As Performance Studies Coursework

Niki Tulk, PhD student in Theatre enacting a scene from Medea at the Sunrise Amphitheatre on Flagstaff Mountain during the Global Ancient and Classical seminar

At the University of Colorado, we believe that scholarship in the field of theatre should be premised on the fact that theatre is a performing art.  This does not mean that the standards for theatre scholarship are any less rigorous than those in other disciplines, but it does mean that the theatre scholar must be prepared to use research methodologies and perspectives capable of illuminating drama in performance.  To this end, the education of a theatre scholar should entail ongoing experiences in theatre productions.

The MA program in Theatre and Performance Studies has two tracks. 

  • The Thesis Track requires students to write a substantial research document demonstrating mature critical thought based on independent study and investigation (Graduate School Plan I).  This thesis track MA degree prepares students to pursue a PhD degree; students choose this track if they wish to apply to a doctoral program, either at CU or elsewhere.  To complete the thesis track of the MA program, students must demonstrate proficiency in three areas: academic coursework, the thesis and the final exam (oral).
  • The Non-Thesis Track requires a three-hour written exam covering graduate coursework (Graduate School Plan II).  Students who do not plan to pursue a PhD can elect the non-thesis track.  To complete the non-thesis track of the MA program, students must demonstrate proficiency in two areas: academic coursework and the final exam (written and oral).

Students must declare either the thesis or non-thesis track by the start of their third semester. 

MA Academic Work

The minimum requirement for the master’s degree is 30 credit hours.  A maximum of 6 credit hours may be completed at the 3000 or 4000 level at the discretion of the student’s academic advisor.  All coursework applying towards the degree must be taught by members of the graduate faculty holding current Graduate Faculty appointments.  Theatre courses below the 5000 level require advisor approval to count toward the degree. 

Students choosing Plan I, the thesis option, may use the following as a model: 24-26 hours of coursework, including a 3-credit independent study for preparation of the thesis prospectus; and 4-6 hours of thesis credit hours taken in the fourth semester for completion of the thesis.   Students choosing Plan II, the non-thesis option, will complete 30 credit hours of coursework.

Required Coursework

THTR 5010            Introduction to Performance Studies
THTR 5011            Theory and Criticism 
THTR 6009            Research Strategies and Techniques

And two On-Stage Studies courses:

THTR 6011            On-Stage Studies: Global Ancient and Classical Theatre
THTR 6021            On-Stage Studies: Shakespeare
THTR 6031            On-Stage Studies: American Theatre
THTR 6041            On-Stage Studies: Global Modern Theatre
THTR 6111            On-Stage Studies: Global Contemporary Theatre

The MA program is based upon a core of required courses, which emphasize the interrelatedness of theory, history, and practice.  The "On-Stage Studies" courses place dramatic texts and performance traditions in the context of contemporary performance.  They are designed to pose questions like "How might this play work on the stage today?  What problems does it present the contemporary director/dramaturg? In what ways is it socially relevant?  How have directors like Jonathan Miller, Ariane Mnouchkine, Peter Stein, etc. solved them?"  In a nutshell, the aim of the On-Stage Studies curriculum is to teach students to think as dramaturgs and directors, as well as scholars.

Graduate students make masks in THTR 6011, On-Stage Studies: Global Ancient & Classical Theatre and then perform with them at Sunrise Amphitheatre on Flagstaff Mountain.

Elective Coursework

Graduate Seminar Courses are offered in the areas of theatre history, dramatic literature and theory.

Graduate Independent Studies coursework cannot exceed 25% of the coursework required and may not be used as an avenue for taking undergraduate courses in the major department.  Independent studies contract forms are available from the Graduate Program Assistant and online.

Production Research and Practicum Courses (in acting, directing, design, applied theatre and dramaturgy) may be taken for 1-3 credits.  A limit of 3 credits in each may apply toward the degree.  All courses are supervised by Graduate Faculty; regular meetings with the faculty advisor are required. 

 Guidelines for flexible credit are:

  • one credit for successfully completing the project
  • two credits for completing the project and submitting a written record of it (e.g. an actor’s journal, a director’s regiebuch)
  • three credits for doing all of the above and writing a pertinent research paper, topic to be determined in consultation with the instructor

Coursework Not Applying Toward Degree:  Undergraduate major courses taken to make up deficiencies may not be counted in the minimum number required for the degree; however, grades for any such courses taken will be included in the GPA.  Students taking graduate or undergraduate coursework not applying toward their degree may do so for a letter grade, no credit, or pass/fail.  If taken for a letter grade, the course will be calculated in the student’s graduate GPA.  If taken pass/fail, a failing grade will be calculated into the GPA.  Note: courses taken for no credit are not covered by tuition remission.

A student may not receive graduate credit toward a degree for more than 15 hours per semester, fall or spring.  A student may not receive graduate credit toward a degree for more than six hours in one five-week summer term or more than ten hours in one summer session.

Program Description

The Masters in Performance Studies offers students the unique opportunity to immerse themselves in this concentrated program and earn their degree in one year. Students whose long-range plans include doctoral-level training will receive excellent foundational preparation for not only theater, performance studies, and dance Ph.D. programs, but also for advanced academic research in gender/queer studies, critical race studies, literary studies, visual/communication studies, American studies, etc.

The program targets not only those students aimed at advanced (doctoral) studies in performance or related fields, but those individuals engaged in, or headed towards, careers in art practice as well: choreographers, performance artists, directors, designers, etc. who seek to supplement their technical training with a deep engagement in performance theory will have an opportunity to consider their practice-based knowledge in relation to theories of performance. Graduates of the M.A. program may pursue careers in arts management/administration, education, grant-writing, and other arts-related media and policy work.

The M.A. and Ph.D. Programs in Performance Studies are administered by the Tisch School of the Arts and degrees are conferred by the Graduate School of Arts and Science at NYU.

M.A. Degree Requirements

The Masters in Performance Studies consists of 34 points of coursework to be completed over 3 consecutive semesters beginning with Fall Semester. There are two required courses (see below) and the remaining points are taken as graduate electives. Subject to the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies, M.A. students may take one course outside the department.

Students may transfer up to 4 points of graduate credit earned at another institution upon approval by the Chair and the TSOA Director of Graduate Admissions.  Requests for transfer credit must be made during the student’s first semester in the Department. Only courses earning a grade of “B” or higher may be applied to the degree and a minimum of 24 points must be completed with resident faculty. 

Required M.A. Courses

M.A. students are required to take the following courses (4 points each):

• Introduction to Performance Studies (PERF-GT 1000) in their first semester; and

• Projects in Performance Studies (PERF-GT 2000) in their final semester.


Students who began the MA program in Performance Studies prior to Fall 2016 must complete 36 points of approved coursework with a grade of “B” or better. Please note: the maximum time to degree for Masters students in TSOA is 5 years; for students who have exceeded that time limit you may not be permitted to complete your remaining requirements.  Please contact the department as soon as possible for more information.


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