Our Department

Department of Theatre

The Other Shore, by Gao Xingjian, directed by Haoqi Xia Senior Thesis in Directing ’20


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If you are applying to Barnard or Columbia colleges and considering a Theatre major, or have been admitted for the coming year, or are an entering first-year student, or are a current student and would just like to email with a Theatre/Drama and Theatre Arts major, the Department would be happy to introduce you to a student mentor—click here.

Department of Theatre

Mission: To engage imaginatively with the inheritance of the past, the questions of the present, and the possibilities of the future through embodied and intellectual inquiry into theatre and performance. 

What do we value?
In the Department of Theatre, faculty, staff, and students understand drama, theatre, and performance as artistic and social practices, and as means and objects of study that model the investigation and production, the making, of a sustainable, equitable, livable future.  We pursue theatre and performance within the purpose of the university: to learn, explore, and fashion disciplines of inquiry, new ways of knowing and so new structures of knowledge. Theatre is a site of public encounter, and we undertake its many forms of collaboration in order to speak with the campus and the community, to perform an imaginative, ethical engagement of possibility: of critical dialogue among the arts, humanities, and sciences; of social and climate justice; of equity and inclusion; of the manifold joys of creative work across the regenerative interdisciplines of theatre and performance.   

What do we do?
In the Department of Theatre, faculty, staff, and students

practice: inquiry across a range of platforms of scholarly and artistic production that define and enlarge one another, participating in learning modes of embodiment, of spatial array, of visual and sonic design, of written expression, and of cultural interpretation across a range of forms 

create: make art and make scholarship, in the understanding that theatre provides a process and a means for making oneself, and making a livable world

learn: the historical, cultural, social, political, and aesthetic contexts of drama, theatre and performance, and the contemporary practices of performance as means of seeing theatre today as an instrument of critical invention and ethical performative intervention

collaborate: with others with different skills effectively, productively, creatively, ethically, and equitably

reflect: on the process and the product of making, on the political and ideological work of aesthetics, on the interplay between creative work and equity, justice, and citizenship

Who are we?
The Department of Theatre are 

faculty and staff specialized in a wide range of disciplines, professional artists and scholars who engage in critical creation across a range of platforms

students majoring in Theatre, or taking courses as nonmajors, pursuing a variety of paths toward their future. Among other avenues, our students have gone on to pursue further study in MFA and PhD programs in various fields, leading to professional careers in theatre, as well as to academic careers in the humanities, theatre, and performance studies. Many find the writing, performance, and collaborative skills developed in the study and practice of theatre essential in their future work in a variety of professional settings.

Where are we?
The Department of Theatre 

is in and of New York, the nation’s theatrical capital, sustained by an unrivalled range of performance from Broadway to off-Broadway to off-off Broadway, and extending across the city’s five boroughs

is part of the vibrant, diverse civic community of Morningside Heights and Harlem

is part of an energetic and distinguished academic community, making theatre, learning theatre, understanding the theoretical, social, cultural, ideological the work of theatre in conversation with the interrogative work of research across an academic campus

is engaged with the city, with a wide range of artists and scholars, and with our sustaining communities.

acknowledges its location in Lenapehoking, the territory of the Lenape people, as a step towards recognizing the traditional and enduring stewards of this land and disrupting the invisibility and ongoing erasure of Indigenous Peoples

The Curriculum
All courses, including stage productions, offered by the Barnard College Department of Theatre are open to all Barnard and Columbia undergraduate students. The Department also provides the undergraduate major for all undergraduate Barnard College, Columbia College, and General Studies students (the Columbia major is designated “Drama and Theatre Arts”). While Barnard and Columbia students fulfill the overall graduation requirements of their respective institutions (the Core at Columbia, Foundations at Barnard), major requirements are the same for all students, who take foundational coursework in the literary, cultural, and embodied traditions of global performance as well as in the practices of acting, directing, design, dramaturgy, and playwriting. All majors then specialize in a specific area and undertake advanced thesis work, leading either to a formal essay of original research, or to an artistic project (in acting, design, directing, dramaturgy, playwriting, or solo performance) accompanied by written documentation. Barnard and Columbia students receive their degrees from their respective colleges of Columbia University.

