The Program

What We Believe

The theatre experience is essentially an act of compassion. As artists we must first imagine the experience of another and then be able to inhabit that person’s perspective in such a way that we understand how their experience would impact us.  Then, in collaboration with our fellow theatre artists, we create a sacred space that engenders a performance through which the members of our audience can exercise their compassion. At its best, theatre teaches the art of compassion, enabling us all to grow in the understanding of ourselves and to make more responsible choices about how we live – knowing that our choices affect the lives of others. Quality theatre, responsibly produced, can change our world for the better.

What We Study

Because theatre practitioners are required to have a broad base of multidisciplinary knowledge, the Department of Theatre Arts believes that the strongest and best preparation for a career in theatre is an excellent liberal arts education. The natural sciences provide a structure for understanding how life works; the humanities give us ways to explain our experiences; the social sciences offer a variety of useful paradigms with which we can navigate through diverse societies. The arts give us the opportunity to synthesize those perspectives.  Artistic expressions of the human experience are designed such that we can stop time, step back and reflect on what we think we know, what we are feeling, and what may lead us to compassion and understanding. This journey is an adventure that may transform our lives and the lives of others.

What We Teach On-Campus

The Department of Theatre Arts curriculum provides learning opportunities in all major aspects of theatre. Classes range from acting and directing to design and construction to global and historical theatrical practices, organization and processes; each class furthers the development of critical thinking, synthesis of ideas, and clarity of thought and expression. Academic theory is interwoven with practical application through student participation in theatrical productions and in-class projects. Three to eight annual departmental, senior project and student theatre company productions provide opportunities to perform, design, stage manage, direct, produce and take on other leadership roles throughout the year.  Guest artists to campus share their work and experience with students in production, workshop, coaching and mentoring situations. Students who take full advantage of the opportunities offered will emerge as theatre artists who impact society through the kinds of theatre they create, the way they work, the stories they bring to light, and the audiences they choose to serve.

Where We Study

Our venue is the 350-seat Wilkinson Theatre. Its fully equipped scene shop is directly behind the stage, while the Green Room, makeup room for ten actors, men’s and women’s dressing rooms are one floor below. The rehearsal room and classroom on are also on this lower floor.

In the fall of 2014, Earlham will add to our facilities a 50’ by 50’ Studio Theatre in the new Visual and Performing Arts Center. This black box theatre, which may seat between 60 to 100 people depending on the seating configuration, increases our ability to stage smaller productions and to actively explore the dynamics of different actor-audience relationships.

Off-Campus Learning Opportunities

The department each year organizes trips to professional theatre performances, workshops and conferences.  When possible, the faculty continues professional work and is often able to extend observation, assistant and networking opportunities to students ready for such opportunities.

Many students choose to enrich their education with off-campus study. The popular Great Lakes College Association's New York Arts Program provides training and internship opportunities while living in New York City for a semester. Students who choose the London Program regularly attend theatrical performances as part of their course of study.

What Happens After Graduation

Most Theatre Arts Department graduates have gone in three general directions. Many have pursued graduate degrees in academics, design or performance at top institutions such as Yale University and New York University. Others have joined professional internship programs at the Actors Theatre of Louisville, Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago or companies in Minneapolis, Seattle, St. Louis and San Francisco. Still other graduates now use the creative, organizational, communication and interpersonal skills they developed through their Theatre Arts studies in occupations ranging from sports broadcasting to business management to the teaching of cognitively impaired middle-school students.

General Education Requirements

To fulfill the Arts General Education Requirement in Theatre Arts, students may select any of the courses marked A-TH for the Theoretical/Historical component, and any of the courses marked A-AP for the Applied component in Theatre Arts. The Department occasionally offers Earlham Seminars.

The Program

A strong liberal arts education is the best preparation for a career in theatre. Based on our experience, students carrying greater than a normal load (15 credits) should not be involved in a theatrical production. Plays take (1) a significant amount of physical time to rehearse and build, (2) complete dedication, commitment and passionate attachment to the production from start to finish, and (3) emotional and spiritual energy to create a production that truly captures the life of the characters and the hearts and minds of the audience.

