Performance Studies

University of California, Berkeley

About the Program

The Graduate Group in Performance Studies at UC Berkeley provides an interdisciplinary and individually crafted curriculum directed at advanced studies in the literatures, performances, cultural contexts, and theories of performance throughout the world. Based in the Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies, the PhD program in Performance Studies takes advantage of Berkeley’s distinguished history in the field of drama and theater studies and opens out to a wider interrogation of the disciplines and methodologies of performance studies. The program is administered by the Graduate Group in Performance Studies, comprised of faculty from a wide range of related departments. Students in the Performance Studies PhD program conduct research in a diverse array of interdisciplinary methodologies, on projects spanning the fields of theater, dance, and performance studies.

Visit Graduate Group Website


Admission to the University

Minimum Requirements for Admission

The following minimum requirements apply to all graduate programs and will be verified by the Graduate Division:

  1. A bachelor’s degree or recognized equivalent from an accredited institution;
  2. A grade point average of B or better (3.0);
  3. If the applicant comes from a country or political entity (e.g., Quebec) where English is not the official language, adequate proficiency in English to do graduate work, as evidenced by a TOEFL score of at least 90 on the iBT test, 570 on the paper-and-pencil test, or an IELTS Band score of at least 7 (note that individual programs may set higher levels for any of these); and
  4. Sufficient undergraduate training to do graduate work in the given field.

Applicants Who Already Hold a Graduate Degree

The Graduate Council views academic degrees not as vocational training certificates, but as evidence of broad training in research methods, independent study, and articulation of learning. Therefore, applicants who already have academic graduate degrees should be able to pursue new subject matter at an advanced level without need to enroll in a related or similar graduate program.

Programs may consider students for an additional academic master’s or professional master’s degree only if the additional degree is in a distinctly different field.

Applicants admitted to a doctoral program that requires a master’s degree to be earned at Berkeley as a prerequisite (even though the applicant already has a master’s degree from another institution in the same or a closely allied field of study) will be permitted to undertake the second master’s degree, despite the overlap in field.

The Graduate Division will admit students for a second doctoral degree only if they meet the following guidelines:

  1. Applicants with doctoral degrees may be admitted for an additional doctoral degree only if that degree program is in a general area of knowledge distinctly different from the field in which they earned their original degree. For example, a physics PhD could be admitted to a doctoral degree program in music or history; however, a student with a doctoral degree in mathematics would not be permitted to add a PhD in statistics.
  2. Applicants who hold the PhD degree may be admitted to a professional doctorate or professional master’s degree program if there is no duplication of training involved.

Applicants may apply only to one single degree program or one concurrent degree program per admission cycle.

Required Documents for Applications

  1. Transcripts: Applicants may upload unofficial transcripts with your application for the departmental initial review. If the applicant is admitted, then official transcripts of all college-level work will be required. Official transcripts must be in sealed envelopes as issued by the school(s) attended. If you have attended Berkeley, upload your unofficial transcript with your application for the departmental initial review. If you are admitted, an official transcript with evidence of degree conferral will not be required.
  2. Letters of recommendation: Applicants may request online letters of recommendation through the online application system. Hard copies of recommendation letters must be sent directly to the program, not the Graduate Division.
  3. Evidence of English language proficiency: All applicants from countries or political entities in which the official language is not English are required to submit official evidence of English language proficiency. This applies to applicants from Bangladesh, Burma, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Latin America, the Middle East, the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia, most European countries, and Quebec (Canada). However, applicants who, at the time of application, have already completed at least one year of full-time academic course work with grades of B or better at a US university may submit an official transcript from the US university to fulfill this requirement. The following courses will not fulfill this requirement:
    • courses in English as a Second Language,
    • courses conducted in a language other than English,
    • courses that will be completed after the application is submitted, and
    • courses of a non-academic nature.

If applicants have previously been denied admission to Berkeley on the basis of their English language proficiency, they must submit new test scores that meet the current minimum from one of the standardized tests.