The Department mounts a full season of productions in the Minor Latham Playhouse and the Glicker-Milstein Theatre, a crucible of investigation sustained by the collaboration between undergraduate students and professional theatre artists. Department of Theatre productions are both a learning process and a scene of encounter, where perceptions are shaped for the attention and creative reflection of a larger public.

Department of Theatre, Barnard College

Statement of Anti-Racism

As artists and scholars, working professionals teaching, researching, writing about, and making theatre, we are daily aware of both the deep history and contemporary inflections of racism defining the landscape of the arts in the U.S., and strive with our students to imagine and to bring about the kind of change that must permeate all our institutions: the police and the courts, the institutions of health care that have proven so inadequate to Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities in the current pandemic, the practices of education, and the work of the arts as well. In the Department, we are committed to expanding our critical and performative engagement with racism—in the curriculum, through invited artists and scholars, onstage—and indeed with historical and contemporary forms of political, colonial, class, and sexual injustice encoded in cultural systems.

While the work of anti-racism and its counterpart, world-building towards liberation for all, is ongoing, we are awake to spikes in injustice and racial violence in the U.S. that continue to occur. We are enraged by the persistent racist state violence of the police, and grieve the lives that have been lost to it. We support and engage alongside friends and colleagues, activists, artists, and students in the essential struggle against white supremacy in its manifold forms. 

We have found these writings by theatre scholars and practitioners useful:

Indigenous Theater and Performance of North America Resource Guide

Embodied Avatars: Genealogies of Black Feminist Art and Performance by Uri McMillan

The Hypersexuality of Race: Performing Asian/American Women on Screen and Scene by Celine Parreñas Shimizu

We See You, White American Theater

Black Theatres Across the U.S.

Race, Sex, and Death from Miss Saigon to Atlanta by Yutian Wong

Howlround Theatre Commons


Department of Theatre 2021-2022 Awards


Kenneth Janes Award: Kate Purdum BC ‘22

Austin E. Quigley Award: Camilla Cox CC ‘22, Kay Kemp CC ‘22


Dasha Amsterdam Epstein Awards in Honor of Patricia Denison


Acting: Estee Dechtman, BC ‘22

Dechtman’s meticulously crafted stage performances, paired with her serious dedication to the practice of the craft of acting, witness a wider commitment to the artistic work of making the theatrical event.”

            Lecturer Gisela Cardenas, Acting


Design and Production: Maya Weed, CC ‘22

“Maya Weed demonstrates a remarkable capacity for weaving together the nuances of a text and the contributions of a creative team while gracefully navigating the constraints of time, space and sustainability, to create evocative and powerful designs.”

Associate Professor of Professional Practice Sandra Goldmark, Design

Directing: Celia Krefter CC’22

“Krefter’s directing work, especially in her thesis production of The Sonic Life of a Giant Tortoise, displays deeply felt moment-to-moment work, dynamic choreography, and unified design.”

            Associate Professor of Professional Practice Alice Reagan, Directing

Dramaturgy: Kristoff Smith CC ‘22

"Smith's 'trans dramaturgy' enables its audiences to think politically through codifying cultural signifiers (mediated image, body, and language) and ethically with the performers’ bodies on stage; it emerges as an urgent transformative force, strengthening the decolonizing, non-binary, paradigm shift in contemporary theatre."

Associate Professor Hana Worthen, Theatre and Performance Studies, Dramaturgy

Playwriting: Hongfei Xian GS ‘22

Fei Xian’s play, When Particles Resonate finds a unique theatrical form to tell a unique and utterly idiosyncratic love story, exquisitely using bth dramatic language and the language of science to bridge the gaps between nearness and distance, between the ordinary and the sublime.”

            Adjunct Lecturer Andy Bragen, Playwriting


Theory, Criticism, and Research: Rivka Keshen BC ‘22

“Written for the Performing Women course, Keshen’s essay ‘The Change in Women’s Narratives in Kumidori through the Occupation of Okinawa,’ combines dense historical research, play analysis, and original archival materials. It traces the inherently political work of a traditional Japanese musical theatre form performed for the entertainment of Chinese diplomats, particularly staging the ‘interplay between the real-world violence against women at the hands of the military and the staged narratives presented to these same officials.’”

                        Senior Lecturer Shayoni Mitra, Theatre and Performance Studies


Joseph Milton Fee Award in Playwriting: Hongfei Xian GS ‘22, When Particles Resonate