Students spend their Senior year preparing and producing their senior projects which may be a theatrical production or a research project presented to the campus. Their project, submitted to the Theatre faculty as a proposal, should be approved by the end of their Junior year.

Courses in theory, history and techniques:

  • THEA 250 Introduction to Theatre: Collaboration, Analysis and Expression
  • THEA 260 Acting I
  • THEA 261 Movement for the Stage
  • THEA 270 Theatrecraft
  • THEA 275 Video Production
  • THEA 280 Script Analysis
  • THEA 282 Special Topics
  • THEA 307 Drama (also ENG 307)
  • THEA 350 Trends in Western Theatre History
  • THEA 360 Acting Styles
  • THEA 370 Directing
  • THEA 371 Set, Lighting and Costume Design
  • THEA 372 Drawing and Rendering Designs
  • THEA 373 Advanced Design Practices
  • THEA 381 Shakespeare (also ENG 381)
  • THEA 382 Special Topics
  • THEA 481 Internship
  • THEA 483 Teaching Assistants
  • THEA 484 Ford/Knight Research Project
  • THEA 485 Independent Study
  • THEA 488 Senior Capstone Experience

Courses in Experiential Application

  • THEA 132 Applied Theatre: Set Construction
  • THEA 134 Applied Theatre: Costume Construction
  • THEA 135 Applied Theatre: Lighting Crew
  • THEA 230 Applied Theatre: Acting
  • THEA 235 Applied Theatre: Lighting/Sound Console Operator
  • THEA 236 Applied Theatre: Backstage Running Crew
  • THEA 238 Applied Theatre: Makeup Crew
  • THEA 333 Applied Theatre: Assistant Stage Manager
  • THEA 335 Applied Theatre: Master Electrician
  • THEA 433 Applied Theatre: Stage Manager
  • THEA 434 Applied Theatre: Costume Designer
  • THEA 435 Applied Theatre: Lighting/Sound Designer
  • THEA 436 Applied Theatre: Technical Director
  • THEA 437 Applied Theatre: Set Designer
  • THEA 438 Applied Theatre: Makeup Designer
  • THEA 439 Applied Theatre: Director

The Major

For the Major, students complete the following courses:

  • THEA 250 Introduction to Theatre: Collaboration, Analysis and Expression
  • THEA 260 Acting I
  • THEA 261 Movement for the Theatre
  • THEA 270 Theatrecraft
  • THEA 280 Script Analysis
  • THEA 350 Trends in Western Theatre History
  • THEA 382 Special Topics (may satisfy this major requirement only once)
  • THEA 370 Directing
  • Minimum of six credits in three different areas of Applied Theatre
  • One three-credit course in the Visual and Performing Arts Division outside of the Theatre Arts Department
  • Two upper-level electives in Theatre Arts (300-level or higher)
  • THEA 488 Senior Capstone Experience
  • Successful completion of oral review of Senior Project and Oral Comprehensive Examination

The Minor

  • THEA 250 Introduction to Theatre: Collaboration, Analysis and Expression
  • THEA 350 Trends in Western Theatre History
  • One of the following:
    • THEA 260 Acting I
    • THEA 270 Theatrecraft
  • At least three credits of Applied Theatre and one three-credit upper-level Theatre Arts course OR
  • One credit of Applied Theatre and two three-credit upper-level Theatre Arts courses

* Key

Courses that fulfill
General Education Requirements:

  • (A-AP) = Arts - Applied
  • (A-TH) = Arts - Theoretical/Historical
  • (A-AR) = Analytical - Abstract Reasoning
  • (A-QR) = Analytical - Quantitative
  • (D-D) = Diversity - Domestic
  • (D-I) = Diversity - International
  • (D-L) = Diversity - Language
  • (ES) = Earlham Seminar
  • (IE) = Immersive Experience
  • (RCH) = Research
  • (SI) = Scientific Inquiry
  • (W) = Wellness
  • (WI) = Writing Intensive
  • (AY) = Offered in Alternative Year

For First-Year Students

Many Theatre Arts courses are appropriate for first-year students:
THEA 132, 134, 135, 230, 235, 236, 238, 250, 260, 261 and 333.

