The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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Meet the Major- UMass Theater Department

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Introduction to UMass Theater Major

When people think about a theater major in college, they think about learning on-stage performance, off-stage design and theatrical play analysis. The UMass Theater Department guides students into the theater field from all these aspects. 

As one of the majors from the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, the UMass theater undergraduate program focuses on cultivating complete theater artists with worldwide theater knowledge and skills. The theater program provides several directions, but the major is designed to make sure the students are trained for every area within the field. The department offers courses from three major categories: dramaturgy, performance, and design. In each category, it directs students to discover their theatrical potential as well as life skills through the most high-quality and enthusiastic teaching methods. The available resources in the department offer students the opportunity to practice and improve their professional skills while developing their personal artistic talents before going into more serious, official spaces. The fundamental knowledge and theatrical art experiences develop the students’ ability for critical thinking, professional research, and imaginative exploration. When students graduate from the department, the skills developed in the program will help them to be competitive candidates for future studies and careers. 


The UMass undergraduate theater performance program mainly focus on contemporary acting and directing techniques. The curriculum starts with an introductory class, TH 140,  which teaches “Intro Techniques in Performance.” Students in this class participate in simple theater games, create short monologues for in-class performance, and learn improvisation for future on-stage performance. After finishing the TH140 class, students are required to choose two or more performance-based classes according to their specializations and interests for further acting skills development. 

All the performance courses focus on building a strong acting foundation, along with specific skills including voice development, stage movement, and ensemble performance. In addition to the classes, students have the opportunities to participate in the theater department’s main stages during the formal production season. Students are also able to join the numerous “studio” productions put on by seniors and graduate students.

Other than focusing on acting, the curriculum also requires students to engage with studying both modern and classical plays. The theater writing classes starts with TH 120, which focuses on training students’ analysis of texts as blueprints for production, oral discussion about different theater styles, as well as enhancing writing abilities.


Dramaturgy courses in the UMass theater B.A program concentrate on helping students forge the tools to discover thoughtful creative ideas and judgments for theater texts. Dramaturgy courses involve play analysis, theater history, dramatic theory, critical writing, creative writing, and the role of dramaturgy in the theater. The courses’ contents are diverse in every aspect: from Shakespeare to modern plays; from the slave liberty to democrat politics; from the feminist revolution to sexual orientation. The courses reflect on specific cultures and historical periods, improving the students’ reading and writing skills, as well as educating them on the evolution of theater history. 

Design & Production

Design and production courses teach students fundamental and professional design skills in the theater field. The curriculum focuses on the designing for scenic, lighting and costume purposes, as well as technical direction and stage management. The goal of the program is to cultivate students’ ability to collaborate in a team and be creative about the projects, as well as communication and leadership skills. 

The entering course is TH 160, a lower-level class that instructs in the fundamentals of stagecraft. The class is offered every semester with lectures on Tuesday and Thursday, along with a two-hour lab on Friday. The lectures introduce the techniques of designing in various theater categories, which helps students to build a brief understanding for the design concepts in stage management, costume, makeup and lightening. When students come to the lab, they can adapt their learned knowledge into working with the actual sets.  

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The theater department offers great opportunities for all students to participate in department productions. There are three productions every semester. Two of the productions are fully performed with fascinating designs in every production category. Other production is put on through the UMass Play Lab, which assists directors and dramaturges to discover inspiration for new work, and helps actors and audiences to discover the connections between characters and real life. The auditions for the productions are open to all students in all majors, as well as students from the Five-College schools. If students are cast for the productions, they will be required to participate in the rehearsals for more than 10 hours every week. The rehearsals usually last for one to two months, and will provide each student two credits at the end of the production semester.  



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