay, which is an integral requirement of THST 491. Students interested in mounting a production as part of their senior project are encouraged to develop collaborative proposals among actors, writers, directors, designers, dancers, or dramaturgs. Students proposing a collaborative production project have priority for rehearsal time and production slots in the Whitney Theater Space, 53 Wall Street. Proposals for senior project productions will normally be approved only for students who have previously served as producers of other students' senior projects.

Students wishing to undertake a senior project must submit a proposal before the deadline announced by the director of undergraduate studies. This deadline typically falls before spring break of the junior year; students in the junior year will be provided with information and guidance towards the preparation of this rigorous proposal in the months leading up to the deadline. Each proposal is submitted to a faculty committee for approval.

Courses in the School of Drama Majors in Theater Studies are encouraged to consider taking selected courses in design, dramaturgy, and theater management, with permission of the instructor, the director of undergraduate studies, and the registrar of the School of Drama. Undergraduates may not, however, enroll in acting or directing courses offered by the School of Drama. Students enrolling in School of Drama courses should note that a maximum of four term courses from the professional schools may be offered toward the bachelor's degree. Students also should note that the academic calendars of the School of Drama and of Yale College differ. The School of Drama calendar should be consulted for scheduling. 


Prerequisites THST 110, 111

Number of courses 10 term courses beyond prereqs (incl senior req)

Specific course required THST 210

Distribution of courses 4 courses in dramatic lit or theater hist, 1 with reading in lit other than English

Senior requirement Senior seminar or senior project (THST 491)

Core Curriculum in Theater Studies

THST 110a and THST 111b, Survey of Theater and Drama Joseph Roach

An introduction to theater history, plays, aesthetic theories, and performance techniques. From antiquity to the Restoration period in the fall and continuing through to the present in the spring.  HU

* THST 210a, Introduction to Performance Concepts Deborah Margolin

A studio introduction to the basic techniques of acting, including the actor's vocabulary and performance tools. Improvisation, performance exercises, and scene work based on Stanislavsky, Vakhtangov, Michael Chekhov, Strasberg, Adler, Meisner, and Hagen. Admission by audition. Open to Theater Studies majors only. Required for Theater Studies majors in the year immediately following THST 110, 111.  RP

Drama and Dance: History, Theory, Literature

* THST 228b / ENGL 244b / FILM 397b, Writing about the Performing Arts Margaret Spillane

Introduction to journalistic reporting on performances as current events, with attention to writing in newspapers, magazines, and the blogosphere. The idea of the audience explored in relation to both a live act or screening and a piece of writing about such an event. Students attend screenings and live professional performances of plays, music concerts, and dance events.  HU

* THST 236a / MUSI 246a, American Musical Theater History Daniel Egan

Critical examination of relevance and context in the history of the American musical theater. Historical survey, including nonmusical trends, combined with text and musical analysis.  WR, HURP

* THST 244a / ENGL 257a, Writing about Movement Brian Seibert

A seminar and workshop in writing about the human body in motion, with a focus on the art of dance. Close reading of exemplary dance writing from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The challenges and possibilities of writing artfully about nonverbal expression. Students use a variety of approaches to write about dance and other performance genres. No previous knowledge of dance required.  WR, HU

* THST 245b / FREN 245b, Twentieth-Century French Theater Christopher Semk

An introduction to the works of major twentieth-century playwrights, including Anouilh, Ionesco, Beckett, Sartre, and Genet. Special emphasis on theater of the absurd. The social, cultural, and political contexts of the plays; questions relating to theater in performance.  L5, HU

* THST 291a / ENGL 288a, Eloquence: Classical Rhetoric for Modern Media Joseph Roach

Classical rhetoric, from Demosthenes to the digital age: the theory and practice of persuasive public speaking and speech writing. Open to junior and senior Theater Studies majors, and to nonmajors with permission of the instructor.  HU