Where to Apply

Visit the Berkeley Graduate Division application page

Admission to the Program

The graduate group admissions committee seeks applicants with qualities that will enable them to succeed in an intensive interdisciplinary program: creativity and analytical skills, practical experience, individual initiative, and intellectual rigor. Priority will be given to applicants whose research interests dovetail well with current faculty resources. Candidates holding a bachelor’s or master’s degree in theater, literature, performance studies, dance, or any appropriate humanities-related field are eligible to apply for admissions. The graduate group is particularly interested in applicants who have already formulated a specific focus of interest, including professional theater or dance practitioners who demonstrate a capacity for and training in advanced scholarly study. Please see the graduate group webpage for additional admission information

As part of the application, you will be asked to submit the following:

  1. All college transcripts
  2. Three letters of recommendation
GRE scores (less than 5 years old) & TOEFL scores (if applicable)
  4. Resume/CV

  5. Personal Statement

  6. Statement of Purpose

  7. Critical Writing Sample (15-20 pages)

Doctoral Degree Requirements

Normative Time Requirements

Normative Time to Advancement

Normative time to advancement is three years.

Normative Time in Candidacy

Normative time in candidacy is three years.

Total Normative Time

Total normative time is six years.

Time to Advancement


The following is a breakdown of requirements to be fulfilled during the student’s first five semesters of study. All courses must be taken for letter grades.  For additional information, please see the graduate group Program of Study

Core Colloquia
THEATER 200AIntroductory Colloquium on Interdisciplinary Research in Performance2
THEATER 200BResearch Colloquium2
THEATER 200BResearch Colloquium2
Core Seminars
THEATER 201AFoundations in Performance Theory4
THEATER 201BCurrent Topics in Performance Study4
THEATER 202Methodologies in Performance Studies4
THEATER 203Performance Practicum: Bodies, Space, and Time4
Starting with students admitted to Fall 2017, complete eight additional graduate seminars, including at least two from the Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies department.
Pedagogy Courses
See below for details
Pedagogy Courses

To prepare for appointment as a graduate student instructor (GSI), students are required to take a 300-level pedagogy course for reading and composition. Students normally fulfill this requirement by taking COLWRIT 375 in the fall semester of the first year (this course is not usually offered in the spring). For those first-year students who have stipend support for their second year (and therefore won’t teach until the third year), the pedagogy course may be taken during the fall semester of the second year. Also, GSIs for TDPS enroll each semester in THEATER 300 with their teaching supervisor.

Foreign Language

Pass a language exam, usually in the fall semester of the first year, or take the needed upper division language class.


Students sit their qualifying exams in their sixth semester before proceeding to the dissertation.

Time in Candidacy

For additional information, please see the graduate group Program of Study


During the dissertation phase, students are expected to submit a copy of their dissertation prospectus (by the end of the seventh semester).

Fifth Year Presentation

Students give a public presentation of their research in the ninth semester.


Students are expected to complete their dissertations within the normative time frame (i.e., 12 semesters from the start of the program).


Performance Studies

THEATER 200A Introductory Colloquium on Interdisciplinary Research in Performance 2 Units

Terms offered: Fall 2018, Fall 2017, Fall 2016
This course is designed to introduce graduate students to the research resources of the University, to the methodologies and research interests of the faculty affiliated with the Ph.D. program, to the demands of a professional academic career, and to trends and developments in theater, dance, and performance studies.

Introductory Colloquium on Interdisciplinary Research in Performance: Read More [+]

THEATER 200B Research Colloquium 2 Units

Terms offered: Spring 2018, Spring 2017, Spring 2016
This course is designed to provide an opportunity for graduate students to work with one another to advance their individual research projects and present their ongoing work.

