Although theater majors often focus on a specific area—such as performance, design and production, directing, or dramaturgy—the major is designed to give students experience in all areas of theater. 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.

Students 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.

Western Massachusetts boasts a number of regional and community theater companies and arts organizations which offer both interesting programming and great opportunities to get involved; UMass Theater undergraduate students have found internships, summer work, and other opportunities at companies including Shakespeare and Co.Williamstown Theatre FestivalHampshire Shakespeare, and others. 

WAM Theatre, a professional theater company in the Berkshires that operates at the intersection of art and activism and is committed to theater for gender equity, offers UMass Theater students access to project-based internships that include opportunities for artistic mentorship, community engagement, and teaching assistantships.

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

If you are a UMass student thinking about declaring the major or adding a minor, welcome! We are thrilled to have you! Please make an appointment with the Undergraduate Program Director, Amy Altadonna, to complete the paperwork, discuss your progress toward the degree, and sign up for an advisor.

Applications are submitted and processed online via the UMass Undergraduate Admissions.

Learn more about the areas of study and the minor in the next section.

A young Black woman dressed in 1920s clothing stands on a stylized illuminated staircase

The dramaturgy courses in the B.A. program are designed to give all students the tools they need for becoming thoughtful artists in working with theater text, as well as a rich appreciation of theater in all its varieties and contexts.  The courses involve play analysis, theater history, dramatic theory, critical writing, creative writing, and the role of the dramaturg in the theater. Each course is structured around a specific repertory of dramatic texts reflecting a particular culture, historical period, or style. The dramaturgy requirement—specifically, Theater 320, 321, or 322—also fulfills the university’s Junior Year Writing Requirement.

A handful of exceptional upper-level students may be invited to serve as production dramaturgs on Department productions and enroll in the graduate-level Dramaturgy Workshop.   

For more information, email Professors Harley ErdmanChris Baker or Priscilla Page.

Performance (acting and directing)
an actor in elaborate red costume performs in the UMass Amherst Season Kick-Off


The undergraduate performance program at the UMass Department of Theater emphasizes a strong foundation in contemporary acting and directing techniques, along with a wide variety of specialized skills, including voice development, stage movement, and ensemble performance.  The program also provides advanced courses in classical rhetorical training, Shakespeare, Moliere, voice, monologue and scene work, and directing.  Students have opportunities to perform publicly on the Department’s two main stages, as part of a formal production season.  Additionally, there are numerous “studio” productions, where students can initiate independent projects, as actors and directors, or participate in performance works generated by the Department’s graduate students.

For more information, email professors Judyie Al-BilaliMilan DragicevichElisa GonzalesGina Kaufmann or Gil McCauley

Design & production
Malvolio contemplates a letter; other characters from 12th Night observe him from hidden spots

Design and Production offers specialized course work supporting concentrations in scenic, lighting and costume design, technical direction and stage management within the context of a broad-based liberal arts education in theater. In addition to enriching course work in dramaturgy, history and performance techniques, undergraduates may pursue advanced work in their area of interest and may engage in challenging practical production experiences appropriate to their development.

Our students enjoy programs tailored to their academic and professional goals and are supported with individual mentorship. Our faculty, staff and guest artists are working theater professionals providing students with exceptional opportunities for creativity, risk-taking and success in the classroom, in our production season and in outside professional experiences. Our program cultivates collaboration, creativity, communication and leadership preparing our students for employment or advanced study. Graduates of our program enjoy prominent, successful careers on Broadway, in Hollywood and in many regional theaters.

Scenic Design

Students of Scenic Design in the BA program have the opportunity to discover how scenery is envisioned and realized. 

Through several courses that build on or complement each other, as well as through production assignments, students study the art of scenic design and the related technical crafts which include research, model building, and drafting. They learn the process of envisioning and communicating the space and scenery for a performance event based on the textual, musical, or movement content, the space and resources, research, and their own personal response. Classes aim to unleash a student’s individual voice with the goal of supporting the performance event in collaboration with other artists. Students explore the variety of collaborative relationships with directors, designers in other disciplines, and technicians. While learning to think outside the box, students become reliable and exciting collaborators, able to perform under pressure and to contribute a unique point of view. 

Undergraduate students seriously involved with scenic design should expect to perform a variety of roles in the departmental productions: as set design assistants to graduate or faculty scenic designers, as scenic painters, or as prop designers. Advanced students are mentored by experienced professionals throughout. 

A handful of exceptional upper-level students may be invited to serve as set designers on department productions in the Curtain (black box) or in the Rand (proscenium) Theater. 

Email Assistant Professor of Scenic Design Anya Klepikov

Email Faculty Technical Director Michael Cottom

Watch a video or read an article about Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen scenic designer David Korins '99, who received his theater degree from UMass.

Lighting Design

Lighting students in the BA program study the art and craft of lighting design for the stage, as well as learning related technical crafts. Students learn to make choices for lighting a stage production based on the text or performance event, the space and resources, research and their own creative responses.  Classes explore light as a medium for expression, and develop technical skills in drafting, electrics, assisting. We encourage students to develop skills for being creative and responsive, to learn to work well collaboratively and under pressure, and to observe lighting in the world, on the stage and in research.

Students in the BA program are encouraged to develop these skills as technicians and as designers through several courses that build on each other, as well as through production assignments. Undergraduate students studying lighting should expect to serve as electricians, light board operators, master electricians and assistant designers in the department. A handful of exceptional upper-level students may be invited to serve as lighting designers on department productions in the Curtain or in the Rand Theater.

Email Professor Penny Remsen.

Email department master electrician Michael Dubin.

