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Master of Arts Degree

Ronald Wainscott Ronald Wainscott
Head of Theatre History, Theory, and Literature
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The candidate for the Master of Arts degree is expected to be familiar with all areas of study in theatre and drama but, in accordance with the student's aims and prior training, may be allowed to concentrate his/her study largely in one area. Usually the thesis subject or project the candidate selects will determine the area of concentration. In that area the candidate must acquire a mastery sufficient to allow him/her to do independent thinking and to demonstrate the results in a thesis. All graduate students are expected to supplement the knowledge acquired in courses by participating in the various production activities of the department and by independent reading and study.

Learn more about our current M.A./Ph.D. students and recent alumni »

Although every effort has been made to ensure accuracy, the official source of information regarding Graduate School degree requirements is the University Graduate School web page.

Program Requirements

  1. An adequate undergraduate academic background for graduate study in theatre and drama. This should include at least three undergraduate courses in the general area of theatre production: one of these must have been in either Acting or Directing; another in Costuming, Lighting, Scenic Design, or Stagecraft; and at least three courses in the area of Theatre History, Dramatic Literature, and Dramatic Theory.
  2. An understanding of research methods and a general knowledge of bibliographical resources in theatre and drama.
  3. A well-balanced program of at least 30 semester hours including:
    • T500, Introduction to Graduate Study and Research (1.5 cr.)
    • T501, Historiography (1.5 cr.)
    • At least 20 semester hours in the department (which may include T500 and five semester hours of credit in T895, MA Thesis). The remaining ten semester hours may be taken in the department or an allied field (or fields) outside the department. (The student must have a grade point average of at least 3.0 in all coursework taken for graduate credit.)
    • At least 15 semester hours in courses numbered 500 or above (which may include T500 and T895).
  4. Language Requirement. The ability to translate scholarly materials on theatre from one foreign language must be demonstrated.
  5. A minimum of two semesters, or equivalent summer sessions, in residence at Indiana University. (The entire MA program must be completed within a five-year period.)
  6. The mastery of a specific topic, demonstrated by a thesis and an oral examination upon it and appropriate materials or a Master’s Essay.

Recent Graduate Seminars in Theatre History, Theory, and Literature

Visit our faculty page for bios and credientials »

Spring 2014

  • THTR T566 / FRIT F825: Early Modern Drama and the Arts (1571-1691), Alison Calhoun
  • THTR T775: Celebrity, Characters, and Theories of Performance, Amy Cook

    Focusing on how we perceive characters in art and life, this seminar investigates research from within the cognitive sciences to understand how it might enrich our readings of the performances and representations around us.

    How does a spectator make sense of the combination of the actor and the character? This seminar will address the questions that arise when we think about casting; casting as a cognitive process and casting as a creative process. When we engage with each other—getting to know the people who play roles in our lives—is the same creative cognitive process that finds Kevin Spacey a great Richard III and Kelsey Grammar a disastrous Macbeth. Some academic analysis has focused on semiotic readings of “celebrity;” trade books on casting talk about what to look for when identifying the right actor. The notion of a “right actor” has been radically destabilized by “color blind” casting: when asked to describe the salient features of Willy Loman, say, or James Bond, few spectators or casting directors would say “white” though attempts to cast these characters with non-white actors have met with resistance. The process by which we build a character from the inputs of context, memory, text, and the physical properties of the body playing that character is far more powerful than it has been acknowledged.

  • THTR T583: Theatre East/West, Jennifer Goodlander

    In the 20th century, as world-travel has become more accessible, theatre has experienced an explosion of cross-influences.  Artists have shared stories, techniques, and especially aesthetics.  This phenomenon of artistic development and sharing is not new – but recently it carries baggage of colonialism, tourism, and differences in economic and political power between “first” and “third” world nations. “Tradition” or “traditional performance” carries a certain value within local and global contexts. 

    This class examines both Western and Nonwestern performance, and how these performances, and categories of performance, have shaped the practice and teaching of theatre in the 21st century.  The categories of Asian performance, intercultural theatre, and tradition each embody a considerable scope of work—it is not the intention of this class to give a comprehensive or complete overview of any of these topics. Rather this class seeks to introduce the student to a variety of performance genres, practices, and debates so that each student will have the tools to do further research and practice. Goals include attempts to:

        • Develop an understanding and appreciation of traditional theatre genres in Asia.  Our study will focus on aesthetics and story but we will also explore the role that performance plays in Asian cultures.
        • Workshop some of the physical and vocal styles used in traditional Asian theatre.
        • Examine a variety of theatre artists that are forging companies/productions/systems of training with international aesthetics. 
        • Understand some of the theoretical models for discussing intercultural theatre practices.
        • Investigate the notion of “tradition” and how it relates to performance in contemporary global societies.
        • Participate in the debate concerning ethics surrounding intercultural performance.
        • Apply our understanding of methods, aesthetics, and theory in papers and creative projects exploring possibilities that emerge when you combine performance traditions from the East and West.

