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Frequently Asked Questions
- What's the difference among degree programs?
- What's the M.F.A. program about?
- What's the difference between Performance as Public Practice (PPP) and Performance Studies?
- How does our program differ from more conventional theatre studies programs?
- What's the program's graduate employment placement rate? Where do these graduates work?
- What kinds of financial aids are available to incoming students? Will I be able to teach during my program of study?
- What's the theatre scene like in Austin? What kinds of community-based opportunities are there for work outside of UT?
- Can I maintain my interest in practice as I move into these advanced degree programs?
- Who has recently visited or guest-lectured in the program?
- When will I hear from you? When's the best time for an interview?
- Can you give me any tips for writing and assembling my application?
Students with only an undergraduate degree must apply to either the M.A. or the M.F.A. degree program; an M.A. or M.F.A. is required for admission directly to the Ph.D.. In some cases, students who enter the M.A. program petition to move into the M.F.A. program. In some cases, students who finish the M.A. or the M.F.A. program apply to continue into the Ph.D. program. The M.A. is generally considered a preparatory degree. It allows you to explore this area of concentration and use it as a launching pad for other professional or academic work. The M.F.A. allows you to study in further depth, and to produce a culminating project more ambitious and extensive than the M.A.. An M.F.A. is sometimes considered a "terminal degree," and sometimes equips you to teach at the college or university levels. The Ph.D. degree is an advanced degree that qualifies you for teaching and other professional opportunities. The M.A. program requires 36 credits; the M.F.A. 60; the Ph.D. 72.
The M.F.A. in Performance as Public Practice is a terminal degree program for students interested in combining their interests in theatre and performance history, criticism, and theory with applications in dramaturgy, community-based theatre, theatre in education, theatre and social change, or arts policy. Applicants may enroll in the program with a BA or an M.A.. The degree program requires successful completion of at least 60 hours of course work and thesis preparation, which usually takes three years. Candidates for the M.F.A. degree must complete a thesis project as the major requirement for the degree.
Performance Studies is an integral part of what we do in the PPP program. While performance studies designates a methodological approach to the field, Performance as Public Practice designates an ideological investment in how performance works and what it means to the production of culture. For various key readings in the field, see Prof. Deborah Paredez's syllabus for the Proseminar: Performance as Public Practice on this web site under "Courses"; it is required for all incoming students and helpfully delineates the contours of the field as we see it.
Our program shies from requiring canonical knowledge or a strict menu of methods for study. We don't provide students with a reading list, but require you to assemble your own, on the basis of which (for Ph.D. students) you create your own qualifying exams. Our program prizes flexibility and individuality. Only three courses are required for all three degree programs: The "Research Methods" seminar, which introduces you to the vast resources at UT and describes how to present your work at conferences and for publication; the "Supervised Teaching in Theatre and Dance" seminar, a course in the theories and practices of pedagogy; and "Proseminar: Performance as Public Practice," which introduces you to the field as we define and engage it in our program.
After those nine credits, each student can select from among a range of courses within and outside the department to put together an individualized program of study that suits their needs and interests. These include courses in both methods-such as "Performance Ethnography," "Historiography," "Reception Theories," "Writing About Performance," "Performance Analysis," "Performance Theory," -and contents-such as "Feminist Theory and Performance," "Nigerian Theatre," "African American Theatre History," "Genealogies of Performance as Public Practice," "The Racialized Body in Performance," "Cultural Policy and the Arts," "Queer Theory and Performance," “Choreographing Gender, Dancing Desire” and “Theorizing Dance, Performing Research,” and more. We mentor and advise students closely, working with them to choose appropriate courses and faculty, but always based on the students' desire for a certain experience or professional destination.
Our M.A. students go into a range of positions post-degree. At least half of them (sometimes more) stay for the M.F.A. or Ph.D. degree in PPP. Others go on to other graduate programs or rejoin the profession as dramaturgs, grant-writers, teachers, or in other positions. Our M.F.A. program is just beginning, so we can't yet attest to its placement success rate. Our Ph.D. students mostly look for academic appointments, in which they've been very successful. Recent graduates now teach at SUNY-Geneseo; Arizona State University; Carlton College in Iowa; Pepperdine University in Malibu; Southwest Texas State University; University of New Haven; University of Arkansas-Fayetteville; Dartmouth; Florida State University; Tulane University. Some of our students go into professional theatre destinations; Lisa Epstein, a recent graduate, after several years of teaching, began her own theatre company,Gas and Electric Arts, in Philadelphia.
We attempt to offer as much financial aid as possible, but our resources are limited by an ever-tightening state budget. We attempt to provide Ph.D. students with three years of guaranteed support, two for coursework and one for writing. We try to provide what UT calls 50% appointments, which require 20 hours of teaching or research assistance and come with a salary, health benefits, a small tuition stipend, and a waiver of out-of-state tuition. While these compensations are modest, Austin is a city with a fairly manageable cost of living.
