Skip to main content
Skip to main content

Ph.D. Theatre and Performance Studies

The doctoral program in theatre and performance studies is an interdisciplinary course of study that prepares students for careers as educators, professors in higher education, publishing scholars and cultural critics.

About the program

The doctoral program offers a rigorous exploration of both theatre history and performance studies through the critical analysis of archival histories, theoretical approaches and performance texts relevant to these interrelated fields.

Applicants who do not hold an undergraduate or graduate degree in theatre (or an equivalent field) may be required to take preparatory coursework prior to admission into the Ph.D. program.


Prospective students

Wednesday, January 19, 2022 is the school's deadline for best consideration for all M.A. and Ph.D. domestic and international applications. Wednesday, February 9, 2022 is the final deadline for all M.A. and Ph.D. domestic and international applications. You can expect to be notified that you have been accepted or not accepted by mid-March. Offers of assistantships are generally made before April 1.

Visit us

If you would like to visit the University of Maryland to learn more about our program, please contact: 

Professor James Harding, Ph.D.
Head of the M.A. / Ph.D. Program
Theatre, Dance and Performance Studies

Prospective students

Apply to the program

The Ph.D. in theatre and performance studies program starts each year in the fall, with an application deadline in January or February. This year's deadline is Wednesday, January 19, 2022. Please see the information below to prepare for the Fall 2022 application. For additional information, please contact:

  • Crystal Gaston, TDPS graduate services coordinator: OR 
  • James Harding, TDPS head of M.A./Ph.D. in theatre and performance studies:

The University of Maryland’s Graduate School accepts applications through its online application system. Before completing the application, applicants are asked to check the Graduate School admissions requirements site for specific instructions.

As required by the Graduate School, all application materials are to be submitted electronically:

The electronic submission of application materials helps expedite the review of an application. Completed applications are reviewed by an admissions committee in each graduate degree program. The recommendations of the committees are submitted to the dean of the Graduate School, who will make the final admission decision. Students seeking to complete graduate work at the University of Maryland for degree purposes must be formally admitted to the Graduate School by the dean. To ensure the integrity of the application process, the University of Maryland authenticates submitted materials through TurnItIn for admissions.


Ph.D. in theatre and performance studies application requirements:

  • You must have earned a four-year baccalaureate degree from a regionally-accredited U.S. institution, or an equivalent degree earned at a non-U.S. institution with at least a 3.0 GPA.
  • Applicants for the Ph.D. must also have earned an M.A. or M.F.A. degree from a regionally-accredited U.S. institution, or an equivalent degree earned at a non-U.S. institution with at least a 3.0 GPA.
  • All international students must show evidence of acceptable scores on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). See information on the International Educational Services website for specific admissions requirements, including minimum TOEFL score.
  • Our Ph.D. program also requires the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). Scores must be less than five years old (use institutional score reporting code 5814).
    • We expect scores above the 80th percentile on the Verbal Reasoning and Analytical Writing portions of the exam. We do not consider the quantitative reasoning score in our admissions process.
      • Generally our successful applicants have GRE scores well above the 80th percentile but this is not always the case. In making determinations on admissions our committees consider many other factors including, but not limited to, the quality and source of the letters of reference, success in previous programs as indicated by transcripts, the strength of the researched writing sample, the interest generated in the faculty by the statement of goals, how the applicant’s research interests might have a synergy with the work currently being done by our students and the intellectual diversity the applicant might bring to the program.

Please be sure to include the following in your application:

  • Three recommenders and their email addresses for the electronic recommendation forms to be sent to them.
  • Your statement of goals, research interests and experience. Please have this in a Word or PDF file that can be easily uploaded.
    • Please consider that we are a program of theatre and performance studies and that our students study both areas, not one or the other. Include information on what attracts you to scholarship, what attracts you to our program (which faculty member or members would you most want to work with, for example) and what your primary research interests are. Consider too that we are dedicated to developing scholar/artists, so indicate what practical areas your skills are in or how you hope to develop such skills while engaged in rigorous scholarly work. How might you use this degree in the future if it does not lead directly to a job in higher education?
  • A writing sample that shows your ability to do research.

