Learn: Why Theater Majors Are Vital
The theatre major is a highly integrated academic program, providing students with curricular and co-curricular opportunities in the cultural contexts and collaborative practices of theatrical art. The theatre department teaches acting, directing, playwriting, design, literature, theory, and history, and all aspects of technical and production work. Majors complete nine required courses, and must also contribute to department productions in a variety of ways. Students have the opportunity to study the theory as well as the practice of theatre, and to examine western and non-western theatrical traditions.
Though the program is demanding, its majors are also ambitious. In a typical class of six to ten majors, it is not unusual to find some students carrying double majors in everything from physics to religion to political science. Theatre students have studied abroad in Oxford, earned fellowships for post-graduate study, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa. Williams is also affiliated with the National Theatre Institute for intensive theatre study off-campus.
As a reflection of the theatre’s historical relationship to literature and the arts, stage production is studied in the context of the literary and artistic movements that have informed theatrical endeavor. The major in theatre emphasizes the collaborative nature of the discipline by drawing upon courses offered by faculty of the language, literature, music, and art departments. Although students will be equipped to proceed to graduate and professional schools in theatre, the major is primarily directed toward those interested in studying the theatre as an artistic phenomenon and as an interpretive tool. Because a deep understanding of theatre requires training and experience with the synthesis onstage, the major includes curricular study of production and performance, as well as continued participation in departmental stage production.
The production arm of the theatre department operates under the supervision of the departmental faculty. Major departmental productions as well as laboratory and experimental productions of all kinds are mounted on the new stages of the ’62 Center for Theatre and Dance. Participation in acting or technical work is open to all members of the Williams College community. Students majoring in theatre will be asked to consult regularly with departmental advisors in devising the sequence of courses and production participation that will constitute their major.
The Major in Theatre consists of nine courses. Six required courses are:
- Theatre 102 Introduction to Performance: The Art of Collaboration
- Theatre 103 Acting: Fundamentals or Theatre 204 Acting: Scenework
- Theatre 201 Worldbuilding: Staging and Design for the Theater
- Theatre 244 Introduction to Theatre Technology
- Theatre 248 The Modern Theatre: Plays and Performance or Theatre 229 Modern Drama
- Theatre 406 Senior Seminar
Three elective courses must be taken from the department’s other offerings. One of those electives must be at the 300-level or higher. Substitutions of other Williams’ courses, or of Study Abroad courses, will be made only with the consent of the department Chair. Students should consult with the department Chair regularly in planning a balance of practice and scholarship in their elective choices.
All majors in Theatre are required to participate in a minimum of four department productions in addition to the laboratory requirement for Theatre 244. Participation in at least two of the four must be in technical production and one of those two must be in stage management.
The Degree with Honors in Theatre
Candidates for Honors will apply for admission through the submission of a portfolio to the department chair by February of their junior year, as well as a description of their proposed project. The portfolio will be comprised of four parts:
1. The first part will include a list of the courses students have taken relevant to their work towards the major. This list will include courses offered by the theatre department, but may also include classes taken in other departments. Students should also list and describe relevant independent studies and production credits.
2. The second part of the portfolio will include a selection of materials developed for these courses and productions listed in Part 1. The selection should include at least three papers or samples of other written work, and might also include design projects, director’s notebooks, studio art projects, actor’s journals or other forms of documentation of the candidate’s work. For students who have taken a semester away, it is particularly important that they provide the department with a detailed picture of their activities while studying off-campus. Course descriptions and syllabi should be submitted in addition to a list of courses taken and activities performed.
3. The third part of the portfolio is an annotated bibliography of approximately 12 dramatic or critical texts the student has read, and that he or she feels have had particular relevance in his or her theatre education to date. Annotations should be based upon a particular angle of engagement with the text, that reflects the area or areas that the student has chosen to emphasize in his or her theatrical training. For instance, one might choose to write from the point of view of an actor, a designer, a director, a playwright, or a dramaturg. Generally, annotations should be one or two paragraphs long.
4. The portfolio should conclude with a retrospective essay that reflects on the materials that are being submitted. Students should look for connections between the various aspects of their work, state any theoretical positions that they have come to embrace, assess their strengths and weaknesses, and discuss their educational goals for their work with the department during their Senior year.
The portfolio will be examined alongside the student’s record and his or her project description; a determination will then be
made as to admission into the Honors program. Students intending to apply for Honors should meet with the department chair or designated honors coordinator by the end of the fall semester of their junior year. Once a student is admitted to the Honors program, the department chair will assign an Honors project advisor, who will work with the student to specify a timeline and work program for the completion of the Honors project. At a minimum, this will entail enrollment in Theatre 493 or 494, plus W32, plus one other course offered either within the department or elsewhere that the candidate and thesis advisor designate as contributing specifically to the overall goals of the honors work. This honors elective may not fulfill any other portion of the theatre major, or any other major the student may be pursuing. All honors candidates will present their completed projects to the department Honors Committee for evaluation.
The theatre department attempts to work individually with majors and prospective majors who desire to study abroad. In general, with careful planning it is quite easy for students to complete the major in theatre if they study abroad for one semester of their junior year. For those wishing to study abroad for more than one semester of junior year, a more complicated situation may arise, but one that often can be successfully managed through close consultation with the department chair. Students are encouraged to consult with the chair early in their Williams careers if they anticipate a combination of theatre major and study abroad.