Ph.D. Program of Study


The Ph.D. program in Interdisciplinary Theatre Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison prepares students to assume professional positions as theatre and performance studies scholars, educators, and researchers. These positions may be in departments of Theatre, English, Performance Studies, Communications Arts or other related fields. The degree requirements are designed to balance theoretical investigations with practical applications, and to allow for interdisciplinary studies that enhance the value and possibilities of the degree. Students are encouraged to participate in national and international professional meetings, and to publish in the field.

Coursework: 69 Credits, or 23 Courses

UW courses numbered 300 and above count toward a graduate degree. Courses numbered from 301-699 carry both undergraduate and graduate credit; courses numbered from 700-800 carry graduate credit only. Seminar courses are numbered 900 and above. Up to 6 courses or 18 credits of coursework performed for a student’s M.A. may be transferred toward their Ph.D. credits.

  • 8 courses in dramatic literature, history, and theory and criticism, including one required course (TD 700 Proseminar: Introduction to Research in Theatre) taken in the fall semester of the first year.
  • 3 practicum courses.
  • 8 courses grouped to provide an area of specialization within the major field of study.
  • 4 courses outside the fields of theatre and performance studies, grouped to complement 
the area of specialization and the major. These four courses constitute a Minor, and are determined in consultation with the student’s advisor. Under special circumstances, a student may elect a distributed minor, dividing the outside coursework between more than one department.
  • 3 courses completed for the student’s coursework must be seminars (900-level or higher)

Over the course of the Ph.D. program, students must acquire comprehensive knowledge of the field by taking at least two courses at the 500-level or above in each of the following areas of theatre research: dramatic literature; theatre history; and theatre and performance theory. Students must work with their advisors to ensure that both depth and breadth are achieved through the balance of courses and the final papers written for the courses. Upper-level courses taken at another university or independent study courses do not count towards satisfying this requirement.

Up to two Independent Study courses may be taken with individual faculty members during the Ph.D. course-work. No more than one independent study may be taken with any one faculty member, either within or outside the department. A student who wishes to request an exception due to special circumstances must apply to the ITS core faculty for a waiver of this policy. The application must be in writing and must have the approval of the student’s advisor.

Area of Specialization

In selecting their coursework, students develop an area of specialization, based on the focus of their scholarly work. The area of specialization may be defined by a genre, a theoretical approach or methodology, a time period and/or a geographical or linguistic area. For example, the area of specialization may be circus, or melodrama, or Noh theatre; it may be feminist analysis, or ethnography, or dramaturgy, or Theatre for Youth; it may be British Restoration theatre, or modern Indian theatre, or Ancient Greek theatre, or Russian theatre in the nineteenth century. It should be focused, yet broad enough for students to take eight courses relevant to it. Generally, students define an area of specialization only when they are near the completion of course work, and it is possible to reorganize the checklist at that time to reflect the emerging area of specialization.

The Minor

Students must include a Minor consisting of 4 courses (12 hours) from outside the major as part of their coursework. The courses can be taken in a single outside department (a Focused Minor), or distributed over two or more departments (a Distributed Minor). An outside department Minor requires the approval of the department housing it. This department may have its own Minor program, so students should check with department administrators before choosing this option. A Distributed Minor requires approval from the ITS core faculty. Cross-listed courses taught by ITS faculty may not be used to fulfill the Minor requirement.

Portfolio Revision Course

In their final semester of course work, students may enroll in a directed study course for 1-3 credits and use that time to revise their portfolio papers for the Preliminary A Exam (described below). This final semester course for portfolio revisions does not count as an Independent Study.

Second Language Requirement

Even if a student’s primary research can be conducted in English, all Ph.D. candidates must have proficiency in a language other than English that will allow for research on primary and secondary sources relating to the chosen topic. The specific language should be decided in consultation with the student’s advisor. Students whose first language is not English and who plan to use their native language in their research must consult with their advisor about using it to satisfy the language requirement.

In order to satisfy the language requirement for the Ph.D., students in the Interdisciplinary Theatre Studies Program must EITHER

  1. Receive at least a grade of B in an appropriate language course during their graduate study at UW, OR
  2. Pass the language exam administered by the department teaching that
language on campus.

It may be possible to substitute the study of American Sign Language or a computer language to satisfy this requirement. A student requesting this substitution should submit a letter to the Program Head explaining the need to do so, and the plan for achieving computer language or American Sign Language competency. The GL?? will rule on the applicant’s request. While the study of music notation or dance notation may be necessary for some students’ research and the acquisition of those skills would be expected, they will not count toward satisfying the foreign language requirement.

Practicum Requirements

Ph.D. students are required to take three practicum courses. These must include either TD 362 (Drama in Education) or TD 357 (Theatre for Cultural and Social Awareness), and may include both courses. In lieu of one of their three required practicum courses, students can instead participate in three approved production activities as dramaturgs, assistant directors, performers, designers or technicians.

Comprehensive Exams

After the final semester of course-work, and after fulfilling the language and practicum requirements, all Ph.D. students need to pass the comprehensive Prelim A Exam to be advanced to Dissertator status. A portfolio of three research papers (discussed at length below) must be submitted to the Graduate Coordinator for distribution to the Interdisciplinary Theatre Studies core faculty at least two weeks prior to the exam, which involves an oral defense of approximately 90-120 minutes.

The Prelim B Exam is a 1-hour oral defense of the dissertation proposal conducted by the candidate’s dissertation committee. This exam is typically taken one semester after passing the Prelim A exam, and must be taken before the end of the second semester following the Prelim A.

The Dissertation

The culminating project of the Ph.D. degree, the dissertation is an original and substantial contribution to knowledge that establishes the student as a scholar and professional in the field of theatre studies. The Ph.D. degree is awarded after a successful 2- hour defense of the thesis before the candidate’s thesis committee.

Ph.D. Timeline

Ph.D. coursework is usually completed within six semesters. Most students complete their dissertations two to four semesters after finishing their coursework.


Please refer to the ITS Handbook for more complete program information.