Information for international graduate students

The University of Maryland is dedicated to maintaining a vibrant international graduate student community. The office of International Students and Scholars Services (ISSS) is a valuable source of information and assistance for prospective and current international students. International applicants are encouraged to explore the services they offer and contact them with related questions.

The University of Maryland Graduate School offers admission to international students based on academic information; it is not a guarantee of attendance. Admitted international students will then receive instructions about obtaining the appropriate visa to study at the University of Maryland, which will require submission of additional documents. Please see the graduate admissions process for international applicants for more information.

Financial assistance

The school is committed to fully funding all graduate students accepted into its programs and makes every effort to meet that goal. If you are unable to pursue your education without financial support, check the appropriate box on the application form and note this in your statement of goals, research interests and experience.

Opportunities for financial support are available to graduate students in three forms: fellowships, assistantships and loans. Research grants are also available to our graduate students.


Some types of financial aid for outstanding students, such as the Flagship Fellowship program sponsored by the Graduate School, must be applied for by the school on your behalf. To be considered for these special awards, we recommend you complete the application process by December 15th.

Fellowships can provide full-time funding for up to two years and include:

  • Stipends of approximately $21,930 to $24,360 paid 50 percent at the start of fall and winter terms.
  • Tuition waivers (tuition remission) for 10 hours of course credit in fall term; 4 hours of course credit in January term and 10 hours course credit in spring term.
  • A supplement of 50 percent on student health insurance.

Half fellowships and summer research fellowships are also offered as supplements to other forms of funding.


Assistantships can provide full-time funding for up to four years for Ph.D. students. Full assistantships require 20 hours of work per week and include:

  • Stipends of approximately $21,930 to $24,360 paid bi-weekly.
  • Tuition waivers (tuition remission) for 10 hours of course credit in fall term; 4 hours of course credit in January term and 10 hours course credit in spring term.
  • A supplement of 80% on employee health insurance.

Half assistantships (10 hours of work per week) are also offered as supplements to other forms of funding.


Loans are arranged through the Office of Financial Aid and can be subsidized or unsubsidized. Please visit their website for criteria and deadlines.

The Graduate School encourages graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to seek funding for their work and research at the University of Maryland, College Park. Students may seek funding for a variety of needs including research, stipend support and travel to meetings or conferences. The Graduate School lists various funding sources for all disciplines.

Grants and awards

To find out about other funding opportunities, please visit the ARHU website page for fellowships, grants and awards.


For questions related to the admissions process, prospective students may contact the Graduate School.

If you have any questions about the Ph.D. in theatre and performance studies program or application, please contact the head of the program, James Harding, at

Current Students

Requirements for degree completion

The Ph.D. program in theatre and performance studies is designed to be completed in four years of full-time study. If necessary, students will be assisted in applying for funding from other sources to cover additional years.

The program requires a minimum of 58 credit hours beyond an M.A. or M.F.A. degree, 40 hours of which must be taken on campus. Students are normally advanced to candidacy in their third year, at which point they are classified as ABD (“all but dissertation”). This timeline must be followed for students to be classified as “making satisfactory progress” towards their degrees. The Graduate School allows up to a total of five years to advance to candidacy. Failure to advance within five years will result in the student’s removal from the program. Students who must extend their time to advance to candidacy are advised to check the “Full-Time Status” section for the website of the Office of the Registrar to see the difference between course units and course credit hours to ensure they do not fall below full time status.

The Graduate School also requires that a Ph.D. be completed within nine years of entry into the program. After nine years, credits earned from coursework are invalidated and the student must start over. In certain circumstances, students may apply for a one-year extension, and may apply for this two times (thus allowing a maximum two-year extension). If two extensions are requested and granted, this could potentially allow up to 11 years to complete the degree.

View the one-page course description and credit requirements for the Ph.D. in theatre and performance studies program.


40 credit hours of the required minimum of 58 credit hours required for the Ph.D. are generally taken in the first two years at a rate of ten credit hours per semester (three 3-credit hour courses and one 1-credit hour course). Each student may also take up to four credit hours of coursework during the winter term, thereby reducing the load in later semesters or allowing a broadening of their education. Graduate-level courses in TDPS are not available in the summer. Students with graduate assistantships should never take more than 10 credit hours in any fall or spring semester or more than four credit hours in any winter term, and will be charged for any extra credit hours if they do so.