* THST 295a, Performance Studies Daniel Sander

Introduction to the interdisciplinary field of performance studies, using performance and performativity as lenses to view questions about everyday life, language, culture, aesthetics, and media. Topics include performances of gender and sexuality, constructions of racial identity, the politics of performance, and practices of historical reenactment. Open to Theater Studies majors, and to nonmajors with permission of the instructor.  HU

* THST 304a / AFAM 225a / AMST 338a, Blackface Minstrelsy and the Politics of Power Daphne Brooks

Study of racial performances from Stowe, Twain, Winehouse, and others to explore the history and aesthetics of racial masquerade and cultural appropriation, from the origins of blackface minstrelsy through the present day. Examination of the roots and modern legacies of a form that was once the most popular entertainment attraction in American culture and of the relationship between performance politics and forms of social domination and cultural subversion. The impact of modernity and material histories (slavery and captivity, immigration, labor, development of the culture industry) on blackface minstrelsy’s evolution.  HURP

* THST 306a, Performativity Tavia Nyong'o

The study of how, and to what effect, performance entered twentieth century philosophy and literary theory. Consideration of speech-act theory as it emerged in philosophy and literary theory; how feminism and queer theory acted upon and transformed this philosophical and literary tradition by attending to matters of gender, sexuality, and bodily precarity; and where and how matters of race, ethnicity, and indigeneity surface in the tradition of commentary on the concept of performativity.   HU

THST 307b / AFAM 303b / ER&M 347b / MUSI 348b, Orisa Worship and Afro-Cuban Folkloric Dance Maya Berry

Study of Afrodescendants in Cuba and how sacred forms of Orisa worship were practiced, studied, interpreted, and represented on stage. Understanding blackness, collective black-lived experiences, and the black dancing body in Cuba. Readings drawn from art history, ethnomusicology, anthropology, dance studies, religious studies, theology, history, and black studies, providing close study of concepts of religion, deity, folklore, nation, blackness, and dance. Concepts illustrated through readings, movement practice (dance classes), and spectatorship.  HU

* THST 317b / ENGL 224b / LITR 349b, Tragedy and Drama of Reconciliation Jan Hagens

Close reading of dramas of reconciliation from the Western canon that have traditionally been categorized as tragedies. Ways in which the recategorization of such plays lends additional complexity and meaning to their endings and allows for new interpretations of the texts, their authors, and the history of drama.  HU

* THST 329b / ENGL 361b, Theater Now Marc Robinson

Study of the drama, performance, and dance theater created in the last ten years, with special attention to work produced in 2016-2017. Readings from both published and unpublished American and British plays, contemporary criticism and theory, interviews, and essays by the artists themselves. Video of works created by companies such as Elevator Repair Service and the Nature Theater of Oklahoma. May include attendance of productions at performance spaces in and around New York City.  HU

* THST 333b / MUSI 337b, Stephen Sondheim and the American Musical Theater Tradition Daniel Egan

The musical theater of Stephen Sondheim, both as a popular phenomenon of the contemporary Broadway stage and in relation to models and forms employed in the past.  HURP

* THST 380a / AMST 370a, The History of Dance Jessica Berson

An examination of major movements in the history of concert and social dance from the late nineteenth century to the present, including ballet, tap, jazz, modern, musical theater, and different cultural forms. Topics include tradition versus innovation, the influence of the African diaspora, and interculturalism. Exercises are used to illuminate analysis of the body in motion.  WR, HU

* THST 388a / HUMS 178a, Revenge Tragedy and Moral Ambiguity Toni Dorfman

A study of plays and films variously construed as revenge tragedy that raise aesthetic and ethical issues, including genre, retribution, "just wars," public vs. private justice, and the possibility of resolution. How questions of crime, punishment, and justice have been posed in drama, from classical Greece through the twentieth century.   HU

