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Program in Theater


Timothy K. Vasen 

Executive Committee

Michael W. Cadden, Lewis Center for the Arts

Jill S. Dolan, English, Lewis Center for the Arts

Jeffrey Eugenides, Lewis Center for the Arts, Creative Writing

Su Friedrich, Lewis Center for the Arts, Visual Arts

Chang-rae Lee, Lewis Center for the Arts, Creative Writing

Susan Marshall, Lewis Center for the Arts, Dance

Paul B. Muldoon, Lewis Center for the Arts, Creative Writing

Joyce Carol Oates, Lewis Center for the Arts, Creative Writing

James Richardson, Lewis Center for the Arts, Creative Writing

Joseph S. Scanlan, Lewis Center for the Arts, Visual Arts

P. Adams Sitney, Lewis Center for the Arts, Visual Arts

Susan Wheeler, Lewis Center for the Arts, Creative Writing

Edmund V. White, Lewis Center for the Arts, Creative Writing

Stacy E. Wolf, Lewis Center for the Arts


Jill S. Dolan, also English, Lewis Center for the Arts

Stacy E. Wolf, also Lewis Center for the Arts

Assistant Professor

Brian E. Herrera

Senior Lecturer

Michael W. Cadden, also Lewis Center for the Arts


Erica S. Nagel

Mark S. Nelson

John Rando

Robert N. Sandberg

Timothy K. Vasen

Katherine J. Whoriskey

Hodder Fellow

A. Rey Pamatmat

The Program in Theater, part of the Lewis Center for the Arts, allows students to work with professional artists and critics, as well as with scholars in the area of performance studies, to familiarize themselves with the nature of practical work in theater and the role theater has played and continues to play in various cultures at various times. The program offers courses in playwriting, acting, directing, design, dramaturgy, performance history, and criticism. The program also offers a full season of theatrical productions, under the supervision of professional artists and technicians, in order to allow students to bring the kinds of talents they develop in class to a wider audience. Visiting guest artists often offer workshops in their specialties, as well as directing students in productions or designing program shows. Program courses are open to all undergraduates interested in exploring the art of theater, but the program also offers the kinds of courses and co-curricular activities that will allow the student, upon graduation, to move into the best graduate conservatories to pursue advanced training.

Students looking for an opportunity to incorporate their theatrical studies into their concentrations might want to consider the Theater and Performance Studies track in the Department of English or Area D in the Department of Comparative Literature, but certificate students usually come from the full range of concentrations the University has to offer.

Admission to the Program

Courses are open to students pursuing work in any department, whether or not the student plans to earn the certificate. Introductory courses in the program, whether at the 200 or 300 level, usually have no prerequisites and fulfill the distribution requirement in Literature and the Arts (LA). Other 300- or 400-level courses require applications and/or interviews. 200-level course have Pass/D/Fail option; all other courses in the program are letter-graded.

Program of Study

Students with a particular interest in and commitment to theater may want to obtain the program certificate. Believing that the best training for a career in the theater is a broad-based liberal arts education, Princeton does not have a concentration in theater. Instead, the certificate program encourages students, should they have the inclination, to make connections in their artistic work between their fields of concentration and their love of the theater. Normally, students apply to become a certificate student in the spring of their sophomore year, but applications are accepted through the spring of the junior year.

To obtain a certificate in theater, students must successfully complete:

(1) Four practical courses chosen from offerings in acting, directing, playwriting, design, dramaturgy, and criticism.

(2) One course in dramatic literature or performance history and criticism.

(3) Some kind of independent work in the junior or senior year. This work might take the form of a practical project, such as the direction of a major production, the study and performance of a major role, the writing of a play, or the design of a production, under the supervision of our faculty and professional staff. If the student's department permits, he or she might choose to complete one part of the departmental independent work (senior thesis or one junior paper) on a topic approved by the Program in Theater faculty dealing with some facet of theater in relation to that department's subject matter. This independent work could take the form of a textual, cultural, or theoretical study; or it may be a combination of research and practical work supervised by the program faculty and the student's department.

(4) A certain number of hours of technical work on theater productions staged by the program.

Certificate of Proficiency

Students who fulfill the requirements of the program receive a certificate of proficiency in theater upon graduation.

Advanced Creative Work. The Program in Theater offers certificate students with the appropriate course background the opportunity to do advanced creative work under the supervision of its faculty and staff. This work usually takes the form of a practical project, such as the writing of a play, the direction or design of a major production, or the study and performance of a major role. These projects may be pursued as extracurricular activities, or, as is more regularly the case, they may be used to fulfill the requirement for independent work in the certificate program. With permission of the student's department of concentration, such projects may also satisfy one of the requirements for independent work in the department, in which case it must consist of or be accompanied by written work, such as a scholarly or critical evaluation.