For details about coursework requirements, please see the Ph.D. in theatre and performance studies handbook

Comprehensive exams

Ph.D. comprehensive exams are intended to assess a student’s overall level of knowledge in the fields of theatre and performance studies. They go beyond the exams taken during coursework and are designed to test a student’s ability to integrate knowledge gathered across a range of courses. They survey the breadth of a student’s knowledge of theatre and performance studies in general, knowledge students are expected to acquire above and beyond what is covered during coursework.

For details about comprehensive exam requirements, please see the Ph.D. in theatre and performance studies handbook

Qualifying examination and advancement to candidacy

To advance to candidacy, students will form a dissertation committee, take the qualifying examination (consisting of two parts: a literature review and a dissertation prospectus) and defend the qualifying examination.

For details about qualifying exam (literature review and prospectus) requirements, please see the Ph.D. in theatre and performance studies handbook


Under the supervision of their advisor, the doctoral candidate conducts research and writes a dissertation. The candidate should follow the prospectus approved by the dissertation committee. While aspects of its scope and content may grow and evolve, any significant changes in the dissertation plan may require a new draft of the prospectus to be approved by the dissertation committee.

Once the dissertation has been completed, the candidate must defend the dissertation orally.

For details about dissertation requirements, please see the Ph.D. in theatre and performance studies handbook.

Ph.D. in Theatre and Performance Studies Handbook and Graduate Catalog

View the Ph.D. in theatre and performance studies handbook

For more general information about graduate requirements, fees and registration, see UMD's Graduate Catalog: ​


