Doctoral Program

Program Overview

The PhD Program in Theatre and Performance Studies at Brown University offers a rigorous environment for pursuing doctoral research. Taking a broad-spectrum approach to the histories, theories, and methods of theatre and performance studies from a global perspective, the program trains doctoral students to use performance as an analytical lens to explore the labor of mimesis in the social.

Brown’s environment is alive with the intersections of performance practice and theory: PhD students benefit from formal and informal cross-currents with Brown’s acclaimed MFA Playwriting Program, the Brown/Trinity MFA Programs in Acting and Directing (offered in consortium with the Tony Award winning Trinity Repertory Company), the Brown Arts Institute, and the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). Brown’s libraries provide exceptional special collections for performance-related research, including the Harris Collection of American Drama and Poetry, the Smith Collection of Conjuring, Magicana, and Popular Entertainment, and the Albert-Bernard Shaw Collection.

Our students take full advantage of Brown’s unique interdisciplinary opportunities—including the Open Graduate Education Program, which enables doctoral students to apply to pursue a Master’s degree in a secondary field of study at Brown—and gain teaching experience through a variety of opportunities in and beyond the department.

How to Apply

Beginning in September 2022, we will be accepting applications for new students to enter the PhD program in the Fall of 2023. 

Applications are due January 4, 2023 and must be submitted via the Graduate School’s Online Application portal here.  You can find detailed instructions about the application process and components here. The Graduate School’s application FAQ can be found here. 

What do I need to include with my application?

1.     A statement of purpose (also called a personal statement, generally  2-3 pages) that should address your current academic research  interests, why you wish to pursue a PhD in Theatre and Performance  Studies, and how you see your work benefiting from the broader  context  of the department and Brown as a whole. The most successful  personal  statements make a compelling case for why your research  would best be  served by our program given the current composition of  our faculty and  the resources that are available at Brown. 
2.     An academic writing sample (10- 25 pages). This is an especially  important element of the application, so be sure to submit an example  of your strongest scholarly writing to date. 
3.     Three letters of recommendation. 
4.     Transcripts from all academic institutions where you have  previously studied (graduate and undergraduate).

International applicants whose native language is not English must also submit an official Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS) score. 

Do I need to take the GRE in order to apply?
The GRE is no longer required in order to apply for the PhD Program in Theatre and Performance Studies at Brown.

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of funding is available for PhD students
Brown guarantees 5 years of funding for all admitted PhD students, which includes full tuition remission, a generous living stipend, and health insurance. This financial support applies to both domestic and international students admitted to our doctoral program. Funding is provided through a combination of fellowships (two years) and teaching/research assistantships (three years). Our students have also been very successful in securing funding for their studies, as needed, beyond the fifth year through external and internal fellowships and grants. Further details about financial support is available through Brown’s Graduate School website.

Do PhD students have the opportunity to teach?
Students in our PhD program have many opportunities to gain teaching experience during their time at Brown. Typically students in their second year serve as Teaching Assistants for undergraduate courses in the Deptartment of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies. More advanced students can develop and teach their own classes. Our students find additional opportunities to hone their pedagogical skills through Brown's Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning[email protected], the Brown/Wheaton Faculty Fellows Program, and elsewhere.

How many students do you accept, and what is the average time to degree?
As an intentionally small program with an emphasis on intensive mentorship and advising, we accept a cohort of approximately 2 to 3 students per year. Most of our PhD students complete the degree within 5 to 7 years.

Do you accept students who are interested in my specific area(s) of academic interest?
We welcome applicants who are interested in all aspects of theatre and performance studies research. The best way to learn about the range of research topics and methods that are being pursued in our program is by looking through the profiles of our current faculty and PhD students.

I already have an MA or MFA degree: can I still apply to the PhD program?
Yes. We accept students who have obtained Bachelor's degrees as well as students who have previously completed an MA or MFA. Depending on the field of study and with the approval of our graduate faculty, students may receive credit toward the PhD degree for previous graduate coursework completed at other institutions.

What do graduates of your program go on to do? What is your placement rate?
Graduates of our PhD program have achieved a stellar placement rate into academic positions. Many have gone on to become leaders in the field, holding tenured or tenure-track positions at Yale, Tufts, NYU, UCLA, Washington University-St. Louis, Colgate, Emerson, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Rhode Island, among other institutions. A recent national study of Theatre and Performance Studies graduate programs showed that Brown was the top program in terms of placement, with 100% of our graduates holding tenure-track positions.

I have further questions that are not answered here. Who should I contact?
Patti Ybarra [email protected]
Professor, Director of Graduate Studies, Theatre Arts and Performance Studies 

Jo Bynum [email protected]
Student Affairs Manager, Theatre Arts and Performance Studies 

Please do not email the department with technical questions or requests to troubleshoot your online application submission. For questions about the application process (including how to submit TOEFL scores, Letters of Recommendation, and other technical matters), please contact the Graduate School directly at a[email protected].