The Master’s program in Theater and Performance Studies introduces students to cutting-edge scholarship in the dynamic field of theater and performance studies, preparing them to pursue academic careers as scholar-practitioners. Offering a broad-based approach to the study of performance, this two-year program expands a traditional focus on aesthetic practice to include cultural performances such as gender performativity, Civil Rights activism, early modern surgery, slave auctions, and begging. Under this broad umbrella, students are invited to explore the mutual engagement of aesthetic and cultural performance practices across history, around the globe, and between disciplines, drawing on a variety of theoretical approaches to illuminate the complex meanings generated by and through performance.
Because theater offers an occasion to reflect upon those meanings, stage performance is at the core of this program’s course of study. Accordingly, students are offered a broad range of courses in theater history, ranging from the classical theater of Ancient Greece and Rome to contemporary multi-media performance, with attention to the performance practices of cultures beyond the borders of the United States. Building on this foundation, students may design a personalized course of study in a specific historical, cultural or theoretical field, according to their interests. We boast an expert faculty both from within the Performing Arts Department, including Dance, and from other units across campus, such as Anthropology, Classics, English and non-Anglophone Languages & Literatures, Music, Film & Media Studies, Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies, and the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts. The annual endowed Helen Clanton Morrin lecture allows us to host leading scholars and artists in performance research.
Developing embodied knowledge in practice, students are encouraged to take courses with our talented creative faculty—such as playwriting, dramaturgy, directing, and design—and to participate in the Department’s mainstage productions. Additionally, the A. E. Hotchner Playwriting Competition allows selected students to develop their work for the stage with the guidance of our playwright-in-residence and a visiting professional dramaturg. Students can also work with artists-in-residence from The Slaughter Project, our resident professional dance company, and the Black Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, with which the Department has a long-standing collaborative relationship. Facilities include the 656-seat Edison Theatre, the 125-seat A. E. Hotchner Studio, and the 100-seat Anneliese Mertz Dance Studio.
Washington University in St. Louis is host to an extensive range of archival materials from which students can develop original research projects. These include original manuscripts by Samuel Beckett and Tennessee Williams, costumes and effects belonging to character actress Mary Wickes, unedited documentary footage from Eyes on the Prize (1987; 1990), and advertisements in the Black Film Promotional Material collection. With performance broadly conceived, students will no doubt find other artifacts as well as repertoires in the greater St. Louis region and beyond that invite analysis from a performance studies perspective. Our faculty is eager to guide them in those pursuits and to help them prepare for careers in theater, teaching, arts administration, or for placement in the most competitive PhD programs in the field.