Dissertations in progress

Completed dissertations

  • Balasundram, Jeeta. “Recapturing the Essence of Shakespeare’s Plays through Original Practices: A Case Study on The New Shakespeare Tavern in Atlanta, Georgia and the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, Virginia." Spring 2020. Chair: Laurie Frederik.
  • Fallica, Elisabeth. “Of Flesh and Feathers: A Study of Artistic Labor and the Politics of the Sensuous in New York Neo-Burlesque.” Spring 2020. Chair: Laurie Frederik.
  • Grey, Les. "Moving Pain Home: Cultural Production and Performance Out of Black Trauma and Terror." Spring 2020. Chair: James M. Harding.
  • Gregory, David. "Musical Theater in Spain and its Spectacular American Roots." Spring 2019. Chair: Laurie Frederik.
  • Ginder, Brittany. "Of Muses and Monstrosities: English Travestie Performances of the Eighteenth Century."  Spring 2018. Chair: Esther Kim Lee.
  • Long, Khalid. "Staging Black Women’s Histories: Recovery and Recuperation in the Theatre of Glenda Dickerson." Spring 2018. Chair: Faedra Chatard Carpenter.
  • Mantillake, Sudesh. "Colonial Choreography: Staging Sri Lankan Dancers during British Colonial Rule from the 1870s-1930s." Spring 2018. Chair: Esther Kim Lee.
  • Nixon, Adam. "Film, Television, and the Digital Age." May 2018. Chair: Laurie Frederik.
  • Shaeffer, Adam. "Building Public(s): The Early History of the New York Shakespeare Festival." Spring 2018. Chair: Franklin J. Hildy.
  • Thompson, Sara. "Craft Beer, Vintage Gear, and Shakespeare: A Study of the Postmodern Hipster, the New York Shakespeare Exchange, and the Production of Cultural Capital in the 21st Century."  Spring 2018. Chair: Esther Kim Lee.
  • Wilson, Matthew. "Moving from the Archive: Historiography and 'Authenticity' in Commedia dell'Arte Performance." Spring 2018. Chair: Franklin J. Hildy.
  • Banapoulou, Christina. "Tragedy and Indebtedness in Contemporary Greece: Deleuze, Guattari and Performances of Transnational Power and Resistance Before and After the Referendum of 2015." Fall 2017. Chair: James Harding.
  • Boynton, Michael. "Performing Nerd:  The American Nerd, Popular Culture, and Identity Formation. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Maryland, College Park. School of Theatre, Dance and Performance Studies." Fall 2017. Chair: Faedra Chatard Carpenter.
  • Davis, Allan. "Organizing Whiteness: Racial Formation through Gendered Leisure and Amateur Performance in the Drama League of America." Spring 2017. Chair: Esther Kim Lee.
  • Kaplan, Jeffrey. " A Show of One’s Own: Dorothy Sands and the Rise of Solo Performance in America." Spring 2017. Chair: Faedra Chatard Carpenter.
  • Krenek, Jessica. "Sexuality, Gender, and the Performance of Wrestling Fan Culture." Spring 2017. Chair: Faedra Chatard Carpenter.
  • Warheit, Emily. "Forum Theatre and Theatre for Development in East Africa." May 2017. Chair: Laurie Frederik.
  • Hesla, James. "The Idiosyncratic Body: Clown Theory and Practice." March 2016. Chair: Laurie Frederik.
  • Spanos, Kathleen. "Dancing the Archive: Rhythms of Change in Post-Volcano Identities on Monsterrat, West Indies." December 2015. Chair: Laurie Frederik.
  • Gavrila, Rebecca. "'That Wasn’t Just a Party': Re-Considering the Works of Robert Chesley." Fall 2014. Chair: Faedra Chatard Carpenter.
  • Dawn, Karalee. "Today We are All Scottish: Highland Festivals and the Construction of National Identity." February 2014. Chair: Laurie Frederik.
  • Shifflett, Matthew. "Ideologies of Family and Empire in Eighteenth-Century Circum-Atlantic Performance." Spring 2014. Chair: Heather Nathans.
  • Tobiason, Aaron. "So as to Compass the Interest: Artisan Dramaturgy, Copyright Reform, and the Theatrical Insurgency of 1856." Spring 2014. Chair: Heather Nathans.
  • Alman, Elizabeth. "Shakespeare's Stage in America: The Early History of the Folger Shakespeare Theatre." Spring 2013. Chair: Franklin J. Hildy. 
  • Derr, Ashley. "Understanding Shakespeare to Understand America: The NEA's Shakespeare in American Communities Initiative." Spring 2013. Chair: Franklin J. Hildy. 
  • Thompson, Robert. "The Phenomenology of Spirit Communication: Spiritualist Mediumship in the Eastern United States." February 2013. Chair: Laurie Frederik.
  • Steele, Erin. "Material Murders: 'Authenticity' in Early Nineteenth-Century True Crime Melodramas." Fall 2012. Chair: Franklin J. Hildy.
