2023-2024 Undergraduate Catalog 
    May 23, 2024  
2023-2024 Undergraduate Catalog

Department of Performing Arts

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The Department of Performing Arts educates students in the collaborative arts of theater within their historical and cultural contexts. Its professionally active faculty guides students in programs that offer both rigor and creative challenge. Studio and production work are central to all majors in the department and are integrated into the larger context of a liberal arts education. The department also offers coursework in music and dance in support of its Musical Theatre major and to enrich the College’s liberal arts curriculum.

The arts of live theater are central to the education offered by a communication college. Students in the Department of Performing Arts are challenged to develop a deep understanding of self along with a sense of ethical responsibility to the immediate community and society at large. Through productions, internships, and extracurricular activities, students are encouraged to work in the community. They explore and develop their own roles as professional artists, industry leaders, and educators.

The faculty of the Department of Performing Arts is committed to the following goals.

Students will:

  • Develop an experiential and theoretical understanding of basic theater skills in the performance, design, technical, production, and educational aspects of art.

  • Learn how cultures affect the creative process and how, in turn, the creative process contributes to the evolution of cultures.

  • Develop theoretical and historical understanding of the theater and the conventional standards by which we respond to the art form through scripts, knowledge of the physical theater and production techniques, and the aesthetics of the major historical periods of drama.

  • Develop their individual and collaborative potentials and interests as they prepare to enter the fields of performing arts and theater education in both professional and applied theater and related fields [of film and television].


The department offers eight Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degrees. Each of these programs demands that students commit to intensive work at the center of their Emerson education. Each has defined retention standards and requires, as a part of the initial application to the College, the completion of a competitive major-specific artistic review consisting of either an audition, a portfolio and interview, or essay. The faculty believes that students should not be encouraged to enter or allowed to complete BFA programs unless they demonstrate the kind of work ethic, talent, and skills development demanded by the profession.


External Programs

Kasteel Well, the Netherlands

Performing Arts majors are eligible to enroll in the semester-abroad program at Kasteel Well in the Netherlands in accordance with major and semester restrictions below. A variety of Liberal Arts courses and several required Performing Arts courses are offered; interested students should consult with their advisor.

Performing Arts Major Semesters Eligible to Attend
Theatre & Performance Fall or Spring of sophomore year
Theatre Education & Performance Fall or Spring of sophomore year
Musical Theatre, Acting Summer only, liberal arts courses only
Theatre, Theatre Education Fall or Spring of sophomore year
Stage & Production Management Spring of sophomore year in consultation with advisor
Design/Technology Junior year in consultation with advisor

Emerson Los Angeles

In accordance with major and semester restrictions below, seniors may spend a semester at Emerson Los Angeles, where internship opportunities are highlighted alongside Liberal Arts and Performing Arts offerings.

Performing Arts Major Semesters Eligible to Attend
Theatre, Theatre Education Fall or Spring
Theatre & Performance Fall or Spring
Theatre Education & Performance Fall or Spring
Musical Theatre, Acting Ineligible
Stage & Production Management Spring only
Design/Technology Fall or Spring in consultation with advisor

Global Pathways Summer Programs: Barcelona

Students may take Global Pathways: Barcelona in summers only as rising sophomores, juniors, or seniors. This 8-credit program consist of two courses, TH 315 : Topics in Contemporary Theatre and IN 360 : Visual Art, Theatre, and Culture, in Barcelona and fulfills (choose two) the requirements for an IN course, Aesthetic Perspective, Global Diversity, the Latinx Studies minor, and the Art History minor in the General Education Curriculum, and/or for the Advanced Drama Studies course in the PA Core OR the two upper-level Liberal Arts courses required for VMA majors.

Performing Arts students are also able to enroll in most other Global Pathways Summer Programs in consultation with their advisor.


Performing Arts majors may enroll in a maximum of 8 credits of internship with Boston-area, Los Angeles, or national/international companies as part of their major requirements.

