Frequently Asked Questions
The Department of Theatre, Barnard College, is the theatre department for all undergraduate students at Columbia University (Columbia College, Barnard College, School of General Studies, School of Engineering and Applied Science). The Department offers classes in the critical study of drama, theatre, and performance, as well as classes in the artistic practice of a range of disciplines: acting, directing, design, playwriting and dramaturgy. Although there is no formal relationship between the undergraduate theatre program and the graduate Theatre Division, School of the Arts, at Columbia University, the two programs have increasingly coordinated on curricular choices and theatre events.
The Department of Theatre embeds theatre in the context of a liberal arts education. Students work in many different capacities in the theatre program. Creative artistic and critical work are reciprocally related in the department; majors are required to take courses in acting, directing, and design as well as theatre history, theory, and literature. Faculty expect all students to collaborate closely with faculty and fellow students and to produce ambitious, original work. See here for further detail about the major.
No, since this is a B.A. rather than a B.F.A. program. Once a student is admitted to Barnard or Columbia, they may choose to major in theatre. There are auditions at the beginning of each semester to place students in productions for that semester. See here for more details about auditions.
On average, there are 20-30 Senior Theatre majors, and over 300 students are involved per year in the program, taking classes or working on productions.
Yes! The Minor in Theatre (currently available only to Barnard students; Columbia College and General Studies do not approve minors) provides the opportunity to engage in the range of opportunities offered by the Theatre department: students who minor in Theatre take a mix of lecture and seminar courses in drama, theatre, and performance studies, as well as courses in a selected area or selected areas of performance practice (acting, design, directing, dramaturgy, stage and production management, playwriting), as well as fulfilling one backstage crew requirement. For more information on the Theatre Minor, see here.
Majors are required to take courses in theatre history, literature, theory, directing, design, and acting. In the senior year students narrow their focus to concentrate on one or two areas for a thesis project. Theses may be in directing, design, acting, playwriting, history, theory, dramaturgy, or criticism. For more information on the areas of concentration offered, see here. The senior project may be either a performance thesis or a written thesis. For more information on the senior thesis, see here.
There are usually two productions in the fall semester directed by faculty or visiting artists. The spring semester usually consists of a production directed by faculty or a visiting artist, the Senior Thesis Festival, and evenings of Solo Performances, Research Presentations, and Staged Readings. For more information about productions and how to get involved, see here.
Yes. All students acting in or doing technical work for productions are enrolled in Rehearsal and Performance. Students receive 1-3 credits for production work depending on the assignment.
At the beginning of each semester there are auditions to cast productions for the semester. Students are asked to prepare a 60-second monologue. See here for more information on auditions. There are generally 2 productions in the Fall semester. In the Spring semester there is the Senior Thesis Festival and the spring departmental production.
Acting classes are based on subject matter — such as Acting Naturalism or Acting Shakespeare — rather than a consecutive progression. Students are exposed to a variety of acting techniques and may work with one or several different techniques in a course.
First-year students are especially invited to audition for Acting Workshop in the fall semester, which is restricted to first-year students. Often first-year actors work with senior theatre majors in the Advanced Directing Lab. These students work in outside rehearsals with several different directors on a wide range of scenes to be presented in class each week. First-year students are also encouraged to work on a production crew. This is a great introduction to faculty, fellow students, and the production process. For more information on recommendations for first-year students, see here.
The Theatre Department offers two courses in acting musical theatre which vary by semester — Acting the Musical Scene and Acting Sondheim. Although we don't typically produce large-scale musicals as part of our production season, we often incorporate original music and singing into productions. There is a great student theatre group on campus, Columbia Musical Theatre Society. Many of our students work with that group as well as working within the department.
NYC theatres are pleased to have Barnard and Columbia students as interns. Beyond Barnard and the Office of Career Services at Columbia regularly posts internships for both the summer and the academic year. Recently, students have interned with the following arts institutions: The Apollo Theatre; The Center for Fiction; Chautauqua Theater Company; Chicago City Limits; Disney Theatricals; Epic Theatre Ensemble; Flying Carpet Theatre Company; Free Arts NYC; HERE Arts Center; Jean Doumanian Productions; Jim Henson Company; Mabou Mines; Object Collection; The Pearl Theatre Company; The Public Theater; Theatre Communications Group; PL115; Polybe + Seats; TADA! Youth Theatre; Target Margin; Theodora Skipitares/Skysaver Productions; Voice & Vision; Waterwell; WET Productions; Women's Project.
Majoring in theatre enables students to engage in a wide spectrum of creative and critical work; indeed, the joint major program encourages students to find a productive balance between one (or several) branches of artistic work (acting, directing, design, playwriting), and a critical, historical, and/or theoretical perspective on the cultural work of performance.
The program offers a section of Acting Workshop open only to first-year students, and we encourage all potential majors to consider taking that class or the Scene Lab course early in their careers. It is also useful to begin taking the Critical Histories of Drama, Theatre, and Performance and Global Theatre sequences, which will provide a critical context to many of the works approached for scene study or in the departmental season. By the end of the second semester of the second year of study, it's strongly advised that students have taken at least two of the theatre studies courses (Theatre History; a Shakespeare class; a dramatic literature class), and at least one upper-division course in acting, directing, or design.
The major requirements are designed to provide an initial engagement with all aspects of drama, theatre, and performance culture. Students are required to understand the basic working of all areas of theatre, from acting, design, directing, and playwriting, to the formal study of drama, theatre history, and the critical theory of drama, theatre, and performance. Since theatre is a hands-on enterprise, majors are also involved in backstage work as well. The major requirements are designed to enable this blending of objectives.
You might contact the Department Chair, W. B. Worthen, or the Columbia adviser, Patricia Denison. Faculty advisers distributed across several fields (acting and directing, design, theatre and drama studies). Although students normally declare the major toward the end of the sophomore year, it's important to be thinking through your objectives, as some concentrations (directing, for example) require the completion of coursework in a timely fashion in order for you to be eligible for the thesis. For general questions about the department, you can contact the department administrator, Kate Purdum, at email@example.com.
The Department offers a wide range of work-study assignments, and the opportunity to work with research faculty members on specific research projects.
Study abroad is a rich and valuable experience, and majors have frequently participated in the British Academy of Dramatic Arts and in the Moscow Art Theatre programs, as well as in other study abroad opportunities. Students planning to study abroad should discuss their course plans early with their faculty adviser, in order to ensure that they have the appropriate requirements for pursuing thesis options when they return.
Departmental honors are determined by the faculty, and based on the student's GPA in the major.
The Department offers the Kenneth Janes prize, which is awarded to a Barnard College junior or senior; the department faculty nominate a Columbia College senior for the Austin E. Quigley prize. The Department also nominates Barnard and Columbia majors for a range of prizes at Barnard and Columbia College.
The Department does not sponsor non-curricular theatre groups, though we do on occasion work closely with both Barnard and Columbia student activities.
Many of our students decide to pursue work in the theatre, either auditioning here in New York, auditioning elsewhere, or by applying to an MFA program in some discipline of theatre (Acting, Design, etc.). In recent years, Barnard/Columbia students have joined several theatre companies, or have formed their own companies. Given the substantial emphasis on literary, historical, and critical studies in the major program, students are also well prepared to apply to graduate school in a range of fields (theatre studies, performance studies, literature), as well as to professional schools.
The Department Chair, W. B. Worthen, is happy to discuss graduate study, and to make connections with appropriate members of the Barnard and Columbia faculty.