  • Chessum, Tracey. "Sales Pitches from the 'Salesman of Americanism': Selling American Identity in the Comic Operas of John Philip Sousa." Spring 2012. Chair: Heather Nathans.
  • Saunders, Annmarie. "The Quest for a National Playhouse: Early Theatres of Washington, D.C., 1800-1836." Spring 2012. Chair: Heather Nathans.
  • Tenner, Natalie. "‘New wine shall be put into old bottles’: Elizabethan Revivals in the time of the Nazarenes and the Pre-Raphaelites." Spring 2012. Chair: Franklin J. Hildy. 
  • Poole, Justin Aaron. "Vienna’s Transnational Fringe: Arts Funding, Aesthetic Agitation, and Europeanization." Spring 2011. Chair: Franklin J. Hildy. 
  • Dail, Chrystyna Marta. "Theatrical Militants: Stage For Action and Social Activist Performance, 1943—1953." Spring 2010. Chair: Heather Nathans.
  • Martin, Christopher Tremewan. "How the Waltz Was Won: Towards a Waltz Aesthetic." Spring 2010. Chair: Faedra Chatard Carpenter.
  • Tharp, Richard K. "How Wide Is Broadway?: The Theatre Guild’s Radio and Television Productions in Post-World War II America." Spring 2010. Chair: Heather Nathans.
  • Cole, Carrie J.  "'She Will Not Submit to Be Ignored': Kate Douglas Wiggin and Performing American Femininity at the end of the Nineteenth Century." Spring 2009. Chair: Heather Nathans.
  • Messer, Kristen Anne. "Everyman's No Exit: An Examination of Christian Community-Based Performances Practices on the North America Landscape." Spring 2009. Chair: Franklin J. Hildy. 
  • Snyder, Lindsey. "Sawing the Air Thus: Translating Shakespeare into American Sign Language and the Echoes of Rhetorical Gesture." Spring 2009. Chair: Franklin J. Hildy. 
  • Castle-Smith, Heidi. "'I should go near to say he lies with her, yet She’s a Maid.': From Virgins to Whores, Actresses and Portraits 1660 -1737." Spring 2008. Chair: Heather Nathans.
  • Du Toit, Simon. "The Antitheatrical Body: Puritans and Performance in Early Modern England, 1577-1620." Spring 2008.
  • Joyce, Valerie Michelle. "'You can't get a man with a gun' and Other Life Lessons: Biography in the American Musical Theatre." Spring 2008. Chair: Heather Nathans.
  • Bain, Carolyn. "Searching for Tennessee:  Identity, Performance and the Theatrical Event - The Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival." Spring 2007. Co-chairs: Franklin J. Hildy and John Fugi.
  • Clupper, Wendy. "The Performance Culture Of Burning Man." Spring 2007. Chair: Franklin J. Hildy.
  • Masura, Nadja. "Digital Theatre:  A 'Live' and Mediated Art Form Expanding Perceptions of Body, Place, and Community." Spring 2007. Chair: Franklin J. Hildy.
  • Osborne, Elizabeth A. "Circles of Community, Intersections of Infamy: The Federal Theatre Project’s Regional Successes and Failures." Spring 2007. Chair: Heather Nathans.
  • White, Andrew W. "The Artifice   of Eternity: Studies of Representational Practices in the Byzantine Theatre and Orthodox Church." Spring 2006. Chair: Franklin J. Hildy, 2006.
  • Coyle, Margaret Anne. "'The Sauce is Better Than The Fish': The Use of Food To Signify Class In The Comedies of Carlo Goldoni, 1737--1762." Spring 2006. Chair: Heather Nathans.
  • Fisler, Benjamin Daniel. "The Phenomenology of Racialism: Blackface Puppetry in American Theatre, 1872-1939." Spring 2005. Chair: Franklin J. Hildy.
  • Oliver, Robert Michael. "National Theater Or Public Theater: The Transformation of the Theatrical Geography of Washington, D.C., Circa 1970--1990." Spring 2005. Chair: Catherine Schuler.
  • Rothman, Korey. "Somewhere There's Music: Nancy Hamilton, The Old Girls's Network, and The American Musical Theatre of The 1930s and 1940s." Spring 2005. Chair: Heather Nathans.
  • Stewart, Stacey A. "Nothing Ladylike About It: The Theatrical Career of Anna Elizabeth Dickinson." Spring 2004. Chair: Catherine Schuler.
  • Boisseau, Robin Jackson. "The Women  of The Abbey Theatre, 1897-1925. Spring 2004. Chair: Patti Gillespie.
  • Kippola, Karl M. "Out of The Forrest and Into The Booth: Performance of Masculinity On The American Stage, 1828--1865. Spring 2003. Chair: Heather Nathans.
  • Crawford, Brett Ashley. 'Maxine Elliott: An Actress-Producer With Cultural Savvy and Money On Her Mind." Spring 2001. Chair: Patti Gillespie.
  • Kaahwa, Jessica Atwooki. "Theater and Human Rights In Uganda." Spring 2001. Chair: Patti Gillespie.
  • Hart, Norman Phillip. "Life Upon The Wicked Stage: A History  of Musical Biographies In America, 1783-1993. 2000. Chair: Patti Gillespie.