Change of Major into Performing Arts

Current Emerson students already matriculated in a major outside of Performing Arts may request to change majors into any major offered by the Department of Performing Arts except BFA Musical Theatre and BFA Acting. This change of major request must always begin by meeting with the Area Head of the intended program and may require an audition or interview. Only one request and audition/interview of this kind is permitted per student.

Be advised that, if required, auditions and interviews are competitive and acceptance into Performing Arts is in no way guaranteed for current Emerson students. Although the Department of Performing Arts does offer courses for students from across the College, high school and transfer applicants who are primarily interested in studying Theatre at Emerson College should apply to a major in Performing Arts directly as a part of the application process outlined in the Undergraduate Admission section of this catalog.

Auditing a Course

Students who wish to attend a course without working for, or expecting to receive, formal credit may register to audit the course. Students who audit a course may not participate in the class, do not take examinations, and do not submit papers. Students may only audit lecture-type courses; students may not audit performance (acting, dance, voice, etc.) or production (theatre design, technology, and management) studio courses in which experiential learning is the primary methodology. Students must gain permission to audit a course from the course instructor and the department chair and may not register to audit a course until the first day of classes in order to give priority to students needing to take a course for credit. Enrollment may not exceed room capacity.

Production Opportunities

The department’s major performance spaces include the Cutler Majestic Theatre, a 1,200-seat proscenium house located in the heart of Boston’s Theatre District; the Paramount Center, which houses a 590-seat art deco theater as well as the 100-seat Jackie Liebergott Black Box Theatre; and the Tufte Performance and Production Center, which encompasses the Semel Theater, a 216-seat thrust, and the Greene Theater, a 108-seat end-stage theater. All theater spaces are supported with scene, paint, props, and costume shops, design studios, rehearsal studios, practice rooms, and a make-up studio.

Emerson Stage

Emerson Stage is the producing organization within the Department of Performing Arts that presents a full theatrical season directed by faculty and professional guest artists but where students perform, design, stage manage, dramaturg, assist, and support each production. Through productions, the curricular goals of the classroom and studio are put into practice as students are exposed to a wide range of performance and production opportunities from every major theatrical genre.

During the academic year, seven to nine major productions are fully mounted at the Paramount, Cutler Majestic, and the Tufte Center theatres. Every spring, NewFest is mounted through the generosity of Emerson alumnus Rod Parker ‘51 and includes a student-written production, readings of new work written by students, and a workshop production by a professional playwright in residence. Casting for Emerson Stage productions is limited to Performing Arts majors.

Class Projects

Directing Projects, Mini-Musicals, Ensemble Projects, Playwriting, and Solo Performance Festivals all may feature the work of students as directors, dramaturgs, designers, stage managers, and performers.

Educator Licensure Programs

Students who are interested in obtaining Initial Licensure in Massachusetts as a Teacher of Theatre (all levels, pre-K through grade 12) should see the Educator Preparation and Licensure section of this catalog and consult with the department’s program director of educator preparation as early as possible (or before the end of sophomore year) regarding programs and requirements. Students transferring to Emerson College above the sophomore level should contact the program director for program requirements and admission procedures.

The Theatre Education faculty offers its students review sessions for the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL) once each semester. Attendance at one of the review sessions prior to taking the exams is mandatory.

It is recommended that students take the Communicational Literacy Skills (CLST) early in their program and take the Theatre Subject Matter Test (SMT) near the end of their studies, but prior to graduation.

Students who have successfully completed all their course and practicum requirements will be considered program completers and those who have passed both parts of the MTEL will be licensure eligible.

The Initial License requires completion of a BFA degree in Theatre Education or Theatre Education and Performance along with completion of the Education Licensure Program. The student teaching practicum must be fulfilled through Emerson. The Licensure Program consists of: TH 265 : Foundations of Education, TH 463 : Student Teaching Seminar, 2-10 credits of TH 465 : Student Teaching Practicum, and PS 202 : Developmental Psychology. The last course may also be used toward a student’s Liberal Arts distribution in Psychology.

The Initial License is valid for five years, after which time a student wishing to maintain licensure must meet the additional qualifications for the Professional License.


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