Costume Design

362 Costume Design subscribes to the founding philosophy of the Department of Theater’s undergraduate program, and this level of costume design is accessible to all students studying theater. A student new to the discipline of costume studies will gain basic knowledge in design, learn skills for visual communication. A student coming to 362 with more advanced design, drawing or construction skills can expect to enhance his or her knowledge and skills to a more sophisticated level.

462, Advanced Costume Design, is for those students who have completed 362 and who are specifically interested in costume design. The basics learned in 362 are further expanded upon and rendering skills are nurtured and developed. Assignments include practical work in the costume shop in construction, completing crafts, and possibly serving as an assistant to the designer. 462, Advanced Costume Design, is repeatable multiple times. 

In the costume area, Theater 110: Backstage Practicum offers opportunities to get practical experience building costumes or serving as wardrobe or makeup crew members. Theater 210 credit is available to students who work their way up to being crew leaders.

Email Professor Yao Chen.

Read a profile introducing Yao Chen to the community.

Email costume shop manager Kristin Jensen.

Sound Design

Sound Design offers a path of study that captures students with a range of goals – from creating their own sound for a passion project to becoming a professional sound designer.  In this way, the undergraduate level provides a foundation of the art and craft of sound design that cultivates critical listening, appreciation of the field as it lives within the greater context of theater, and the skills and techniques to create sound and music for theater.  This ranges from in-class projects to hands-on opportunities to design for student productions, and to participate in design and engineering on the department’s Mainstage.

I also offer independent study in special topics.  Studio Recording and Music Production is an area of interest for many of our students, and these abilities apply to the creation of content for a theatrical sound design as well.  I develop other courses of independent study based on student interest, and have had students produce original sound art and podcasts.

Students who take advantage of the fundamental course offerings - Sound Design I, Sound Design II, and Sound Design Studio - will leave with the experience necessary to produce an original sound design and sound system design for live performance.  Students who explore special topics have advanced experience with various sub-areas within the field of audio.

Students may design student productions in shared courses and in student-driven work.  Advanced students are encouraged to assist the faculty designer on mainstage productions, and exceptionally accomplished undergraduates may be invited to design departmental productions.

Questions?  Email Professor Amy Altadonna, sound designer, or visit her website.

Technical Direction

Students are offered a variety of challenging opportunities in Technical Direction to develop skills in project management, technical design, hand drafting, AutoCAD, advanced wood and metal working, properties construction, furniture design and fabrication, and automation.  Classes are project-based and interwoven with departmental projects so students can develop their skills in actual production situations.  Students work alongside and are mentored by skilled professionals and given opportunities to work on professional projects done locally or in New York City.  Advanced undergraduates can assume production roles of increasing responsibility such as Lead Carpenter, Master Carpenter, Prop Master, and Assistant Technical Director.

Email Technical Director Michael Cottom.

Stage Management

Stage managers enjoy rewarding relationships with faculty, graduate students and professional guest artists in a production process that mirrors that of the professional process. The liberal arts aspect of the UMass education is ideal for developing a strong understanding of the working relationship between artistic and technical collaborators. The stage management concentration typically begins with a comprehensive course focusing on practical production techniques supporting developing work from planning to performance and archiving. Stage Managers are offered practical and organizational techniques as well as a strong foundation in the artistry of stage management. Our production season provides the laboratory setting for stage managers to progress from assistant to lead stage manager. Within the context of our season stage managers strengthen abilities to craft schedules, facilitate communication, coordinate cue sequences and compile production books. Individual mentoring provides a personally tailored program encouraging challenge, development and success.

Email Production Manager Julie Fife.

A female archer draws a bow on another performer in a performance of Aurash

For UMass students who want to pursue creative and scholarly inquiry into the world of theater, but who cannot commit to the demands of the major, the Department of Theater now offers a 16-credit Minor in Theater. Because we think approaching theater-making from multiple perspectives makes for stronger artists and scholars, students choose two areas of study from Performance, Dramaturgy, or Design for greater exploration. Classroom instruction and production experience go hand-in-hand as students apply what they learn to the mainstage season and/or independent student work. We currently have about 50 minors.

As with the major, no audition is required for admission to the Minor in Theater. Unlike the major, Theater general education courses can count toward the minor. We anticipate that students will be able to complete the minor requirements alongside their major in two to four years.

To complete the minor, students must take two of our introductory courses in the above-mentioned areas, two upper-level courses in the same areas (each for three credits), and one production credit. One additional three-credit theater course, including any of our general education courses, rounds out the requirements for the minor.

If you are a UMass student considering the Minor in Theater, please make an appointment with Undergraduate Program Director, Amy Altadonna, to complete the paperwork and discuss your progress toward the minor.

collage of the Hatmaker's Wife poster as well as cast photos with Lindsay Forauer and Elisa Gonzales

Undergraduates benefit from close relationships with mentors

Professor of Voice and Acting Elisa Gonzales is mentoring Lindsay Forauer, a theater and linguistics double major, as she takes her first steps toward a voice and dialect coaching career. It's an example of the way students forge relationships with faculty and staff to build their education and prepare for a career.

Lights, Camera, Virtual Action

When campus closures during the early stages of the pandemic affected lighting design students' work in the light lab, they took their creativity into virtual space using state of the industry lighting visualization computer programs. In conjunction with attending Zoom lectures, demonstrations, and individual meetings, students worked on lighting a virtual three-dimensional stage space in the program Capture. Lighting instruments can be placed in this digitally rendered environment, and designers can preview the effect of different lighting angles, colors, intensities, and fade times.

Credits for the major
Credits for the minor
Total majors and minors