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.
The Department of Theatre is committed to the merging of embodied practice and scholarship in the fields of theatre and performance studies. The curriculum is dedicated to the study, practice, appreciation, and interpretation of theatre, performance, and other time-based arts. The major in Theatre emphasizes the collaborative nature of the theatre and performance making 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 theatre and performance as artistic phenomenon and as interpretive tools. Because a deep understanding of theatre requires training and experience with the synthesis on stage, the major includes curricular study of production and performance, as well as continued participation in departmental stage production.
The production arm of the Department of Theatre 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, including the following:
Theatre 101 The Art of Playing: An Introduction to Theatre and Performance
Theatre 201 Worldbuilding: Staging and Design For The Theater
Theatre 301 Embodied Archives: Global Theatre & Performance Histories
Theatre 401 Practicing Theory: Senior Seminar
Five additional elective courses must be taken from the department’s other offerings (including courses cross-listed with Theatre). Two of the five electives must be taken at the 200-level or higher by the end of the student’s junior year, and an additional two of the five must be taken at the 300-level or higher by the time of graduation. Substitutions of other Williams’ courses, or of Study Abroad courses, may 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 and in mapping a route through the major.
NOTE: Due to the extraordinary circumstances caused by COVID-19, students may opt to take up to two elective courses counting towards their Major in Theatre as pass/fail. This applies only to courses taken during the 20-21 academic year and any elective or core courses that were automatically transferred to P/F mode in Spring 2020 by College policy. This option is only available to courses that allow P/F designation. Please note that, with the exception of courses taken in Spring 2020, all required core courses for the Theatre Major (THEA 101, 201, 301, and 401) must be taken for a letter grade in order to count towards the Major.
Production Requirement for the Theatre Major:
All majors in Theatre are required to participate in a minimum of four department productions. Participation in at least one of these four must be in stage management. Assignment to productions in stage management must be made in consultation with the department Chair. Students participating in a production will be enrolled in THEA 290-299: Theatre Department Production as a partial-credit, fifth course, admitted by permission of the department Chair and evaluated on a Pass/Fail basis only. Students remaining in the course beyond the sixth week of the start of a term will be graded by the instructor. Enrollment is by audition or appointment within the Theatre department. Students who do not wish to enroll for credit will be given the opportunity by the department to be removed from the course. Rehearsals for productions are scheduled TBA, based on the availability of the ensemble, and do not conflict with other academic commitments, such as evening courses or evening exams. The department normally produces three productions per academic year. Students may enroll in multiple productions in the same semester and may repeat a production course by permission of the department Chair. For each departmental production they participate in, a student will receive a partial credit of .5 on their College transcript. Production credits do not accrue, nor do they count towards a student’s 32 required course credits for graduation.
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.