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Theater Studies

The Department of Theater Studies offers students multiple opportunities to both study and practice theater. The Department's approach combines respect for history with immersion in contemporary issues, and intellectual engagement with creative expression.

The faculty view theater as a form of human expression, shaped by social, economic, technological, personal, and artistic forces.  As such, the study and practice of theater are valuable components of a liberal arts education.

Courses in dramatic literature and theater arts are complemented by productions of plays from the past and present.  This combination of academic coursework and production experience is a hallmark of our approach in Theater Studies.  Courses and productions are open to all undergraduates.

A student may major or minor in Theater Studies.  Courses are designed to encourage students to solve problems in collaboration with others, to develop skills in critical thinking, and to communicate effectively with language, physical expression, and visual images.  This focus on the development of artistic and intellectual skills, through study and production experience, helps prepare students for careers in the professional theater and in a variety of other fields.

Theater Studies faculty are scholars in dramatic literature, theory, or theater history, or they are theater professionals in acting, administration, design, directing, and playwriting.  Classes are small, insuring a high level of interaction between students and faculty. 

A major area of interest among faculty members is the development of new theater, both student and professional.  Students are encouraged to write plays, and new writing by Duke students is presented annually.  This is complemented by professional productions hosted by Theater Studies and workshops of new plays, during which the playwright is in residence. These professional projects offer students the opportunity to intern and learn from visiting artists and practitioners. 

Applying students are invited to submit supplementary materials to be evaluated by a  faculty member. Go here for instructions.

If you have any questions, we encourage you to contact any member of the faculty or staff, in  particular our Undergraduate Coordinator, Dierdre Shipman (dierdre.shipman@duke.edu, 919-660-3345).

2014 fall courses are here. Click on the arrow to arrive at the session you are seeking.

    • madeleine lambert headshot

Madeleine Lambert, 2008 Duke grad who went on to Brown/Trinity Rep for her MFA, (pictured above) and Lynden Harris of Hidden Voices will be teaching this first time performance studies course described below.

Stories for Social Change is a service learning course that takes as its centerpiece a story-building collaboration among Duke students and Durham community members that examines societal "visibility" and "invisibility" built by poverty, privilege, physical violence, and injustice. Students will have the opportunity to engage in an expansive dialogue on race, class, and gender as unique yet interlinked social barriers to coalition building. They will also investigate the ways in which personal narratives and storytelling advocate for social justice and reform. The students will partner with North Carolina arts and service organizations such as Hidden Voices and the Durham Crisis Response Center and Duke-based offices such as the Women’s Center and the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity to craft, interrogate, and perform stories with the goal of creating social awareness and investigating policy change around the issues of sexual and domestic violence.

    • london2011

Students from the 2011 Duke in London Drama Program attended more than 20 theatrical productions!

Interested in service learning? Go here to learn more.

Interested in majoring or minoring in Theater Studies? Please contact:

Professor Ellen Hemphill, Director of Undergraduate Studies

Declaring a major or minor in Theater Studies? Please contact:

The Academic Advising Center to fill out your long-range plan.

  • phone: 919-684-6217
  • hours: Monday - Friday 8am - 5pm
  • email:

Office of Undergraduate Education

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