Research Colloquium: Read More [+]

THEATER 201A Foundations in Performance Theory 4 Units

Terms offered: Fall 2018, Fall 2017
Part one of a two-semester core sequence on performance theory, required of first-year Performance Studies PhD students. This course focuses on the foundations of Performance Studies as a field, with special emphasis on its key philosophical and disciplinary antecedents. Topics will include the emergence of performance studies from the confluence of theater and literary studies, anthropology, art history, sociology, and cultural studies, and will include
readings on central theoretical concepts such as performativity, the performance of everyday life, and the interventions of the 1990s regarding the role of performance in the formation of race, gender, sexuality, national identity, colonialism and more.
Foundations in Performance Theory: Read More [+]

THEATER 201B Current Topics in Performance Study 4 Units

Terms offered: Spring 2018
Part two of a two-semester core sequence on performance theory, required of first-year Performance Studies PhD students. This course will explore prominent contemporary debates in Performance Studies, roughly from the year 2000 to the present. Precise topics will vary by instructor, but may include theoretical investigations in corporeality, digital cultures, transnationalism/globalization, performance and economics, as well as ongoing disciplinary debates regarding
race, nationality, gender and sexuality, and on the nature and social role of performance more generally. Prerequisites: 201A or consent of instructor.
Current Topics in Performance Study: Read More [+]

THEATER 202 Methodologies in Performance Studies 4 Units

Terms offered: Spring 2018, Fall 2016, Fall 2015
The study of different approaches and contemporary methodologies for analyzing performances of various kinds within their cultural and historical context. Specific methodologies can include archival research, field methods, etc. The specific focus in any one course is contingent upon the focus of the instructor.

Methodologies in Performance Studies: Read More [+]

THEATER 203 Performance Practicum: Bodies, Space, and Time 4 Units

Terms offered: Fall 2018, Spring 2017, Spring 2016
Students in this course will engage in performance practice as: epistemology, methodology, and mode of research; explore the relationship between bodies, spaces, and temporality as a fundamental aspect of performance; and understand "performance as research" in Performance Studies as a field.

Performance Practicum: Bodies, Space, and Time: Read More [+]

THEATER 266 Special Topics: Theater Arts 1 - 4 Units

Terms offered: Fall 2018, Spring 2018, Fall 2017
Topics vary from semester to semester and have included The Power of Music and Poetry in the Theater; Modern Drama and Theater, 1940 to the Present; Theaters, Tricksters, and Cultural Exchange; Art as Social Action; and The Invisible World (Process Seminar).

Special Topics: Theater Arts: Read More [+]

THEATER 277 Special Studies in Directing 1 - 4 Units

Terms offered: Spring 2012, Spring 2011, Fall 2010
Advanced practice in play direction.

Special Studies in Directing: Read More [+]

THEATER 294 Directed Research 1 - 12 Units

Terms offered: Spring 2018, Spring 2015, Spring 2012
Meetings to be arranged, either individually or as a group to explore fields not covered in courses listed elsewhere in Dramatic Art's offerings. May be taken by students engaged in writing dissertations.

Directed Research: Read More [+]

THEATER 299 Special Study 1 - 4 Units

Terms offered: Fall 2018, Fall 2017, Fall 2016
May be taken when preparing prospectus, graduate portfolio, and/or oral presentation before qualifying oral examination. May not be substituted for available seminars.

Special Study: Read More [+]

THEATER 300 Professional Preparation: Supervised Teaching in Dramatic Art 2 - 4 Units

Terms offered: Spring 2014, Spring 2013, Spring 2012
Discussion, problem review and development, course development, supervised practice of teaching.

Professional Preparation: Supervised Teaching in Dramatic Art: Read More [+]

THEATER 340 Pedagogy for Movement Based Classes - Graduate Level 4 Units

Terms offered: Fall 2015
This course studies pedagogical theories and methods. It is designed to prepare graduate students to teach practice-based dance and movement courses. In class teaching exercises will be supported by readings, research projects and assignments on the subject of pedagogy. Development of professional teaching documents such as a teaching philosophy, a sample course syllabus, sample lesson plans, and self-evaluation statements are required.

