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Main office:
Fine Arts Center 112


About the Department

Undergraduate Program

Graduate Program


About the Department


For nearly forty years, the Department of Theater at the UMass Amherst has been a center for vibrant teaching and exceptional theater training. The Department is a place where excellence is pursued, where mentorship matters, where quality counts. It's a place where lives are changed.


The Department is strongly grounded in small classes for maximum interaction between students and a world-class faculty at both the graduate and undergraduate level. Professors, on a first-name basis with students, transform lives with their dedication to teaching and commitment to the highest professional standards.
Because of its reputation as one of the outstanding teaching departments at the university, and because theater offers a chance for building community, students recognize that the skills and values taught are more important today than ever. These skills and values — discipline, teamwork, communication, creative expression, collective problem-solving — change lives and define careers, whether students choose to work on stage, film, or TV, or to go on to pursue successful careers in law, broadcasting, management, advertising, arts administration, teaching, and social work.

Undergraduate Program


The course of study in the Department of Theater is grounded in the belief that the performing arts draw on a unique combination of intellectual and artistic skills and talents, which are most fully developed when theory and practice are integrated into the learning experience. Students in the program gain expertise in all the fundamental areas of theatrical art in graduated sequences of study designed to bring into focus rigorous critical thinking, precise methods of research, and imaginative expression.

Although theater majors often focus in on a specific area of the field, such as performance, design and production, directing, or dramaturgy, the major is designed to give students experience in all the major areas of theater. As a result, students leave the department superbly trained, with a well-rounded base of knowledge that makes them competitive candidates for employment as well as graduate study. In addition to coursework, students participate in productions, serving as actors, designers, stage managers, directors and dramaturgs, both in our season and in independent undergraduate productions and informal events. Undergraduate theater majors also participate in many special events designed to supplement the curriculum, ranging from hands-on master classes with guest professionals to career-development workshops.

When a student completes the BA in Theater at UMass, he or she will be able to:

1. Engage in rigorous critical thinking.

2. Execute precise methods of research.

3. Be able to read, understand, analyze, and interpret a wide variety of texts for theater.
4. Have a basic understanding of all of the professional fields of theater making, as well as an understanding of how to continue developing your specific skills.

5. Engage effectively in teamwork and collaboration, hallmarks of the theatrical process.

6. Communicate effectively in both written and verbal forms, as well as develop an appreciation for visual and aural forms of communications.

7. Express themselves creatively.

8. Have a thorough understanding of the production process.

9. Present yourself professionally in attitude, approach, and dedication.

10. Show respectfulness and open-mindedness in working with your fellow theater makers.

Students also benefit tremendously from the Five-College Consortium. UMass is located down the road from four renowned liberal arts colleges: Smith College, Mount Holyoke College, Hampshire College and Amherst College. This consortium enables students to take courses or participate in productions at any of the other member schools at no extra charge. There are also several Five-College programs, including those in Dance and Film, which offer courses on the five campuses to all students.

The Amherst area boasts a number of regional and community theater companies and arts organizations which offer both interesting programming and great opportunities to get involved. On campus, New WORLD Theater, which presents multicultural theater, offers internship and occasional performance opportunities to undergraduate and graduate students.

The theater major offers an outstanding foundation for a career in the theater. It is also a superb preparation for graduate work in the field. Additionally, a theater education is useful in many related professions such as film and TV, public relations, law, broadcasting, management, advertising, arts administration, teaching, and social work.

Undergraduate Program Director:
Julie Nelson
112 Fine Arts Center


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Graduate Program


The graduate program in theater is a dynamic hands-on program that offers plenty of opportunities for practical experience with the guidance of a dedicated faculty of committed teachers with active careers in the professional theater. The newly revised core curriculum provides a rigorous introduction to key issues affecting the theater of the future while attending to what has been learned from the theater of the past. Most importantly, UMass Theater is a place where excellence is pursued, where mentorship matters, where quality counts. It's a place where lives are changed.

The small size of the program — limited to a combined total of 15 students in all five of the MFA program areas — insures small classes, a maximum of personalized attention, and the opportunity to tailor programs of study to individual interests. Collaboration, creativity, discipline, craft and a strong personal sense of our collective past and of the possibilities of the future are the building blocks of the graduate program in theater. The program values personal growth, artistic integrity, cultural sensitivity, and a commitment to the theater of the future. The departmental production season serves as a teaching laboratory for students in each of our program areas: Directing, Dramaturgy, Scene Design and Technology, Lighting Design, and Costume Design.


Graduate Program Director:

Harley Erdman

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