Doctor of Philosophy (MA/PhD) in Performance Studies

The School of Communication's graduate program in performance studies is rooted in the analysis and exploration of performance as both artistic practice and scholarly method, and as a means for engaging history, culture, and human expression.

Students in the program produce provocative research and creative work in cultural studies and ethnography, performance theory and criticism, and the adaptation and staging of narrative texts.

The Department of Performance Studies works closely with other departments and programs within the university. In your coursework and research you will draw from such fields as Anthropology, African Studies, African-American Studies, Gender Studies, Radio-TV-Film, Theatre & Drama, and others. Performance studies PhD students may also earn a graduate certificate in Gender Studies or African Studies while pursuing their degree. Performance Studies also participates actively in the Graduate School's recently developed Cluster initiative, which fosters interdisciplinary study and interdepartmental connections.  As part of the Critical Studies in Theatre & Performance cluster, the department has helped to offer workshops for graduate students on such topics as collegiality and ethics, grant applications, job interviews, and publication of the dissertation.    Detailed information about the Graduate School Cluster Initiative is available at www.tgs.northwestern.edu/academics/academic-programs/cluster-certificate/.

Recent dissertation topics exemplify the diverse research that students pursue, and provide a sense of scope and range of the department:

  • The performance of activism as a counter-narrative to mainstream media following the 1992 Los Angeles Rebellion
  • The intersections between clown theatre and historical theatre and performance practices
  • West African dance practices in the 1960s and their emergence in US dance companies in the 1970s
  • Performance ethnography of community gardeners and gardens in Chicago
  • Pleasure, power, and performance in the sex museum
  • Teaching performance in the digital age

The department is housed in the newly reconstructed Annie May Swift Hall, which contains offices, seminar rooms, auditorium, and the Alvina Krause studio theatre. The department also makes extensive use of the Theatre & Interpretation Center, which contains four theatres, costume and scene shops, dance studios, and rehearsal spaces.