Theater offers students opportunities to study acting, directing, design and production, theater history and criticism, and playwriting within the broader context of a liberal arts education. Students participate in all aspects of performance, both artistic and technical.



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Theater faculty, who are accomplished professionals in their own right, teach a range of courses that nurture the natural and developing abilities of students, thus providing a sound liberal arts grounding in theory and practice of theater. Faculty support student-directed work and actively mentor them throughout their academic progress.

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Department Overview

Oberlin College is an ideal choice for students who are looking for a highly selective liberal arts school with a strong theater program committed to serious artistic training. Oberlin students have the flexibility of taking conservatory caliber Theater classes while simultaneously pursuing a broad, individually-designed undergraduate education. Because of Oberlin’s dual emphasis on both academic and artistic excellence, Oberlin attracts truly unique, multi-talented individuals. Our students are our theater program’s greatest asset. Collectively, they make up a dynamic and mutually-supportive artistic community like no other.

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Curriculum Overview

Oberlin offers a liberal arts Theater major. (An average of 18 students per graduating class major in Theater. Over 25% of these double major in another discipline.) The general requirements for the major incorporate all aspects of the Theater Arts: Theater History/Dramatic Literature, Acting/Directing, Design and Technical Production. Majors work closely with their faculty advisors to design individualized courses of study, concentrating on their own special interests.


Acting is by far the most popular concentration within the Theater major. We offer a very rigorous sequence of technique courses, designed to prepare students for admission to graduate/conservatory programs. Intro courses cover the fundamentals of American method acting and text analysis; intermediate courses focus on crafting character and scene study; advanced electives include Acting Shakespeare, Advanced Scene Study, Acting for Camera, Voice, Speech & Dialects, and Movement. Classes are small: intro classes are limited to 16; all others are limited to 12. (To ensure a consistently high level of artistic skill, students must audition into classes in this concentration.)

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Directing attracts extremely industrious, self-motivated students. In addition to courses in directing (the advanced level directing seminar is limited to 6 students), these majors are expected to take an especially wide range of Theater courses (including Acting, Stage Management, and Design) as well as cognate courses in other departments at the College, including Psychology, Art History, and Cinema Studies. There are so many opportunities to direct at Oberlin, that it is not unusual for students to direct a show each of their four years here! Most importantly, the entire Theater faculty truly values and supports student-directed work, not only attending performances but actively mentoring students throughout their artistic process.

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We offer courses in all areas of design: sets, lights, costumes, sound, technical production, and stage mamagement. Students concentrating in Design/Production are few in number, but they get a lot of individualized attention, taking one-on-one Private Readings with our professional design staff to supplement the curriculum. Design students are encouraged to take advantage of Oberlin’s Studio Art curriculum. Student designers are in high demand for student-directed shows, and may have the opportunity to do a Main Stage production in their senior year.

Theater Studies

The academic core for all theater majors is an intensive year-long course in Theater History. Also offered are courses in Asian Theater, African American Theater, and Non-Literary Theater. Dramatic Literature courses, covering different genres and periods, are offered by various other departments, including: English, French, German, Russian, Classics, and East Asian Studies. Students can apply to do Honors in Theater, which usually involves both a creative project and a research/thesis component.

Related Studies

The Creative Writing Program offers courses and a major concentration in playwriting. Student playwrights have the opportunity to see their work produced as part of the Winter Term Oberlin Shorts Festival. Many theater students also take courses in the Cinema Studies Program, both film production and theory, and become involved in the student-run Oberlin Film Co-op.

Oberlin Conservatory has an Opera Theater program, however, neither the conservatory or the theater program offer courses in musical Theater.

Study Away

A large number of theater majors take advantage of study away opportunities in their junior or senior year; the most popular programs include the college’s Danenberg Oberlin-in-London Program, the Great Lakes College Association’s New York City Arts Internships, the National Theater Institute (in Waterford CT), NTI’s Moscow Art Theater School Semester (in Moscow), the Trinity LaMama Program (in NYC), spring semester at NYU/Tisch, which includes separate programs in Drama, Film Production, and Musical Theater, and the British Academy of Dramatic Art's Shakespeare Intensive Program in London.

Upcoming Theater Events

Theater News

Four women singing on stage at Karamu House in a production of Simply Simone

Academic by Day, Actor by Night: Afia Ofori-Mensa in 'Simply Simone'

September 14, 2017
Afia Ofori-Mensa deactivated her personal Facebook account, hoping to recover time she spent on the site to writing a book manuscript. Instead, Ofori-Mensa found herself playing a young Nina Simone in a production of 'Simply Simone: The Music of Nina Simone' at Karamu House in Cleveland.