  • Choi, Sung Hee. "Performing The Other: Asians On The New York Stage Before 1970." 2000. Chair: Patti Gillespie.
  • Davis, Brook Marie. "Constance D'Arcy Mackay: Playwright, Director, and Educator. Inspiring Women, Children, and Communities Through Amateur Theatre." 1999. Chair: Patti Gillespie.
  • Trainor, Patrick W. "The Aesthetic Principles  of E. Gordon Craig Placed in the Imaginative Context." 1999. Chair: Roger Meersman.
  • Black, Cheryl D. "The Women of Provincetown, 1915-1922. 1998. Chair: Patti Gillespie. 
  • Berkeley, Anne R. "Toward A Critical Aesthetic Praxis: Theorizing Undergraduate Theatre Curriculum For A Culturally Diverse Democracy." 1998. Chair: Roger Meersman.
  • Ferris, Julianne. "University-Based Performing Arts Center: A Delphi Approach." 1998.
  • Marecki, Elizabeth. "Reclaiming Place: The Plays of Clara Lipman Mann 1869." 1998
  • Moffitt, Elliott. "Black American in Theatre: The First Hundred Years. 1998.
  • Ammen, Sharon Irene. "May Irwin's Strategies  of Influence: A Look Back At America's 'Secretary  of Laughter.'" 1997 Chair: Patti Gillespie. 
  • Anthony, M. Susan. "'Some Deed  of Dreadful Note': Productions of Gothic Dramas in the United States,1790 To 1830." 1997. Chair: Patti Gillespie.
  • Fliotsos, Anne Louraine. "Teaching The Unteachable: Directing Pedagogy In Colleges  and Universities  of The United States, 1920 To 1990." 1997. Chair: Patti Gillespie. 
  • O'Hara, Michael Mullen. "Bernard Shaw and The Federal Theatre Project: Plays, Productions,  and Politics." 1997. Chair: Patti Gillespie.
  • Olsen, Christopher A. "The Arts Lab Phenomenon In Great Britain: 1968-1971." 1997. Chair: Catherine Schuler.
  • Medford, Gailann Stewart. "An Examination  of the Development  of Educational Theatre at Selected Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the United States,1867-1990." 1994. Chair: Patti Gillespie.
  • Shull, Michael Slade. "Tinted Shades of Red: The Popular American Cinematic Treatment of Militant Labor, Domestic Radicalism and Russian Revolutionaries, 1909-1929." 1994. Chair: Roger Meersman.
  • Barnes, Elizabeth Anne. "Spatial Contexts for the Shakespearean Soliloquy: 'Macbeth' Adapted from Stage to Film and Television." 1992. Chair: Roger Meersman.
  • Housley, Helen Marie. "To Inherit the Wind: Margo Jones as Director." 1991. Chair: Patti Gillespie.
  • Trumbull, Eric Winship. "Musicals of the American Workers' Theatre Movement 1928-1941: Propaganda and Ritual in Documents of a Social Movement." 1991. Chair: Roger Meersman.
  • Belgrade, Paul S. "The Literary Journalism as Illuminator of Subjectivity." 1990. Chair: Patti Gillespie.
  • Casey, Jennie Clare Carroll. "An Analysis of the Drama Reviews of Chicago's Claudia Cassidy, 1925-1965." 1990. Chair: Patti Gillespie. 
  • Donahue, Thomas Francis. "The Genesis of Light Symbol for the Medici Festival of 1589." 1990. Chair: Roger Meersman.
  • Greeley, Lynne. "Spirals from the Matrix: The Feminist Plays of Martha Boesing, an Analysis." 1987. Chair: Patti Gillespie.
  • Cornwell, Terri Lynn. "Democracy and the Arts: The Role of Participation." 1987. Chair: Roger Meersman.
  • Cooley, Edna. "Women in American Theatre 1850-1870: A Study in Professional Equity." 1987.

History/Theory faculty

James Harding

Professor, Theatre Scholarship and Performance Studies
Head of History/Theory; Head of MA/PhD in Theatre and Performance Studies, School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies

2822 The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center
College Park MD, 20742

(301) 405-6695

Franklin J. Hildy

Professor, Theatre Scholarship and Performance Studies
Associate director, School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies

2828 The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center
College Park MD, 20742

(301) 405-3157

Maura Keefe

Associate Professor, Dance Performance and Scholarship
Director of the School, School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies

2811 The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center
College Park MD, 20742

(301) 405-3187

Caitlin Marshall

Senior Lecturer, Theatre Scholarship and Performance Studies

2810 The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center
College Park MD, 20742

(301) 405-2824

Van Tran Nguyen

Assistant Professor, School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies

2816 Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center
College Park MD, 20742

(301) 405-6682