* THST 390a / ENGL 222a, Modern European Drama Marc Robinson

Intensive study of the major playwrights of modern European drama—Ibsen, Chekhov, Strindberg, Shaw, Brecht, and Beckett—along with pertinent theater theory.  WR, HU

THST 431b / AFAM 403b / AMST 386b, Black Women and Popular-Music Culture Daphne Brooks

Forms of musical artistry innovated by black women artists as sites of social, political, and cultural rupture, revision, and resistance. The intersecting politics of race, gender, class, and sexuality in popular-music culture considered through black women's sonic performances. Examination of voice, lyricism, embodied performance, and spectacle. Artists range from Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, and Eartha Kitt to Nina Simone, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Nicki Minaj, and Janelle Monáe.  HU

* THST 443b / EALL 239b / EAST 402b / ER&M 344b, Race, Gender, and Performance in East Asia Soo Ryon Yoon

Survey of contemporary performances in and around East Asia to more clearly understand the embodied processes in which racial and gendered social practices are shaped. Situating discussions in the specific political and cultural context of East Asia, students examine contemporary concert dance, K-pop idols, club and social dances, and protests and festivals in tandem with exploration of key concepts and theories.  HU

* THST 445b / AMST 431b, Art and Agitprop since the1960s Tavia Nyong'o

Theater and performance as a source of social dissent, protest, and experimentation since the 1960s. Study of how artists and collectives used mass media technologies—radio, television, film & video, and the Internet—to adapt and disseminate their art. The relationship between agitprop and popular culture and whether agitprop belongs more to the left or to the right.  WR, HU

* THST 448a / WGSS 443a, Dancing Desire, Gender, and Sexuality in Embodied Performance Jessica Berson

Exploration of how contemporary embodied performances construct and reflect gendered and sexual identities. Students work with a broad definition of embodied performance that includes examples from social, popular, and concert dance; performance art; music videos; film and television; and devised performance. At least one course in either Theater Studies or Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.  WR, HU

Playwriting, Production, and Performance

* THST 224a / MUSI 228a, Musical Theater Performance I Annette Jolles

The structure and meaning of traditional and contemporary musical theater repertoire. Focus on ways to "read" a work, decipher compositional cues for character and action, facilitate internalization of material, and elicit lucid interpretations. For singers, pianists, and directors. Prerequisites: MUSI 211 and 219, or with permission of instructor. Admission by audition only. May be repeated for credit. For audition information e-mail  HURP

* THST 230b, Advanced Acting and Scene Study Toni Dorfman

Combination of exercises and scene study to deepen the understanding and playing of action. Admission by audition. Open to junior and senior Theater Studies majors only. May be taken more than once. Prerequisite: THST 211.  RP

* THST 231b, Chekhov in Performance Gregory Wallace

A studio-based exploration of the world of Anton Chekhov, focusing on acting technique through scene work as well as character analysis and development. Admission by audition only.  HU

* THST 300a, The Director and the Text I Toni Dorfman

Basic exercises in approaching dramatic or other literary texts from the director's perspective. Particular attention to the many roles and functions of the director in production. Rehearsal and production of workshop scenes. Open to junior and senior Theater Studies majors, and to nonmajors with permission of the instructor. Prerequisite: THST 210.  HURP

* THST 308b, Performing Design Nathan Roberts and Deborah Margolin

Exploration of the theatrical design and production process in a devised theater setting. Study and application of collaborative strategies of experimental theater groups (Living Theater, Split Britches) for the generation of design and production elements. Consideration of the elements that shape theatrical experiences; generative exercises leading to weekly design-performance pieces in response to textual, imagistic, and aural prompts; and technologies and techniques for adaptive, flexible design. Development of a devised theatrical work that culminates in a public performance.

* THST 313b, Special Projects in Theater Studies Annette Jolles

Adaptation or creation of an original, stage-ready script and/or score, with the expectation that the script will be staged as a Theater Studies production seminar in a subsequent semester. Course work involves all aspects of dramaturgy, production research, directed rewriting, and workshopping. By invitation, or by proposing the project in consultation with appropriate faculty and the DUS.