Fall 2013

  • THTR T571: Studies in Renaissance and Baroque Theatre, Amy Cook
  • THTR T583: Critical Theory and Performance, Jennifer Goodlander
  • THTR T775: Theatre of Ugliness, Ronald Wainscott

Spring 2013

  • THTR T542, History of Directing, Ronald Wainscott
  • THTR T775: Cognitive Approaches to Arts and Humanities, Amy Cook

    This seminar is designed to introduce graduate students from different areas to the research and scholarship happening at the intersection of cognitive science and the arts and humanities. Students will probe the work for methodological strengths and weaknesses, looking to understand what is gained by an interdisciplinary approach to disciplinary problems. My hope is that students will find ways to think about questions in their own area from a different perspective and develop new tools to ask and answer new questions. I believe we can and must complicate how we are reading drama and performance to create smarter work.

  • THTR T583: Women in Performance, Jennifer Goodlander

Fall 2012

  • THTR T566: Practicum on Scholarship and Performance, Amy Cook with Ellen MacKay from IU's Department of English

    This course is designed to answer the question, how can we as scholars think with, respond to, document and otherwise engage performance? Where are we now that performance ethnography, reviews, and casebooks seem outmoded, but blogs, crowd-sourcing and Twitter feeds seem intellectually undercooked?

    We believe the question is a timely one. In this election year, authenticity, liveness, typecasting, theatricality and performativity are uniquely pressing public concerns. We will seize on the opportunities afforded by this cultural moment, including debates, rallies, scholarly presentations and theatrical productions, but in equal measure, we will take our cue from the interests of the class. Students will help select and curate the course readings, and all assignments will be designed to serve individual research interests. Our goal will be to discover, develop and discuss the best practices for the performance-based scholarship we each mean to pursue.

  • THTR T583: Ritual/Theatre/Performance Jennifer Goodlander

    How do theories of ritual and the examination of ritual as a kind of theatre influence the way we view theatre? How do these complicate our understanding of theatre artists who use ritual in their performance? What kind of analytical lens does the study of ritual give to our understanding of theatre and performance within a variety of cultures and contexts.

    Ritual, sometimes cited as a possible origin of theatrical performance, has often excited ideas about theatrical creation, experience, themes, and relevance from the Greeks to the American avant-garde. Rituals can also be understood as a special kind of performance or action that contains religious or spiritual significance. Rituals involve the human body, dance, music, masks, puppets, and trance in performances that reveal and reify cultures around the world. In this class we are going to examine ritual in a transnational and transtemporal context in order to better understand the significance of and relationship between ritual and theatre. Our goals include plans to:

        • Investigate theories for understanding the performance of rites and rituals.
        • Examine the cultural expressions of religious beliefs and practices as they relate to theatre and performance.
        • Explore and experience theatre that is inspired by ritual practice, aesthetics, and structure.
        • Complicate the relationship between ritual and theatre.
  • THTR T775: Seminar in Theatre History: Harold Pinter & Caryl Churchill, Ronald Wainscott

    This seminar explores the plays and careers of British playwrights Harold Pinter and Caryl Churchill and their historical and theatrical context. We will read their plays in mostly production order, although occasionally in composition order.  At least one new play, often several short ones will be due each class period.

Spring 2012

  • THTR T571: Molière and Friends, Roger Herzel
  • THTR T572: Romanticism into Realism, Ronald Wainscott

    Examinations of significant European plays and theatrical development from Sturm und Drang at the end of the 18th century through the shift to realism and romantic realism. We will give special attention to gender and spatial issues.

Fall 2011

  • THTR T566: American Theatre and Drama, Ronald Wainscott
  • THTR T571: Shakespeare: Page, Stage, and Screen, Amy Cook

    Shakespeare’s plays were meant to be performed and this course will take an in-depth look at the plays from the perspective of the performance of which they are (an unreliable) record. We will learn about the performance conditions of the early modern period, the textual history of the plays, and scrutinize the language of the plays for signs of the performance it commands. In particular we will track the signs of staging (entrances, groups, asides), props, the body of the boy player, and the sounds the verse makes in the (imagined) Globe. Assignments will include a short video demonstrating the relationship between a creative concept for Troilus and Cressida.

