The interdisciplinary theatre studies program prepares M.A. and Ph.D. students to pursue innovative, interdisciplinary research in theatre studies, and to conduct inquiry through scholarly research, practice as research and meaningful teaching experiences. The M.A. can serve as a preparatory degree for the Ph.D., or as a terminal degree for students seeking greater exposure to theatre, drama and performance studies beyond the undergraduate degree. Through rigorous coursework enhanced by the study of, and participation in, various forms of theatre and performance practice, the Ph.D. program prepares graduates for positions as college and university researchers and instructors, as well as public intellectuals and scholar/practitioners. Students with a background in theatre by, with, and for children and youth may apply to specialize in theatre for youth.

The program’s core and affiliate faculty are leaders in theatre and performance studies, whose scholarship, practice and leadership in the profession are recognized nationally and abroad. The core faculty’s strengths include global dramatic literatures, theatre history and historiography, theatre and cultural theory, the theory and practice of theatre for youth, and relational performance. Our affiliate faculty expand the coursework and advising available to students, incorporating related fields of visual cultures, anthropology, art and art history, literary and theatre studies across English and non-English-speaking traditions, music, new media and digital design, gender and women's studies, and other disciplines.

The program attracts students from across the United States as well as internationally. It creates opportunities for students to engage in teaching and practice as part of their research. It also encourages students to participate in national and international professional meetings, working groups and colloquia; and to share their art and research through practice and publication in their field.

Financial support available to students in the program includes fellowships, teaching assistantships and project assistantships. Please contact the program chair or graduate coordinator for more information about financial support.

Minimum Degree Requirements and Satisfactory Progress

To make progress toward a graduate degree, students must meet the Graduate School Minimum Degree Requirements and Satisfactory Progress in addition to the requirements of the program.

Doctoral Degrees


Minimum Graduate Degree Credit Requirement

51 credits

Minimum Graduate Residence Credit Requirement

32 credits

Minimum Graduate Coursework (50%) Requirement

At least 50% of credits must be completed in graduate-level coursework; courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the university's Course Guide.

Prior Coursework Requirements: Graduate Work from Other Institutions

With program approval, students may count no more than 18 credits of graduate coursework from other institutions.

Prior Coursework Requirements: UW–Madison Undergraduate

With program approval, students may count up to 7 credits numbered 300 or above.

Prior Coursework Requirement: UW–Madison University Special

With program approval, students may count up to 15 credits numbered 700 or above if difference in tuition is paid.

Credits per Term Allowed

15 credits

Program-Specific Courses Required

Proseminar in Theatre Research in the fall semester of the first year of study; seven courses in dramatic literature, history, theory and criticism; three courses in theatre practice; eight courses in an area of specialization; and, among these courses, three seminars.

Doctoral Minor/Breadth Requirements

All doctoral students are required to complete a minor. Four courses in the outside minor.

Overall Graduate GPA Requirement

3.25 GPA required

Other Grade Requirements

No other specific grade requirements.

Probation Policy

Students are reviewed annually by the research faculty and may be placed on probation if they are not making satisfactory progress on program requirements.

Advisor / Committee

The dissertation must be prepared under supervision of the major professor.

Committee consists of five faculty members—advisor, at least two additional faculty members from interdisciplinary theatre studies, and at least one member from another department.

Assessments and Examinations

A preliminary portfolio examination in the areas of literature, history, and theory is required after course work is completed. This examination must be passed before being admitted into Ph.D. candidacy. A dissertation proposal must be submitted and defended after the completion of the preliminary examination.

Time Constraints

The Prelim B exam (proposal defense) must be completed before the end of the second regular semester following the Prelim A exam.

Per Graduate School policy, doctoral students have five years from the date of passing preliminary examination to take the final oral examination and deposit the dissertation. Students may petition for an additional one-year extension.

Language Requirements

Attain research competency in one language approved by the major professor.

Applicants to the M.A. and Ph.D. degree programs in interdisciplinary theatre studies need to include in their application a thoughtful statement about their interests in theatre research and the areas in which they might like to study, as well a sample of their writing in the form of an advanced research paper. Applications are judged on the basis of the prospective student’s previous academic record, Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores, references, personal statement, and writing sample.

Knowledge and Skills

  • Demonstrate understanding of the theory, history, and practice of drama and theatre as collaborative cultural forms across historical periods.
  • Master the methods and materials of theatre and performance research and writing in order to produce original scholarly projects that range in complexity from term papers to dissertations.
  • Develop methods for theatre and performance practice and theory in order to test the reciprocal relations between research and practice through reflective participation in the production process.
  • Identify and distinguish among the diverse global locations of theatre and the intercultural contact among theatre traditions, especially as these multiply in the modern and contemporary periods.

Professional Conduct

  • Prepare for future careers combining theatre and performance scholarship, teaching, and/or practice.
  • Demonstrate professionalization in the discipline of theatre through participation in conferences and submission of work to scholarly journals.

Faculty: Professors Dharwadker, Vanden Heuvel, van de Water; Associate Professors Peterson, Trotter (chair). The program also works closely with affiliate faculty from programs across the university.