*THEA 132 APPLIED THEATRE: SET CONSTRUCTION (1 credit)
Students are taught vocabulary and construction skills, as well as tools and safety while working on the set of current main stage production or senior project. In working with the scenic designer, the student will begin to understand how the set affects the audience’s viewing experience of the play. (A-AP)

*THEA 134 APPLIED THEATRE: COSTUME CONSTRUCTION (1 credit)
Students are taught vocabulary and sewing skills while working on the costumes of current main stage production or senior project. In working with the costume designer, the student will begin to understand how the costumes affect the audience’s perception of the personalities of the play. (A-AP)

*THEA 135 APPLIED THEATRE: LIGHTING CREW (1 credit)
Students are trained in the vocabulary, organizational and operational skills of a theatrical electrician while working on the lighting design of current main stage production or senior project. In working with the lighting, the student will begin to understand how lighting affects the audience’s perception of the world of the play. (A-AP)

*THEA 230 APPLIED THEATRE: ACTING (1-3 credits, as designated by the instructor)
Students cast in a main stage production or senior project collaborate as actors in the process of developing, rehearsing and performing the production for a public audience. Prerequisite: Students must audition and be cast by the production’s director. (A-AP)

*THEA 235 APPLIED THEATRE: LIGHTING/SOUND CONSOLE OPERATOR (2 credits)
Students are trained in the vocabulary, organizational and operational skills of a computer lighting console or sound mixer while working on the design of current main stage production or senior project. In working with the lighting and sound designers, the student will begin to understand how lighting and sound affect the audience’s perception of the world of the play. Requires attendance at the last two weeks of rehearsal. (A-AP)

*THEA 236 APPLIED THEATRE: BACKSTAGE RUNNING CREW (2 credits)
Students are trained in the vocabulary, organizational and operational skills of various backstage duties (props, deck crew or wardrobe) while working on the current main stage production or senior project. In working with the designers, director, cast and stage management the student will begin to understand how a production comes together and learn strong collaborative skills. Requires attendance of the last four weeks of rehearsals. (A-AP)

*THEA 238 APPLIED THEATRE: MAKEUP CREW (2 credits)
Students are taught vocabulary, application skills and visual awareness of a makeup artist while working on the makeup of current main stage production or senior project. In working with the make-up designer, the student will begin to understand how makeup may affect the audience’s perception of the personalities of the play. Training includes seven weeks of makeup application (two classes per week), one week of final rehearsals and all performances. (A-AP)

*THEA 250 INTRODUCTION TO THEATRE: COLLABORATION, ANALYSIS AND EXPRESSION  (3 credits)
Students are introduced to the concepts, vocabulary, traditions and range of interdisciplinary techniques involved in the process of creating Western theatre. Experiential and cooperative learning opportunities around the skills required to bring a play to life lead to student research and discussion of artistic, social and ethical questions. Students also read, analyze and write response papers to a variety of recorded and live theatre events.(A-TH) (AY)

THEA 260 ACTING I (4 credits)
Students learn and practice the fundamental principles of acting within a practical, disciplined approach to the creative process. Work begins by developing awareness of personal mind-body-voice connections and progresses to improvisation, scene study and monologues. No audition required. (A-AP)

THEA 261 MOVEMENT FOR THE STAGE (3 credits)
Students study, explore and experiment with various modes of individual expression, group interactions and visual composition through the use of human bodies in time and space to embody a story on stage. After developing a basic awareness of personal movement habits, students study professional performances and practice techniques to expand their own movement vocabularies. Readings, observation, personal reflection and group work lead to the creation of silent scenes, solo character pieces and ensemble-developed performances. (A-TH, W)

*THEA 270 THEATRECRAFT (4 credits)
Students are introduced to the organization, design and execution of theatre productions. Topics include theatre architectural forms, basic elements of design and composition, scenery, properties, lighting, costumes, sound and make-up. The class includes a two-hour lab in either of three fields: scenery, costumes or lighting. Through their lab work students get to further examine the relationship between the technical aspects of theatre and their support of the overall expression of the production. (A-AP, A-TH)

THEA 275 VIDEO PRODUCTION (3 credits)
Provides a basic understanding of the theory and technologies of video production. Also looks at the functions of video and television as communication media and social forces. Also listed as FILM 275.