  • THTR T583: Comedy: Aristotle to Oscar Wilde, Roger Herzel

Spring 2011

  • THTR T583: Twentieth Century Theory - The Act and the Audience Amy Cook

    In this course, we read key theoretical texts from the twentieth century on acting and perception and in this way investigate how theatre has staged and challenged what it means to be human in the 20th century. Stanislavsky’s system of acting invents or presupposes a very different idea of the self and the group than does Ann Bogart’s Viewpoints theory. We will read theories of acting from Stanislavsky, Brecht, Grotowski, Anna Deavere Smith, and Ann Bogart against key critical 20th century critical texts on the self and the group, such as Louis Althusser’s Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses, Erving Goffman’s Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1959), Joseph Roach’s Cities of the Dead, Donna Haraway’s "A Manifesto for Cyborgs,” and George Lakoff’s and Mark Johnson’s, Metaphors We Live By, among others.

  • THTR T583: Albee and his Contemporaries, Rakesh Solomon

    First of all, this course will examine the distinguished career of Edward Albee. Over a period of five decades, Albee has produced an impressive and wide range of dramatic works that has earned national and international acclaim from theatre critics, scholars and practitioners. We will read nearly all his plays, study his major productions in America and Europe, and review the main interpretations of his work offered by critics and scholars. Given my own attendance at Albee’s rehearsals, we will also study how the author translated these plays into stage performances when he directed professional productions on Broadway and elsewhere.

    Secondly, we will locate our study of Albee within the larger context of recent American theatre. To do this we will examine the careers of two or three of his most important fellow playwrights - major figures like Sam Shepard, August Wilson, and Tony Kushner. Some of these playwrights have been influenced by Albee; in some cases he has helped them with artistic advice and practical production support and in other cases he has directed their plays. We will seek parallels between his work and theirs, as well as discuss the many divergences in themes, styles, authorial goals, and professional histories and agendas.

  • THTR 775: Teaching Theatre History, Ronald Wainscott

    This seminar is not just about pedagogy, but about developing a philosophy and recognizing a personal point of view for the teaching of undergraduate-level theatre history and historiography.  We will examine methods for teaching theatre history, selecting content, identifying context, the use of plays, organizing courses, the nature of written assignments and testing, selecting and using textbooks, anthologies and other readings.   Aside from production courses, the most likely undergraduate courses one is likely to teach are a 1 to 4-semester survey of theatre history, a survey of dramatic literature, or American theatre history.  Occasionally, one may be able to teach a specialty course or seminar in theatre history or literature.  Our primary focus will be on the survey courses, but we will examine others as well.

Fall 2010

  • THTR T568: Ibsen and Strindberg, Ronald Wainscott
  • THTR T571: Trauma and Laughter on the Greek and Roman Stage Amy Cook

    All violence is a performance, generating trauma and controlling the gaze. Aristotle may haverelegated it to back stage, but it is central to Greek and Roman drama. Thelanguage drips with blood and the reveal is a brief look at devastation. Laughter is moving and contagious. It shakes you and alters you from toe to top and it is unlikely to happen when you are alone. What is funny and why? What is the force of humor on the Greek and Roman stage? The physical experiences of trauma and laughter happen to the audience; what is onstage is defined by what happens in the spectators’ bodies. 

  • THTR T583: New British and Irish Drama from 1990-2010, Rakesh Solomon

    This course will examine some of the most provocative playwrights writing in the United Kingdom and Ireland today. Together these dramatists have radically redefined the theatre they inherited and re-engaged a new and younger generation of audiences and theatre practitioners. Much of this drama (though not all) - labeled variously as In-Yer-Face Theatre or Brutalist Theatre or New Senecan Theatre - is the most exciting and innovative theatre in the English language, and it has defined its own unique theatrical aesthetic.

    We will study a broad and representative spectrum of this theatre from 1990 to the present by looking at twenty different playwrights, including two or three who began their careers before the 1990s but have had a significant presence in the theatre of the last decade and a half. We will examine these authors’ characteristic preoccupations, styles, and particular contributions to the shaping of the broad contours of this theatre. We will also analyze how these playwrights critique their era’s society, politics, and culture.

    Wherever possible, moreover, we will look at the role of directors, actors, and theatre organizations in the formation of this theatre. Overall, our deliberations should lead to a clear delineation of this theatre’s aesthetics, obsessions, and achievements.

