Theatre Arts, Ph.D. (Ithaca)

Field of Study

Program Description

The Theatre Arts program focuses on theatre scholarship and pedagogy, with the goal of preparing students for careers as teachers and scholars. Course work integrates theoretical, textual, and performance considerations from a scholarly perspective. The program is not designed to train theatre practitioners, or to train artists/scholars, but students do have opportunities to work and teach in production areas. The field's faculty members are drawn from the Department of Performing and Media Arts, and from other departments, such as Anthropology, Asian Studies, Classics, Comparative Literature, German Studies, English, and Africana Studies.

The Special Committee is made up of a faculty member in the student's major area (drama and the theatre; theatre history; theatre theory and aesthetics;) and a faculty member in the student's first minor area, both of whom are in the Field of Theatre Arts; plus a faculty member from outside the field to represent the student's second minor area. Students whose interdisciplinary interests encompass more areas of study may add a fourth committee member.

All students are required to demonstrate proficiency in two languages other than English that the Special Committee deems relevant to their research work. Language work must be completed prior to taking the Admission to Candidacy examination.

Research facilities:
Cornell University maintains an extensive library system for scholarly research, with excellent holdings in all facets of theatre history, literature, and criticism. Olin and Kroch Libraries are the main research centers for the humanities; they house several special collections of particular interest to theatre scholars, including extensive materials on and by George Bernard Shaw and George Jean Nathan. The Department of Performing and Media Arts also maintains a library of theatrically related works.

Contact Information

Phone: 607 254-2757

Graduate Field Assistant
223 Schwartz Center for Performing Arts, 430 College Avenue
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY  14853

Concentrations by Subject

  • drama and the theatre
  • theatre history
  • theatre practice (acting or directing) (minor)
  • theatre theory and aesthetics


2017-2018: $29,500

Application Requirements and Deadlines

Application Deadlines:

Fall, Jan. 15

Requirements Summary:

Admission is highly selective. Applicants must submit GRE general test scores and a writing sample. International students who are required to take the TOEFL exam must earn a minimum score of 600 (paper-based) or 250 (computer-based) to be considered. An undergraduate major in theatre is not required for admission, although applicants who have had little or no academic work in theatre may have to do more than others to acquire the competence in theatre scholarship expected.

  • all Graduate School Requirements, including the TOEFL Exam for Non-Native English Applicants
  • Three recommendations
  • GRE general test
  • Writing sample
  • TOEFL minimum score of 250 computer-based or 600 paper-based


Learning Objectives / Proficiencies

  1. Overarching goal: complete degree in a timely fashion.
  2. Make an original and substantial contribution to the chosen field. Be able to develop appropriate concepts and methodologies and to articulate the value of the chosen research.
  3. Demonstrate advanced research skills, which may include creative scholarship.
  4. Demonstrate commitment to advancing the values of scholarship by being actively engaged in the university's scholarly/creative community, professional societies, and other forms of knowledge exchange.
  5. Demonstrate growth as a teacher.

Measures Taken to Gather Information to Assess Learning Objectives/Proficiencies


Evaluation Method

Learning Objectives Addressed


Q Exam

Rubric (see attached form)


A Exam

Rubric (see attached form)

2, 3

B Exam

Narrative. Faculty customarily assess the value of a student's research in the job letters they write.  The paragraph(s) addressing the quality of the student's dissertation and its contribution to a field will also be filed separately as part of Graduate Assessment.  Faculty send these to the GFA after the B Exam.

2, 3

Annual Committee Meeting

Post A-Exam students are responsible for convening their dissertation committee at least once a year to discuss what has been accomplished and what remains to be done. It is recommended that students do this before submitting their annual reports.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Annual Report by Students

Graduate students submit a report and updated CV (with new things for the year highlighted) by April 1 of each year. Reports may include:

  • Progress on courses including progress on Incompletes and exam preparation) or research (if post-A exams)
  • Cornell events attended (or organized)
  • Teaching development (workshops attended, portfolio material developed, etc.)
  • Grants & Awards
  • Conference participation
  • Publications
  • Creative Scholarship
  • Service

1, 4, 5

Teaching Observations / TA Evaluations

The Course Leader observes each graduate student's teaching once a semester and writes a brief report to the DGS/GFA. Course leaders and faculty supervising TAs report before or at the Annual Faculty Meeting (see below).


Annual Meeting by Field Faculty

Field faculty discuss each student separately (course work, exams, progress on dissertation, creative scholarship, teaching, etc).

Field faculty discuss assessment and decide on action(s) to improve data/program.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Annual Letter from DGS to each student

After the annual meeting by the field faculty, the DGS sends a letter to each student summarizing the graduate faculty's deliberations: assessing progress and recommending what the student needs to work on.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Time to Degree

GFA keeps record of time to degree


Job Placement

Graduate students notify GFA of post-graduation accepted positions and new addresses. GFA keeps database of both.


Much of the information gathered (from Q Exams, A Exams, B Exams, student reports, teaching observations) will be available for the Annual Meeting of the Graduate Field Faculty (usually scheduled in May, at the end of the school year). At this meeting the Graduate Field Faculty discusses students' progress as well as graduate program assessment, deciding on action(s) to take to improve data/program.