* THST 314b, TENN, Creation of a Musical Annette Jolles

Dramaturgy, production preparation, research, and exploration of TENN, a new musical theater piece by Julian Hornik, Yale class of 2017. Course combines production specific research and rehearsal with new musical development. Parallel lines of inquiry merge in April 2017 performances in the Whitney Theater. Course intended for actors, designers, directors, music directors, producers, and dramaturgs.  Permission of instructor.  RP

* THST 315a, Acting Shakespeare James Bundy

A practicum in acting verse drama, focusing on tools to mine the printed text for given circumstances, character, objective, and action; noting the opportunities and limitations that the printed play script presents; and promoting both the expressive freedom and responsibility of the actor as an interpretive and collaborative artist in rehearsal. The course will include work on sonnets, monologues, and scenes. Admission by audition. Preference to seniors and juniors; open to nonmajors.  HURP

* THST 318b / MUSI 322b, Analyzing, Directing, and Performing Early Opera Grant Herreid and Toni Dorfman

Study of a seventeenth-century Venetian opera, with attention to structural analysis of text and music. Exploration of period performance practice, including rhetorical expression, musical style, gesture, dance, Italian elocution, and visual design. Production of the opera in conjunction with the Yale Baroque Opera Project. Open to all students, but designed especially for singers and directors. Prerequisites: MUSI 211 and 219. Admission by audition only. May be repeated for credit. For audition information e-mail  HURP

* THST 319a / AFAM 313a, Embodying Story Renee Robinson

The intersection of storytelling and movement as seen through historical case studies, cross-disciplinary inquiry, and studio practice. Drawing on eclectic source materials from different artistic disciplines, ranging from the repertory of Alvin Ailey to journalism, architectural studies, cartoon animation, and creative processes, students develop the critical, creative, and technical skills through which to tell their own stories in movement. No prior dance experience necessary.  HU

* THST 320a / ENGL 453a, Playwriting Donald Margulies

A seminar and workshop on reading for craft and writing for the stage. In addition to weekly prompts and exercises, readings include modern American and British plays by Pinter, Mamet, Churchill, Kushner, Nottage, Williams, Hansberry, Hwang, Vogel, and Wilder. Emphasis on play structure, character, and conflict.  RP

* THST 321a, Production Seminar: Playwriting Deborah Margolin

A seminar and workshop in playwriting. Emphasis on developing an individual voice. Scenes read and critiqued in class. Admission by application, with priority to Theater Studies majors. A writing sample and statement of purpose should be submitted to the instructor before the first class meeting.  RP

* THST 322b / ENGL 481b, Advanced Playwriting Deborah Margolin

A seminar and workshop in advanced playwriting that furthers the development of an individual voice. Study of contemporary and classical plays to understand new and traditional forms. Students write two drafts of an original one-act play or adaptation for critique in workshop sessions. Familiarity with basic playwriting tools is assumed. Open to juniors and seniors, nonmajors as well as majors, on the basis of their work; priority to Theater Studies majors. Writing samples should be submitted to the instructor before the first class meeting. Prerequisite: THST 320 or 321, or a college seminar in playwriting, or equivalent experience.  RP

* THST 327b / ENGL 468b, Advanced Playwriting Workshop Donald Margulies

An intensive workshop in advanced playwriting techniques. Discussion of works by contemporary playwrights. In addition to weekly exercises, students write a full-length play. Admission by application only. Application details and forms are available at

* THST 335b / AFST 435b, West African Dance: Traditional to Contemporary Lacina Coulibaly

A practical and theoretical study of the traditional dances of Africa, focusing on those of Burkina Faso and their contemporary manifestations. Emphasis on rhythm, kinesthetic form, and gestural expression. The fusion of modern European dance and traditional African dance. Admission by audition during the first class meeting.  HURP