*THEA 280 SCRIPT ANALYSIS (3 credits)
The study and application of various analysis techniques used in understanding the structure and mode of expression of a written play, as the theatre artist prepares for the play's production. (A-TH)

THEA 282 SPECIAL TOPICS (2-3 credits)
Supervised activities as a member of the crew responsible for parts of the production not covered by set construction, costume construction or lights/sound crew. Duties are performed in conjunction with the current main stage production or senior project. Examples could include: wig work, scenic artistry, specialty prop construction, recording original sound, mask making, video work or others, pending on the needs of the current production. Prerequisites: Permission of Instructor.

*THEA 307 DRAMA (4 credits)
A study of the common aspects of dramatic form and significant variations. Theories and application. Prerequisite: An Earlham Seminar or consent of the instructor. Also listed as ENG 307. (A-TH)

*THEA 333 APPLIED THEATRE: ASSISTANT STAGE MANAGER (1-3 credits as designated by the instructor)
Students are taught vocabulary, communication and organizational management skills while serving as part of the stage management team for a main stage production or senior project. In working with the stage manager and director throughout the rehearsal period and run of the show, students will begin to understand the complex challenges of coordinating the various elements that affect audience perceptions of the play. (A-AP)

*THEA 335 APPLIED THEATRE: MASTER ELECTRICIAN (3 credits)
Students are trained in the vocabulary, organizational and leadership skills of a theatrical mater electrician while working on the lighting design of current main stage production or senior project. While executing the lighting design artfully is important, the focus of this course is on planning and leadership. Prerequisite: THEA 135 and 235. (A-AP)

THEA 350 TRENDS IN WESTERN THEATRE HISTORY I (3 credits)
This course is an overview of the formal elements that distinguish one theatrical period from another. By the end of the course the student will be able to 1) accurately list and define the scriptural and performance elements of most Western dramatic forms, 2) accurately identify the historical period of a play based on analysis of dramatic elements, and 3) effectively develop and execute research of a play to gain greater depth of knowledge concerning that play. (RCH)

THEA 360 ACTING STYLES (4 credits)
Students further develop and practice scene analysis, character development, rehearsal and performance skills through study of specific acting techniques required for various dramatic genres. Coursework begins with historical, contextual and social research as related to the world of the play that then informs exploration of physical, voice/diction and behavioral choices that embody the playwright’s vision. Students also gain practical experience with staging techniques that effectively negotiate the desired relationship with the audience. Prerequisite: THEA 260. May be repeated for credit.

THEA 370 DIRECTING (4 credits)
Students are taught the basic skills required to integrate script analysis, production design, character development and staging techniques to realize a specific theatrical vision for an audience. Experiential learning opportunities arise as Directing students facilitate the work of Acting Styles students in classroom exercises, scene work and a final collaborative project for public presentation. Prerequisite: THEA 260, 270 and 280.

THEA 371 SET, LIGHTING AND COSTUME DESIGN (3 credits)
A scenographic approach to designing for theatre. In addition to creating theoretical designs for productions, perception, formal design analysis and non-verbal expressions based on the script are studies. Intended for directors, designers, filmmakers and all interested in the non-verbal methods of expression in the theatre. Prerequisite: THEA 270; THEA 280 also encouraged. (AY)

THEA 372 DRAWING AND RENDERING DESIGNS (3 credits)
Trains students in the methods used in the theatre for expressing their design ideas. Develops communication methods used to bring the design to fruition. Includes drawing, painting, model-building and drafting. Students are encouraged to select two areas of specialization from: scenic, costume, lighting, sound, makeup and prop design. Prerequisites: THEA 280 and THEA 371. (RCH) (AY)

THEA 373 ADVANCED DESIGN PRACTICES (3 credits)
Following an approved learning contract, students will work on assignments and projects personalized to their needs and goals. Assignments and projects include advanced design problems, continued technique development, and building the portfolio and resume. Intended for students clearly planning on a career in theatrical design or those interested in developing the advanced skills necessary for acceptance into graduate schools and professional internships. Prerequisites: THEA 372. (RCH) (AY)

