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
Students interested in pursuing Honors in Theatre should first refer to the guidelines for undertaking Honors in any discipline at Williams College. These guidelines state: “Williams awards the degree with Honors to those students who have demonstrated imagination, initiative, and intellectual independence within the major.”
Next, students should refer to the description of the Degree with Honors in Theatre as described in the Williams course catalog. This states:
THE DEGREE WITH HONORS IN THEATRE
Candidates for Honors should apply for admission through the submission of a project proposal to the Department Chair by the first Friday of the second term of their junior year. Students considering admission to the Honors program in Theatre must have achieved at least a 3.5 grade point average in all Theatre courses, with a minimum of five courses completed by the fall term of their junior year (this GPA must be maintained throughout the senior year in order to achieve Honors), and have already demonstrated both ability and experience through coursework, production, and/or performance. In addition, applicants must have a plan in place to complete their Stage Management requirement by the end of the first term of their senior year. For projects including a production element, all performances must occur within the second term of the yearlong Honors project. Admission into the program will be determined on the basis of the student’s acceptance of the terms and conditions stated by the faculty. Students may request a specific faculty advisor. However, students are not guaranteed to be assigned their requested advisor. Requests may be denied depending on faculty availability. All candidates will be informed of their admittance to the Honors program by the end of the second term of their junior year.
Once a student is admitted, the department Chair will assign an Honors Advisor, who will work with the student to specify a timeline and program for the completion of the Honors project.
Students will be evaluated on an ongoing basis. If a student’s work in the first or second term does not meet the standards of Honors, their project will be converted into a standard Independent Study. The Honors Advisor will determine both the first and second semester grades for the candidate. All Honors candidates will present their completed projects to the department for evaluation by the faculty of Theatre. Determination of High Honors, Honors, or No Honors will be made by the department. Honors of any kind are contingent upon satisfactory completion of the Honors project. High Honors is awarded only to those whose performance in the program has been regarded as exceptional.
The project proposal is a written essay of approximately 750-1000 words that describes the nature, goals, and methodology of the proposed course of study and project to be undertaken in the pursuit of Honors. The proposal must be structured by the following sections with headings, designating each section:
- Project Description: a complete and detailed description of the proposed project, including its major aims and objectives. Successful proposals will not only convey the critical and intellectual significance of the project but also its artistic and creative potentials by making reference to select theory, practice, or scholarship in the fields of performance and theatre studies, as well as other disciplines if relevant.
- Methodology: a description of the methods and strategies to be undertaken in pursuit of the project’s objectives.
- Contribution to Field: a brief rationale for the project’s expected contributions to the practice and field of theatre arts and/or scholarship.
- Contribution to Educational Experience: a brief description of how the proposed project contributes to the candidate’s own educational goals and development.
- Timeline of Completion: an estimated timeline of the project, including stages of development and expected deadlines.
Required Supplemental Materials (not included in proposal word count):
- Bibliography: a preliminary bibliography of resources, which may include texts, videos, archives, or other reference materials to be consulted during the planned course of study, formatted in MLA or Chicago.
- Resume: a recent resume.
Please note: for projects involving a performance and/or production components, candidates should be mindful of the scope and scale of their proposed project, taking into account the resources and labor required for the realization of their project. All accepted Honors projects will be provided with a modest and equitable budget, the limits of which they must agree to work within. Budgeting will begin only after acceptance into the Honors program. See: Guidelines for Production in Honors Projects.
All documents, including the project proposal and any supplemental material, must be submitted digitally to the Chair.
TIMETABLE OF PROPOSAL AND COMPLETION OF HONORS
The following offers the default timetable for admission into Honors and completion of all Honors projects, based on a regular academic calendar (fall/spring). Note: students wishing to apply for Honors in an off-cycle fashion (spring and fall of the same calendar year) must be in touch with the Chair early in the second term of their junior year to express interest in applying for Honors.
For all Honors candidates: failure to meet established deadlines may result in dismissal from Honors.
- Fall term: candidates meet with the Chair to express interest in pursuing Honors.
- By second Friday of Spring term: project proposal due to Chair.
- Candidates will be informed by mid April of the decision by the faculty of Theatre regarding admission to Honors. Admission into the program will be determined on the basis of the student’s acceptance of the terms and conditions stated by the faculty. Department assigns Honors Advisor(s) to admitted candidates.
SENIOR YEAR, FALL:
- Course registration for Fall: all Honors candidates must enroll in THEA 493
- During term: research and preparation for production or written thesis
- Course pre-registration for Winter Study and Spring term: candidates should expect to register for W32 and THEA 494.
- December 1: progress report due to Honors Advisor. The report is a written statement of 2-3 pages in which the candidate accounts for the progress they have made so far as well as their plans for moving forward in the remainder of the academic year
- End of Fall term: Honors Advisor, in consultation with faculty in Theatre, determines whether a candidate may proceed with Honors for a second term or turn the project intoan Independent Study. Should a candidate not be given permission to continue in Honors for the second term, they must change their enrollments as appropriate for Winter Study and the Spring term.
SENIOR YEAR, WINTER STUDY:
- Candidates must continue to advance their Honors projects, using the time to prepare for their second term
SENIOR YEAR, SPRING:
- March 15: progress report due to Honors Advisor. The report is a written statement of 2-3 pages, in which the candidate accounts for the progress they have made so far aswell as their plans for moving forward in the remainder of the year.
- If applicable, the production and performance component of the Honors project will occur during this term.
- May 1: all written theses and digital production portfolios due to Honors Advisor. Allwritten theses must conform to the formatting guidelines set by Williams College and include proper citation as well as a bibliography. All production components and performance elements must be fully completed by this time. In the case of an Honors project in production, the student must submit to their Honors Advisor a digital production portfolio, which may contain: director’s or actor’s notes or journal, research materials, photographs or video of the production, or design renderings and sketches, etc. The candidate will work with their Honors Advisor to determine the exact contents of the digital portfolio. All production portfolios must also contain a proper bibliography of sources and materials consulted during the project.
- During the final two weeks of classes: oral presentations of theses will be scheduled by the Chair, in consultation with candidates and faculty members.
- By end of exam period: candidates will be informed of the departmental decision ofHonors, High Honors, or No Honors. Note: All written Honors theses must be digitally submitted to the Library Archives by the final day of exam period.
Proposals for Joint or Collaborative Projects:
Students may submit proposals for projects that are collaborative in nature, and may even propose joint projects in which no more than two Senior Theatre Majors plan to execute an Honors project together. However, in such cases the department will evaluate admission to the Honors program on an individual basis, and, should the project be approved, will also determine the awarding of No Honors, Honors, or High Honors on an individual basis. If one student from a joint project is admitted to the Honors program and the other is not, then the department will work with the approved student to see whether a revision to the original proposal will allow the project to proceed.
Technical, Financial, and Staff Support:
Students proposing to engage in production or performance as part of their Honors projects should recognize that departmental constraints (financial, technical, and personnel) dictate to a significant degree what levels of support are possible in any given year. See: Guidelines for Production in Honors Projects. The Department will make every effort to support the interests and goals of students as we see fit and within our range of possibility. However, students should tailor their proposals toward projects that can be produced with modest and limited means, both in material resources and staffing support. All honors projects will be given a fair and equitable budget. Flexibility within proposals is required. Due to their unique nature, not all projects will necessarily receive the exact same kind of technical or material support: at the same time, the department will do its best to assure that Honors projects are supported as equally as possible so as to maximize the educational benefits for each Honors candidate. We aim to create equity of access within the varied requirements of Honors.
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.