Denison’s Department of Theatre engages students across the entire campus in collaborative and generative theatre-making. Our courses and productions integrate the challenges and tactics of acting, design, directing, and playwriting, preparing students for careers in contemporary theatre as well as forming the basis of a dynamic liberal arts education.
Denison’s Theatre program is unique
- Our students collaborate to create new works. We believe the work of the theatre-maker is generative and creative, rather than interpretive. Students collaborate with one another and with faculty and staff mentors in our acting, design, directing, and playwriting courses. They interact over intense and extended periods, solve problems, apply new concepts, explore the ideas of art-makers, and have opportunities to create and perform. Our courses are designed for those interested in a career in making art and also form the basis of a dynamic liberal arts education.
- All students have “mainstage” opportunities. Each year, four major theatre projects explore different modes of theatre rehearsal and creation, multiple styles of performance and/or design, including new and older works which ask important questions or reflect on identity and culture. Participation is open to any student from any discipline. Academic credit can be earned for participating in a theatre production, and we also offer a number of paid positions in the scene shop, costume shop and box office. Denison students are also highly engaged in co-curricular arts organizations, including the Burpee’s Seedy Theatrical Company, the nation’s oldest collegiate improvisational theatre group.
- Our “home on The Hill” is a world-class facility. The Michael D. Eisner Center for the Performing Arts comprises the Sharon Martin Hall (a flexible 400-seat proscenium theatre), the Hylbert Family Studio Theatre (a flexible studio with 3,600 square feet of space for performers and audience), and a Large Rehearsal Room (a 2,400-square-foot, two-story space with theatrical lighting and AV systems). We also have fully-equipped state-of-the-art scenic and lighting and costume shops.
The Denison Theatre department contributes to the college’s broad-based liberal arts mission by emphasizing historical, social and theoretical study along with instruction in the crafts of theatre. In addition, we encourage our majors to complement their theatre studies with challenging work in other disciplines. Many of our students choose to double major, or to pursue a major and a minor.
The theatre major is designed to help students:
- Develop their artistic, creative, and intellectual potential
- Understand the fundamental principles of theatre arts
- Apply practical application of those principles to stage production
- Develop analytical and skill, facility in problem-solving skills, an historical perspective, and an appreciation of aesthetic form
- Prepare for graduate study
Our laboratory season consists of four major projects each year. Usually directed by faculty members, performances take place in the Sharon Martin Hall or the Hylbert Family Studio Theatre, both in the Michael D. Eisner Center for the Performing Arts. These projects are usually productions of single plays, but they might be projects created by a student ensemble or collections of shorter works.
Participation is open to any Denison student (for actors by audition; for other artists and technicians by interview or successful completion of a prerequisite). The rehearsal and production process is typically 20 hours per week, for four to five weeks, with seven performances over two weeks.
We aim to offer a wide variety of experiences in theatre-making, exploring different modes of theatre rehearsal and creation, multiple styles of performance and/or design, new plays in process, curated older works from historical traditions, plays which ask important questions or reflect on identity and culture—all providing a rich range of opportunities for a students with different learning goals.
We typically produce a musical every other year. In addition, the Department of Music’s Singers’ Theatre Workshop ensemble also mounts an opera, operetta, or musical theatre production every semester. Students often participate in both the productions of the Department of Theatre and the Singer’s Theatre Workshop.
Outside the Classroom
Student theatre organizations provide many more opportunities for theatre-making at Denison. These include the Denison Independent Theatre Association (a student-run producing organization which supports multiple independent productions and also twice-yearly original one-act play festivals) and Burpee’s Seedy Theatrical Company (Denison’s forty-year-old improvisational theatre group, and the alma mater of actor Steve Carell).
Theatre majors are encouraged to spend at least one semester pursuing off-campus study. There are study abroad programs that emphasize acting, arts and/or literature as well as opportunities to pursue internships with major theatre companies both in the U.S. and abroad. In recent years, acting and theatre-making programs at Dublin, Ireland’s Gaiety Theatre and the National Theatre Institute in Connecticut have been particularly popular.
What do theatre majors do after Denison?
Many graduates have put their theatre education to good use in pursuit of a wide variety of careers as award-winning actors, directors, designers, thinkers, and writers. Some have risen to senior leadership roles in creative industries such as Disney and Warner Media. Others have pursued careers as teachers, lawyers, leaders of nonprofit organizations, a college chaplain, the manager of fan experiences at a famous ballpark, and teachers and professors in a range of fields
Recent graduates have also pursued advanced study in top theatre programs such as the Actors Studio, Brooklyn College, Carnegie-Mellon, École LASSAAD, Emerson, Naropa, Northwestern, N.Y.U., Old Globe/University of San Diego, Queen Mary University of London, Stella Adler Studio of Acting, and the Yale School of Drama, and more.
The goals of the theatre major are twofold: first, to provide students with a working knowledge of the fundamental principles of each of the several arts of the theatre, offering opportunities for practical application of those principles in stage production; and second, to develop analytical skill, facility in problem-solving, historical perspective, and appreciation of aesthetic form.
The programs in theatre aim to develop the skills of thoughtful inquiry, informed judgment, and imaginative response that are fundamental to the rewarding pursuit of any profession. In addition, these programs aim to provide a sound basis for graduate study in theatre.