Spring 2010

  • THTR T542: Theories of Directing, Rakesh Solomon
  • THTR T583: Bardolatry - Shakespeare, Remakes and inventions, Amy Cook

    This class seeks to understand Shakespeare with and through the continued fascination with interpreting and retelling the plays. This history of remounting and recycling both comes from and creates the Shakespeare brand. We see ourselves—our self, our world, our history and our future--through his plays. It is a cultural touchstone and shibboleth. Some of the questions we will be asking include: 

        • What is our understanding of the story and themes of each play?
        • How does our investment in and obsession with the author of the play shape and drive where we understand meaning to be created?
        • How does “reading” the plays through performance impact our understanding of the play and our understanding of authorship?
        • How does each play—in its historical context and in the context of its reproduction or retelling—illuminate the “age and body of the time?”
        • What happens when the play is unstageable?  

    To address these questions we will read and discuss one of the plays and then read a play written based on one of the plays or see a movie adaptation of the play. Some of the movies are not widely available and I recommend organizing viewing parties.

  • THTR T775: European and American Theatre Between the World Wars, Ronald Wainscott

    This seminar explores one of most diverse and prolific periods of theatre in the history of our art form.  The years 1910 to 1939 is a remarkable period in terms of experiment, volatility, global sharing and influence in all the arts, not just theatre.  For theatre, however, it is its last great push as a majority performing art, not as a minority art form which describes its current state.  Bounded by two world wars, and including incredible growth in commercialism, huge advances in women’s rights, the introduction of radio, and the Great Depression, and perhaps just as significant, the introduction of the spoken word to film.  And of course television was just around the corner.  This era represents both an end point and the advent of a new phase of theatre activity. We will explore theatre movements, artists, plays, and theatrical developments both in terms of their socio-historical-political context as well as their impact on our own era.


Transfer credits must meet the particular requirements of the MA program and be formally recommended by the department of Theatre and Drama to the Graduate School. A candidate may transfer up to 8 hours of appropriate graduate credit from other institutions.


All MA students are expected to maintain a GPA or 3.2 or higher. To fall below this threshold will result in probation for one semester and removal from the program if not corrected within one semester. All appropriate grades are B or higher. To make a course or seminar grade that falls below a B may result in probation.

Financial Aid

Various scholarships, fellowships, and loans may be available through the University Graduate School or the Office of Student Financial Assistance. Inquiries should be sent to: Office of Student Financial Assistance, Indiana University, Franklin Hall 208, Bloomington, Indiana 47405.

Graduate Appointments with Financial Aid

Graduate appointments with financial aid are intended to provide (1) essential services for the Department and (2) financial aid for persons of unusual academic or creative ability and promise. While the choice of an institution for graduate work should be made on a basis other than the amount of financial assistance available, we recognize the importance of this factor and explain here our graduate appointment policies.

Academic Appointments

The standard graduate appointment is a 50% Full Time Employment (FTE) position requiring 20 hours of service per week or the teaching of three to four courses per academic year. Stipends for these graduate appointments are paid on a monthly basis and will have all appropriate taxes and deductions withheld. Students holding graduate appointments are eligible for fee scholarships which pay the cost of tuition for 24 credit hours of study during the academic year and 6 credit hours in the summer, with the exception of certain non-remittable fees. Please contact the head of your area of interest for current values of appointments and fee remittance.

There are two types of graduate appointments:

Graduate Assistantships
Graduate assistants work in various areas of theatre production (acting, costuming, lights/sound, props, stagecraft, stage management) or work in the departmental offices (audience development, dramaturg).

Associate Instructorships
Associate instructors teach first year courses in acting, introduction to theatre, and script analysis. These appointments are open to PhD students who have completed 30 hours of graduate work.


Appointment of associate instructorships and graduate assistantships, as well as the awarding of fellowships, is contingent upon: maintenance of a 3.2 academic average, satisfactory performance of duties of the appointment or fellowship, and enrollment in a specified minimum number of graduate hours

Persons seeking financial aid through a graduate appointment must submit an application for admission into the University Graduate School (complete with all transcripts, letters of recommendation, and Graduate Record Examination scores). If a student has skills in program areas other than for what he/she is applying, a separate statement outlining those skills should be included.

For some graduate students there is also the possibility of summer employment at the Indiana Festival Theatre., a professional repertory theatre, run in conjunction with the Department of Theatre and Drama on the IU Campus since 2011.

Graduate students in the Department of Theatre and Drama may also apply for appointments in other departments at Indiana University. Write directly to the appropriate departments for information on these appointments.