Pedagogy for Movement Based Classes - Graduate Level: Read More [+]

THEATER 602 Individual Study for Doctoral Students 1 - 12 Units

Terms offered: Spring 2014, Fall 2013, Spring 2013
Individual study in consultation with the major field adviser, intended to provide an opportunity for qualified students to prepare themselves for the various examinations required of candidates for the Ph.D.

Individual Study for Doctoral Students: Read More [+]


Core Faculty


Mark Griffith, Professor. Departments of Classics and Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies; PhD. Cambridge University; Classical drama and performance; Greek and Latin literature.
Faculty Profile

Shannon Jackson, Professor. Departments of Rhetoric and Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies; PhD. Northwestern University; Performance Studies; Contemporary theater; American cultural history and Performance Historiography; Adaptation.
Faculty Profile

Trinh Minh-ha, Professor. Department of Women’s Studies; Feminist Theory; Film Theory and production; Comparative Literary and Art Theory; Cultural Politics; Third World Arts and Politics.
Faculty Profile

Miryam Sas, Professor. Departments of Comparative Literature and Film Studies; PhD. Yale University; 20th century poetry; Japanese Experimental Theater and Dance; Memory and Trauma; Mass Media and Cultural Studies; Film.
Faculty Profile

Mary Ann Smart, Professor. Department of Music; PhD. Cornell University; 19th century opera; women in opera; feminist approaches to opera; the role of gesture in opera.
Faculty Profile

Associate Professors

Brandi Wilkins Catanese, Associate Professor. Departments of African American Studies and Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies; PhD. Stanford University; African-American Drama and Theater.
Faculty Profile

Abigail De Kosnik, Associate Professor. Berkeley Center for New Media and Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies; PhD. Northwestern University; Technology and Performance; Artistic Appropriation and Remix; Ethnicity, Gender, and Digital Culture; Cultural Studies; Subcultures and Fan Cultures; Marxism and Post-Structuralism.
Faculty Profile

SanSan Kwan, Associate Professor. Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies: PhD. New York University; Critical Dance Studies; Transnational Asian American Studies; Cultural Geography; Theories of Space and Kinesthesia, Interculturalism, Modern Dance, Ballet, and Yoga.
Faculty Profile

Peter Glazer, Associate Professor. Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies; PhD. Northwestern University; Directing; Adaptation; Performance Theory; 20th century American Theater; Commemorative Performance.
Faculty Profile

Laura E. Pérez, Associate Professor. Department of Ethnic Studies; PhD. Harvard University; Post-1965 U.S. Latina/o Visual, Performance, and Literary Arts; Feminist, “Minority,” Post-Colonial, and Cultural Studies theories.
Faculty Profile

Juana Maria Rodriguez, Associate Professor. Gender and Women’s Studies; PhD. UC Berkeley; Queer Theory and Cultural Activism; Latin@ Popular Cultures; Performance Studies; Critical Race Theory; Sex and Sexuality Studies; Technology and Media Arts.
Faculty Profile

Shannon Steen, Associate Professor and Head Graduate Adviser. Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies; PhD. Stanford University; performance and critical race studies (especially the intersection of African and Asian American histories), American Studies, globalization and American urban development, and post/modernisms.
Faculty Profile

Sophie Volpp, Associate Professor. Departments of Comparative Literature and East Asian Languages and Cultures; PhD. Harvard University; classical Chinese performance, Chinese literature of the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries, history of performance, gender theory, the history of sexuality, and the representation of material culture.
Faculty Profile

Alexei Yurchak, Associate Professor. Department of Anthropology; PhD. Duke University; theories of discourse, power and performance, the politics of aesthetics, irony and ideology, contemporary media, Russian informal art, Soviet state socialism and postsocialism, cities and urban space.
Faculty Profile

Assistant Professors

Julia Fawcett, Assistant Professor. Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies; Ph.D. Yale University; Restoration and 18th Century Theater and Performance, Performance Historiography, Intersections Between Literature and Performance, Autobiographical Performance, Urban Space, Celebrity, Gender, and Disability Studies.  Faculty Profile.