Related Courses. Various departments offer courses in dramatic literature, many in English and some in foreign languages. A list of such courses may be found on the program website. Additional topics are taught in seminars whose titles change yearly. For current descriptions, see listings under the appropriate departments.


THR 201 Beginning Studies in Acting: Scene Study   Fall, Spring LA

Designed to guide students in developing roles and exploring texts and characters. Work will begin with exercises and proceed to consideration of scenes, short sections of plays, and specific roles. S. Agins, T. Bersley, T. Vasen

THR 205 Introductory Playwriting   Spring LA

A workshop on the fundamentals of writing plays. Emphasis will be on solving problems of structure, plot development, and character through various writing exercises and theater improvisations. Ongoing work of students and instructor is read and discussed. R. Sandberg

THR 211 French Theater Workshop (see FRE 211)

THR 300 Acting, Being, Doing, and Making: Introduction to Performance Studies (also COM 359/ENG 373/ANT 359)   Fall LA

The place of performance--for example, Greek tragedy, Noh drama, modern dance, opera, performance art, crossdressing--within the social, political, cultural, and religious structures it has served. Perspectives from theater and dance history, classical and contemporary theory, and ancient and modern practice. Prerequisite: fulfillment of writing requirement. Two 90-minute seminars. J. Dolan, S. Wolf

THR 301 Intermediate Studies in Acting: Scene Study II   Fall, Spring LA

A continuation and extension of 201. Prerequisite: 201. Staff

THR 304 Special Topics in Contemporary Practice (see DAN 304)

THR 305 Playwriting II: Intermediate Playwriting   Fall LA

A continuation of work begun in Introductory Playwriting, focusing on the writing of a major play. Prerequisite: 205. Staff

THR 307 Devising Theater with Youth   LA

Devising Theater with Youth is a service learning course that will promote experiential learning for both Princeton University students and children from Community House, an on-campus afterschool program. This hands-on course will provide an opportunity for Princeton students to elicit the voices of children, interweave them into a theatrical play, and create a collaborative community event around the culminating performance. Students will learn and apply essential contemporary theories and foundational practices of community-based devising technique. E. Nagel

THR 308 Topics in German Drama and Theater (see GER 301)

THR 309 Theatre and Society (also AMS 327/ENG 361/GSS 307)   LA

Theatre and Society investigates the ways in which theater and performance speak into their cultural and historical moments. We'll look at self-avowed political drama or performance in various historical moments in American theatre; at plays or performances that caused controversy in various communities in which they were performed; at street performance within protest movements; and at community-based performance produced for specific reasons within its locale. We'll also discuss the role of the artist in society. What is the artist's responsibility to his or her nation? To his or her local community or identity groups? J. Dolan

THR 311 Intermediate Studies in Acting: Creating Character and Text   Spring LA

Creation of an original theater piece in collaboration with a guest artist, leading to a public performance. Will include improvisations, exercises, study of dramatic texts, and scene study. Special attention will be given to the creation of character, both in dramatic texts and in improvisation. Prerequisite: 201. T. Bersley

THR 317 Costume Design (also VIS 372)   LA

An exploration of the various aspects of costume design. Emphasis will depend to some degree on instructor's area of interest and/or student interest. Studio projects will be designed to coincide with other theater and dance courses and currently scheduled productions. Critical discussion will explore the relationship between dramatic texts and design ideas. Two three-hour seminars or studio sessions. Staff

THR 318 Lighting Design (also VIS 318)   Spring LA

An introduction to the art and craft of lighting design for the stage and an exploration of light as a medium for expression. Students will develop an ability to observe lighting in the world and on the stage; to learn to make lighting choices based on text, space, research, and their own responses; to practice being creative, responsive and communicative under pressure and in company; to prepare well to create under pressure using the designer's visual toolbox; and to play well with others-working creatively and communicating with directors, writers, performers, fellow designers, the crew and others. J. Cox

THR 319 Scenic Design (also VIS 319)   Fall LA

An introduction to the art and craft of scenic design for the stage and and exploration of the use of space as a medium of textual interpretation. Students will develop an ability to think about scenography as a way deepening and reinforcing an interpretation of a play or other form of performance event. While no experience in scenic design is anticipated, students will learn to create model renderings in order to acquire the creative, theatrical vocabulary needed to work with collaborators to turn a vision of text into a fully articulated visual world. Staff