*THEA 381 SHAKESPEARE (4 credits)
A study of the poetic and dramatic art of Shakespeare through an examination of six to 10 plays, including tragedies, comedies, histories and romances. Approach varies between attention to the written text and the text as performance. Prerequisite: ENG 302 or consent of the instructor. Also listed as ENG 381. (A-TH)

THEA 382 SPECIAL TOPICS (3 credits)
Topics include theatre of non-Western countries, 20th-century theatre movements, theatre of race, class and gender, and theatre as change agent. Prerequisites: Earlham Seminar. (RCH)

THEA 399 PRACTICAL SHAKESPEARE (3 credits)
This May Term course will guide students through their design, proposal, implementation and assessment of projects related to the Richmond Shakespeare Festival (RSF). All student projects will be guided both by the course instructor and by an RSF member with project-related expertise, and projects need not be English or Theatre-specific. Students will read and discuss the two plays that comprise the Festival’s 2015 season A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Titus Andronicus, as well as those plays’ performance histories and their RSF scripts. By the end of this course, students should not only have some greater experience identifying and solving real-world problems in a real-world organization, but have made meaningful connections between that experience and their personal and professional aspirations. Also listed as ENG 399.

THEA 433 APPLIED THEATRE: STAGE MANAGER (3-4 credits as designated by the instructor)
Students learn and further develop vocabulary, communication and organizational management skills as they work with the director to supervise student actors, assistant stage managers and technicians during a main stage production or senior project. Closely supervised by theatre faculty, the stage management student learns to facilitate production meetings, interdepartmental communications, staging rehearsals and tech rehearsals as well as to call the show and coordinate the various elements that affect audience perceptions of the public performances. Prerequisite: THEA 333.

THEA 434 APPLIED THEATRE: COSTUME DESIGNER (4 credits)
Supervised closely by the theatre faculty, the student works as the costume designer for a main stage production or senior project. Prerequisites: THEA 234, 373 and consent of the instructor.

THEA 435 APPLIED THEATRE: LIGHTING/SOUND DESIGNER (4 credits)
Supervised closely by the theatre faculty, the student works as the lighting or sound designer for a main stage production or senior project. Prerequisites: THEA 335, 372 and consent of the instructor.

THEA 436 APPLIED THEATRE: TECHNICAL DIRECTOR (4 credits)
Supervised closely by the theatre faculty, students work individually as the technical director for a main stage production or senior project. Prerequisites: THEA 270, 336, 372 and consent of the instructor.

THEA 437 APPLIED THEATRE: SET DESIGNER (4 credits)
Supervised closely by the theatre faculty, students work individually as the set designer for a main stage production or senior project. Prerequisite: THEA 132, 371, 372 and consent of the instructor.

THEA 438 APPLIED THEATRE: MAKEUP DESIGNER (4 credits)
Supervised closely by the theatre faculty, students work individually as the makeup designer for a main stage production or senior project. Prerequisites: THEA 238, 374 and consent of the instructor.

THEA 439 APPLIED THEATRE: DIRECTOR (4 credits)
Supervised closely by the theatre faculty, students work individually as the director of a student project. Prerequisites: THEA 370 and consent of the instructor.

THEA 481 INTERNSHIP, FIELD STUDY OR OTHER FIELD EXPERIENCES (1-3 credits)
Credit for a summer or semester internship may be granted with approval prior to internship. Consult the convener or the Theatre Arts Department for details.

THEA 483 TEACHING ASSISTANTS (1-3 credits)

THEA 484 FORD/KNIGHT RESEARCH PROJECT (1-4 credits)
Collaborative research with faculty funded by the Ford/Knight Program. (RCH)

THEA 485 INDEPENDENT STUDY (1-3 credits)
A self-initiated program of study on a particular topic of interest to the student. Petition must be approved by a faculty adviser and the Academic Dean.

THEA 488 SENIOR CAPSTONE EXPERIENCE (4 credits)
Students may fulfill their senior requirement in Theatre Arts by doing a project in acting, directing, design or other area, as approved by the Department. The oral defense of the project includes questions that fulfill the requirement for comprehensive exams. Students work closely with faculty advisers.

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Earlham College, an independent, residential college, aspires to provide the highest-quality undergraduate education in the liberal arts, including the sciences, shaped by the distinctive perspectives of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).

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