Nasir Butler and several other students on stage.
Program Overview

Theater

Staging the stories that express our world.

Bobby (Nasir Butler ’22) leads the Poor in an anthem of hope in “Urinetown: The Musical.”
Photo credit: John Seyfried

If We Don’t See It, We Make It

Theater is where the community gathers to explore the complexities of the human condition. We embody stories that reflect, reconsider and respond to the world around us. Our work requires cultivating imagination, collaboration, perseverance and a community of artisans working together to realize living moments. If the stories you want to see aren’t being staged, then dig in and get started. New forms of community demand stories, old stories retold and new ones never before heard. Oberlin Theater is about telling stories by making living art.

An Immersive Workshop Experience within the Liberal Arts

At Oberlin, we pride ourselves on a rigorous and supportive theater culture that encourages experimentation, collaboration and the creation of new connections across fields. Our program combines intensive mentorship in acting, directing, playwriting and production, with innumerable opportunities in our production shops and theaters, including the newly completed Eric Baker Nord Performing Arts Complex, home to our three performance spaces. By integrating elements of conservatory training within a broad liberal arts education, Oberlin Theater encourages students to explore their interests while developing meaningful networks with other students, faculty and staff, as well as guest artists and scholars.

More than 10 shows per year on 3 stages means ample opportunity to create and experiment
Take a guided tour through Oberlin's Theater spaces

Pre-Professional Training

Our faculty are working professionals with close ties to national and international theatrical communities. Through internships and study away programs, as well as a new concentration in Arts Administration, our students extend their arts training beyond our campus and into the world.

Two men going over their lines.
Oberlin College Theater employs more than 100 students annually to help realize our season

Faculty-Student Mentorship

Balancing rigorous instruction with  supportive mentorship, our faculty work one-on-one with students to help them find and explore their creative voices while honing their technical craft.

Costume designer and associate professor of theater, Chris Flaharty, working on a costume with a student.

Featured Courses

THEA 174

Lighting Technology and Design

An introduction to lighting technology, terminology and technique. Lectures cover lighting history, equipment, manual and computer controlled lighting systems, distribution systems, electricity, lamps, reflectors, lenses, projection equipment and moving lights. Beginning design processes will also be covered. Students hang and focus lights for actual shows and participate in a crew for a theater, dance or opera production during the semester.

Taught by
Jeremy Benjamin
THEA 240

Arts Management

Students will be introduced to and develop an understanding of the critical areas that comprise Arts Management including; Organization Structure, Management Theory, Budgeting and Fiscal Theories, Marketing and Audience Development. They will also begin to develop the ability to understand and navigate the challenges of competing priorities in today’s world, specifically, reconciling aesthetic, managerial and economic considerations.

Taught by
Eric Steggall
THEA 264

African American Drama

This class surveys plays written by Black Americans from the post-slavery period through the late 20th century. An overview of the history of African-American performance is followed by reading and discussion of current criticism and a wide selection of plays by writers such as James Baldwin, Lorraine Hansberry, Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones), Adrienne Kennedy, Langston Hughes, Ntozake Shange, August Wilson, and George Wolfe. Requirements include papers, journals and scene work.

Taught by
Caroline Jackson Smith
THEA 313

Advanced Acting: Heightened Movement, Heightened Text

A good actor must know how to effectively engage in heightened verbal and non-verbal conversations on stage. This course goes in depth to perfect a student’s ability to fully engage and use their voice and body as a tool for creative expression of character, emotion, and relationship onstage. Students will use unique exercises to increase balance, strength, confidence, and range of motion while also learning advanced techniques in stillness, gesture, rhythm, and movement that will inspire creative delivery of emotionally charged and/or poetic texts.

Taught by
Justin Emeka ’95

Student Profiles

Arts Leadership with a Purpose

At Oberlin, Henrietta Key ’18 majored in theater with a concentration in arts administration and a minor in computer science. She currently serves as the Development Coordinator at the Tony-winning Williamstown Theatre Festival, where she played an integral role in executing a successful $4 million crisis fundraising campaign in the wake of the global pandemic.

Henrietta Key.

From Oberlin to an MFA in Acting

At Oberlin, Amara Granderson ’17 practiced her craft as an actor with numerous roles including Lady in Red in for colored girls… and Angie in What We Look Like. She is now pursuing an MFA in acting at UC San Diego.

Amara Granderson.

A Career in Theater

Arif Silverman ’15, was a theater major at Oberlin who took plenty of courses in English, French and classics. He is now a New York-based actor and writer with credits in theater, film, and radio, as well as a children’s musical and three solo shows.

Arif Silverman.

What does Theater at Oberlin Look like?

Yue Zhao in a gray button-up shirt, wearing glasses.

Yue Zhao ’20 performs in the original play SuperheroMan, produced for the Lab Series – 2016.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Oberlin College Theater
People gathering around a grand piano.

Alums John Kander ’51 and Ian Axness ’09 (at the piano) coach the student Ensemble of The Landing in a reading of this original musical by John and fellow Alum Greg Pierce ’00.

Photo credit: Yevhen Gulenko
Several students standing in rows.

The Movement for Ensemble class works in the new Welch Studio – 2019.

Photo credit: Chris Schmucki ’22
Nani Borges and Jad Kaiss.

Nani Borges ’19 rhapsodizes for Jad Kaiss ’19 in Angels in America: Perestroika – 2018.

Photo credit: John Seyfried
Six students on stage in colorful dresses.

Beautifully expressive storytelling dramatizes Tolstoy’s Family Happiness – 2016.

Photo credit: John Seyfried
Students in colorful dresses.

The brilliant-hued Ladies move to the rhythms of Ntozake Shange’s classic choreopoem for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf – 2017.

Photo credit: John Seyfried
Casey McKinney and Paige Baskin.

Casey McKinney ’19 and Paige Baskin ’19 play a musical scene from Flora, the Red Menace in a Tribute to John Kander for the dedication of our Theater in his name – 2018.

Photo credit: Yevhen Gulenko
Student actors on the stage set.

“We Are Descended”—The Ensemble narrates in song at the opening of Dessa Rose – 2015.

Photo credit: John Seyfried

Next Steps

Get in touch; we would love to chat.


Exterior view of the Eric Baker Nord Performing Arts Annex.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Oberlin College