THR 320 Sound Design   LA

An opportunity to explore what theatrical sound design is, how to look at a text from the point of view of sound, how to launch your creative process, and how to take the ideas based on that creative process and turn them into sounds to be used in a show. Students will also learn how to communicate their ideas, palate, and the arc of their design in a way that demonstrates to directors how they will fulfull the director's vision while embracing their own artistry and response to the text. Staff

THR 326 Criticism Workshop (also ENG 334)   Fall LA

A workshop devoted to the development of the student's critical sensibility. Through extensive in-class analysis of their own reviews of professional theater and dance productions and through the study of past and present models, students will learn what makes a good critic of the performing arts. One three-hour seminar. Staff

THR 330 Special Topics in Performance Practice   Spring LA

A special topics course designed to build upon and/or enhance existing program courses, taking into consideration the strengths and interests of program concentrators and the availability of appropriate instructors. Topics, prerequisites, and formats will vary from year to year. M. Cadden

THR 331 Special Topics in Performance History and Theory (also ENG 359)   Spring LA

Designed to provide students with an opportunity to study theater and/or dance from a historical or theoretical perspective. Topics, prerequisites, and formats will vary from year to year. S. Wolf

THR 337 Community-Based Performance   Spring LA

This hands-on seminar will explore contemporary theories and practices of community-based performance, investigating contemporary theatre, dance, and music groups that use these methods. The course will also interrogate the sometimes fraught politics of community-based performance, including questions of authorship, authority, authenticity, and artistry. Offered in partnership with the Community-Based Learning Initiative, this course will offer hands-on experience in the process of creating community-based performance projects, and facilitate opportunities to build artistic relationships with local community organizations. E. Nagel

THR 341 Acting and Directing in Musical Theater   Spring LA

A practical, hands-on introduction to acting and directing in musical theater. The course will require students to prepare songs and scenes from selected musicals with an eye to how best to approach the particular challenges the scene presents. Staff

THR 348 Screenwriting I: Screenwriting as a Visual Medium (see CWR 348)

THR 349 Screenwriting: Creating Visual and Emotional Unity (see CWR 349)

THR 357 Making American Theater: The History and Challenges of Creating Theater on Broadway and in New York (see AMS 357)

THR 366 American Musical Theater History (also MUS 366)   Fall LA

This seminar explores one of the most quintessentially "American" forms of performance--the Broadway musical theater--in the context of U.S. culture from the mid-20th-century until today. It will begin in 1949 with Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific, move through the "Golden Age" of the "integrated" Broadway musical in the 1950s, the "concept" musicals of the mid-1960s, the so-called "death" of the musical in the 1970s, megamusicals of the 1980s, and end with some contemporary musicals. Two 90-minute classes. Staff

THR 369 Isn't It Romantic? The Broadway Musical from Rodgers and Hammerstein to Sondheim (see GSS 365)

THR 373 Gender, Sexuality, and Contemporary U.S. Theatre and Performance (see GSS 363)

THR 401 Advanced Studies in Acting: Scene Study and Style   Spring LA

Questions of historical style, poetic stage language, and various methods of contemporary nonrealistic acting. Prerequisite: 301 or 311. G. Bauriedel

THR 411 Directing Workshop   Fall LA

Special directing assignments will be made for each student, whose work will be analyzed by the instructor and other members of the workshop. Students will be aided in their preparations by the instructor; they will also study the spectrum of responsibilities and forms of research involved in directing plays of different styles. Prerequisite: 201. K. Whoriskey

THR 443 Topics in Drama (see ENG 409)

THR 444 The Phaedra Project (also DAN 444/VIS 440)   LA

An interdisciplinary theater-making course focused on the development of Marina Carr's "Phaedra," in preparation for its world premiere at the McCarter Theater. A truly original and lyrically explosive adaptation of the ancient Greek myth, set in a fractured visual landscape, Carr's play uses a large cast, a non-linear structure, poetic language, and a variety of non-dialogic narrative technique (both film and live action), to tell her version of the tale in a thoroughly and bravely 21st century way. Staff

THR 448 Screenwriting II: Adaptation (see CWR 448)

THR 451 The Fall Show   LA

The Fall Show provides students with a rigorous and challenging experience of creating theater under near-professional circumstances. A professional director, design team, and stage manager, as well as two weeks of performances in the Berlind Theatre, are key components.The Fall Show involves an extensive rehearsal period and a concentrated tech week,often requiring more time and focus than a typical student-produced production might. For the first time, students cast in the Fall Show, or those who take on major production roles (such as Assistant Stage Manager, Assistant Designer, or Assistant Director), will receive course credit. Staff

THR 494 Princeton Atelier (see ATL 494)

THR 499 Princeton Atelier (see ATL 499)