Angela Marino,  Assistant Professor. Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies; PhD., New York University; politics and performance in the Americas; Latino American performance and dramatic literature; popular fiesta and carnival theory.
Faculty Profile

Affiliated Faculty

Affiliated Professors

Charles Briggs, Alan Dundes Distinguished Professor in Folklore. Department of Anthropology; PhD. University of Chicago; performing the diseased body and its therapeutic intervention, biomedical and vernacular; theorizing relations between narrative and violence; mediatization and its reified objects; creating modern subjects by creating their “traditional” Others.
Faculty Profile

Judith Butler, Professor. Departments of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature; PhD. Yale University; Performance and Identity.
Faculty Profile

Joe Goode, Professor. Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies; BFA, Virginia Commonwealth University; choreography and interdisciplinary performance.
Faculty Profile

Jocelyne Guilbault, Professor. Department of Music; PhD. University of Michigan; Ethnomusicology; Caribbean Musics (popular and traditional); Creolization; Power; Cultural Politics; Nationalism; Diaspora.
Faculty Profile

Andrew Jones, Professor. Department of East Asian Languages & Cultures; PhD. UC Berkeley; Children’s Literature; Chinese Popular Music; East Asian Languages and Cultures; Literary Translation; Media Technology; Modern Chinese Fiction; Sonic Culture.
Faculty Profile

Anton Kaes, Professor. Department of German and Film Studies; PhD. Stanford University; modern German theater (Expressionism, Brecht; and the theater of the 1920s); postmodernist theater and film; the relationship between theater and film; theory of film, Critical Theory, and Cultural Studies.
Faculty Profile

John Lie, Professor. Department of Sociology; Chair, Center for Korean Studies; PhD. Harvard University; social theory, political economy, Korean diaspora.
Faculty Profile

Susan Schweik, Professor. Department of English; PhD. Yale University; Disability Studies; Poetry; 20th-Century American Literature; 19th-Century American literature; Cultural Studies; Gender & Sexuality Studies; Race and Ethnicity.
Faculty Profile

Affiliated Associate Professors

Paola Bacchetta, Associate Professor. Department of Gender & Women’s Studies; PhD. in Sociology from The Sorbonne, Paris; transnational feminist and queer theories; inseparabilities of gender, sexuality, “race”-racism,postcoloniality; Hindu nationalism; global political conflict; feminist and queer of color, and right wing, movement discourses and practices in the U.S., India  and France; transnational feminist and queer alliances.
Faculty Profile

Saba Mahmood, Associate Professor. Department of Anthropology; PhD. Stanford University; Anthropology of Subject Formation, Liberalism, and Secular Modernity; Feminist and Poststructuralist Theory; Religion and Politics; Islam, the Middle East, and South Asia.
Faculty Profile

Retired Faculty

Vasudha Dalmia, Professor. Department of South and South East Asian Studies; PhD. Jawaharlal Nehru University; Hindi Drama and other Indian Theater traditions; Brecht.
Faculty Profile

Dru Dougherty, Professor. Department of Spanish and Portuguese; PhD. Harvard University; Spanish drama, especially of the early 20th century.
Faculty Profile

Mel Gordon, Professor. Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies; PhD. New York University; Modern and Contemporary European Theater; Popular entertainment.
Faculty Profile

Linda Williams, Professor. Departments of Film Studies and Rhetoric; PhD. University of Colorado; Popular Moving-Image Genres (Pornography, Melodrama, and “Body Genres” of all sorts); Eastern and Western Forms of Melodrama; Film Theory.
Faculty Profile

Contact Information

Graduate Group in Performance Studies

15A Dwinelle Hall

Phone: 510-664-7613

Visit Graduate Group Website

Graduate Student Services Adviser

Robin Davidson

15A Dwinelle Hall

Phone: 510-664-7613

Head Graduate Adviser

Shannon Steen, PhD

15H Dwinelle Hall

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