* THST 358a, Introduction to Lighting Design Alan Edwards

Exploration of the aesthetics and techniques of professional stage lighting. Priority to Theater Studies majors.  RP

* THST 387b, Advanced Dance Composition Irene Hultman Monti

A seminar and workshop in dance-theater composition. Focus on the history of dance composition, tools for generating and interpreting movement, basic choreographic devices, and dance in dialogue with media, music, and other art forms. Choreographic projects developed over the course of the term are presented in a final performance. Admission by application. May be repeated for credit.  HURP

THST 405b, Physical Comedy and Clown Technique Christopher Bayes

A practical study of physical acting and clown technique. Exercises in musicality, playful abandon, and active listening; simplicity and vulnerability through the connection of body and voice. Examination of each actor's unique relationship to the clown and the comic world. Preference to Theater Studies majors; open to nonmajors with permission of the instructor.

* THST 412b, Libretto Writing for Musical Theater Marsha Norman

Practical instruction in book writing for musical theater combined with close reading of historical and contemporary examples of the genre. Weekly exercises focus on issues of craft, creativity, and collaboration.  RP

* THST 414a, Lyric Writing for Musical Theater Michael Korie

The craft of lyric writing in musical theater, opera, and crossover works. Both historical models and new composition used as objects of study. Analysis of song form and placement, and of lyric for character, tone, and diction. Creation of lyrics in context.  Limited enrollment. Interested students should write to for application requirements. May not be repeated for credit.  HURP

* THST 427b / AMST 349b / THST 233, Technologies of Movement Research Emily Coates

Marshaling both artistic and academic methods, and with dance as the focal point, this course examines technologies that traverse disciplinary boundaries. Topics include: somatic practices that emphasize internal sense perception; choreographic notation; dance dramaturgy; digital motion capture; the intersection of cognitive science and dance; and ethnographies that draw strategies from the arts to probe social problems. Open to all students.

* THST 437a / ENGL 479a / ER&M 437a, Playwriting Workshop behind Bars: Sacred Texts and Social Justice Ronald Jenkins

Through the study of theatrical works that have been adapted from sacred texts, the course introduces students to playwriting techniques helpful for writing their own scripts based on a socially conscious reading of sacred texts. Possible collaboration with incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals in adapting Dante's Divine Comedy for the stage.  HU

Special Projects

* THST 471a and THST 472b, Directed Independent Study Nathan Roberts

An independent study should generally conform to the standards and procedures of the senior project, THST 491, even when not undertaken by a senior. If the independent study is a performance or directing project, the adviser visits rehearsals and performances at the mutual convenience of adviser and student. The project must be accompanied by an essay of about fifteen pages, worth about half the final grade. Although the paper's requirements vary with the project and its adviser, it must be more than a rehearsal log. The paper typically engages interpretative and performance issues as revealed in other productions of the work (if they exist). The writing should be concomitant with rehearsal, to enable each to inform the other, and a draft must be presented to, and commented on by, the adviser at least a week before—not after—the final performance. The final version of the paper, incorporating adjustments and reflections, should be turned in to the adviser no later than ten days after the performance closes, and no later than the first day of the final examination period. An essay project entails substantial reading, at least four meetings with the adviser, and a paper or papers totaling at least twenty pages. A playwriting project normally requires twenty new script pages every two weeks of the term and regular meetings with the adviser. A final draft of the entire script is the culmination of the term's work. Application forms are available from the director of undergraduate studies. Juniors may use one term of these courses to prepare for their senior projects. Open to juniors and seniors. Prerequisites: THST 210 and one seminar.

* THST 491a or b, Senior Project in Theater Studies Nathan Roberts and Daniel Egan

Students must submit proposals for senior projects to the Theater Studies office by the deadline announced by the director of undergraduate studies. Attendance at weekly section meetings is required for all students undertaking production projects. Application forms are available in the Theater Studies office, 220 York St.