We attempt to provide M.A. and M.F.A. students with 25% appointments, which require 10 hours of teaching or research assistance and a small tuition stipend, and often include an out-of-state tuition waiver, but do not include health benefits. We also provide small scholarship awards to help defray expenses. Students are generally successful at supplementing their financial aid with other UT-based employment. We emphasize the teaching experiences we provide for our graduate students, and try to cycle Ph.D. students, especially, through a range of teaching opportunities. M.A. and M.F.A. students generally receive teaching assistantships, working with a faculty member or advanced graduate student to deliver undergraduate courses such as Intro to Theatre for Non-Majors, Languages of the Stage, and Theatre History; Ph.D. students eventually become advanced Assistant Instructors who teach their own courses (often Intro to Theatre for Non-Majors, sometimes Theatre History, and occasionally Intro to Acting or Voice for Non-Majors).
Our students work regularly with a range of local theatres. They dramaturg at Zachary Scott Theatre Center and at the State and Paramount Theatres. They perform, direct, and dramaturg at the Vortex Theatre. They are company members at the Rude Mechs Theatre and for the Austin Project, a UT-community performance partnership for women of color and their allies. They produce work at the Blue Theatre for Refraction Arts. They serve as directors and consultants for Actual Lives, a group of disabled activists/artists organized by Very Special Arts project of Austin. They direct and dramaturg for Pro Arts Collective, which produces Black visual and performing arts. They are teachers for community-based projects like Grrl Action (sponsored by the Rude Mechs) and Theatre Action Project. Many of our faculty serve as Board Members for these organizations, and are actively involved in dramaturging or directing for these companies. Opportunities for making connections in the community and in the professional theatre scene here in town are limitless.
Yes, although your coursework will take priority. Many of our students, in addition to the projects outlined above (in #9), perform in or dramaturg for mainstage department productions. Others direct for First Year Players, a PPP-sponsored production that casts freshman in a revue-format presentation, to give them stage experience in their first semester in the department. Others create work for the Lab Theatre, the department's student-driven proscenium space, or present in 2.180, our black-box theatre. Some of our students write criticism for local newspapers. Your interests in practice can be integrated into your coursework; we encourage you to keep practice a part of your life while you study.
Our Distinguished Lecture Series in Performance as Public Practice has, over the last four years, brought in Elin Diamond (feminist performance, Rutgers), Glenda Dickerson (African American performance, Michigan), Laurie Carlos (African American and feminist performance), Jane Gabriel (Artistic Director, Pepatián, South Bronx), Ralph Lemon (choreographer), Judith Hamera (dance and performance studies, Texas A&M), Arlene Goldbard (arts consultant), Sue-Ellen Case (queer theory and technology, University of California, Los Angeles), James Allen Smith (cultural policy consultant), Maria Rosario Jackson (arts-in-communities, The Urban Institute), Jan Cohen-Cruz (community-based theatre, New York University), Liz Lerman (artist, Dance Exchange), Heather Shields (Executive Director, Waterman's Community Center, Maine), Roberta Uno (artistic director, New WORLD Theatre), Carol Becker (Dean, Art Institute of Chicago), and David Román (queer and Latino performance, University of Southern California). PPP also curates a series of women's solo performances in conjunction with the Rude Mechs every other year; this series has showcased performers Peggy Shaw, Deb Margolin, Holly Hughes, Terry Galloway, Marga Gomez, Carmelita Tropicana, and Marty Pottenger. Each of these artists presented a free workshop on generating performance material for the PPP program, the department, and the Austin community. All guest lecturers and visiting artists meet with graduate students in an informal brown-bag lunch format prior to their lectures/presentations.
We typically begin our deliberations in mid-January, after all the applications are compiled. You should hear from us in a preliminary fashion by February 1st or earlier. Financial aid decisions will be made by April 1st at the latest.
Be sure to be as specific as possible in your statement of purpose, which is the single most important part of your application. Tell us exactly why you want to join our program; be specific about the courses that appeal to you and the faculty with whom you imagine working. Tell us about your research plan-what can you work on at UT that you couldn't work on elsewhere? Tell us about your goals for yourself, during and after your coursework. While you very well might want to teach in a college or university or be a professional theatre person, try to tell us more specifically how you envision your future and how attaining a degree at UT will help you achieve it. It's not necessary to be gimmicky; we consider applicants on the basis of "fit." Anything you can do to tell us how you see yourself as compatible with our common commitments and interests will be most helpful in our deliberations.
Choose your recommenders carefully. Ask people writing for you to be as specific as possible in how they describe your skills and abilities. It's always more useful to get recommendations from former professors than it is from employers. We're most interested in hearing from people who can attest to your academic skills (writing and research preparation, learning habits, how you manifest progress, etc.).
Send us writing samples that represent your best efforts, preferably in research topics. We're willing to accept, however, any form of writing that best represents your ability to communicate clearly and directly with your presumptive reader. There is no required length or page limit for these samples, but remember that less is more in this case. Please don't send your whole undergraduate honors thesis, for instance; just one representative chapter will be helpful enough. Please don't include photographs or additional material in your application. And don't hesitate to contact Dr. Rebecca Rossen via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.