Division of the Arts

Theater and Performance

The Theater and Performance Program aims to develop innovative thinkers and artists who use theatrical ideas from the past and present to imagine and instigate the theater of the future. Theater and performance are intrinsically collaborative art forms, and collaboration and devised theater making are at the heart of Bard’s program. Students study and perform in the landmark Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, designed by Frank Gehry. The program is run in close partnership with Live Arts Bard (LAB), the College’s professional residency and commissioning program for the performing arts. LAB introduces students to a wide range of professional artists through courses, workshops, master classes, performances, open rehearsals, and opportunities for collaboration.

The Theater and Performance Program trains well-rounded theater makers who study the history, theory, and contemporary practice of theater and performance; hone their technical abilities as writers, performers, and directors; and create their own productions and performances under the mentorship of master artists and teachers. Students are encouraged to explore the intersection of theater and performance with dance, music, the visual arts, film, and literature, as well as with the sciences and humanities. They work side by side with a faculty of leading professional theater and performance artists; in addition, a wide range of visiting artists from this country and abroad bring a global perspective of cutting-edge theater and performance to the Bard campus.

Areas of Study
Theater and Performance offers courses in context, technique, and creative practice and research. Students who major in the program are expected to take classes in all three areas of study. Context courses include the history of theater and performance, contemporary practice, theories of theater and performance, dramatic literature, and world theater. Technique courses include skills-based classes in playwriting, directing, acting, voice, movement, dramatic structure, performance, and composition. Creative practice and research comprises productions, performance laboratories, master classes, and specialized workshops.

The program’s curriculum emphasizes courses in context and technique, ensuring that a strong foundation is built in the first two years of study. The following courses are required before Moderation: Theater 107, Introduction to Playwriting; Theater 110, Introduction to Acting: The Actor and the Moment; Theater 145, Introduction to Theater and Performance: Revolutions in Time and Space; Theater 146, Introduction to Theater History: Great Theaters of the World; and Theater 244, Introduction to Theater Making. Students also participate in the creation and performance of a group-devised Moderation project.

After Moderation, students are required to take two courses from a menu of options in each of the three areas of study—context, technique, and creative practice and research (for a total of six courses)—and complete a Senior Project.

For the Senior Project, students choose from one of the following three categories:

Participation in the Senior Project Festival: Proposals are considered for a limited number of 25-minute slots in the Senior Project Festival, which is produced at the Fisher Center with budgetary and technical support from the Fisher Center staff. Proposals must include two to four collaborators who are senior Theater and Performance majors and who intend to use the work as their Senior Project. Collaborators may propose a production of an existing play (whole or in excerpt), a new play to be written by one of the collaborators, or a performance created through some other collaborative process. In this third category, the proposal must set out a clear plan for the creative process and give a detailed description of each collaborator’s role in that process. For all of these categories, each collaborator should submit their own proposal, written in consultation with their fellow collaborators and advisers.

The artistic project must be accompanied by a 15- to 20-page paper, in which the student analyzes the project’s artistic goals and accomplishments and situates the project in relation to its theoretical and/or historical contexts. Individual collaborators on a project must each produce their own written component, with clear analysis of the roles they played in the creative process.

Independent theater/performance project: Students may self-produce theater/performance projects in the Old Gym or another space on or off campus. Students forgo technical support from the Fisher Center, but still receive budgetary support. These proposals may represent one Senior Project or the work of multiple collaborators, and the proposed performance should be 25 minutes in length. Each independent project must also be accompanied by a 15- to 20-page paper, in accordance with the guidelines listed above.

Research paper: Students may write a 50- to 60-page paper on a significant aspect of theater and/or performance: theater or performance history or theory, dramatic literature, or contemporary or historical practice.

Recent Senior Projects in Theater and Performance

  • “Harold Pinter and the Theater of the Strange”
  • “Maids,” a retelling of the Odyssey
  • “Procedure to Exit an Enclosed Space,” a directorial investigation/collaboration
  • “Type Z,” an exploration of the types of roles for actors in contemporary film and television
The Theater and Performance Program is located in Bard’s Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts. The Center’s state-of-the-art facilities include studios, workshops, and two theaters, including the flexible LUMA Theater, which seats up to 200.

Program courses emphasize the truly inclusive nature of theater, which encompasses performance, literature, design, history, artistic community, and intellectual rigor. Students are expected to acquire a solid familiarity with dramatic literature and to develop the ability to research the historical context and dramaturgy of a play and to write about it.