Academic Program in Theater

Oberlin offers a liberal arts theater major. On average, 18 students per graduating class major in theater and more than 25 percent pursue a double major.

group of women on stage in different colored dresses
A scene from the choreopoem "for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuff" performed in Hall Auditorium.
Photo credit: John Seyfried

Program Requirements

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Students who graduate with a major in Theater will demonstrate:

  1. Knowledge of plays and performance traditions from a wide range of periods, movements, genres, and cultures 

  2. Advanced analytical skills specific to theatrical processes, appropriate for both creative work and scholarship in our discipline

  3. A broad knowledge of and practical experience in creating theater

  4. Evidence of the development of advanced technique/skills within at least one area: Acting, Africana Performance Practice, Design, Directing, Playwrighting, Stage and Arts Management, Technical Production, Theater Scholarship and Performance Studies

  5. Knowledge and development of professional business practices specific to the pursuit of a life in the theater

  6. The development of life skills through the exploration of technique and production processes

The general requirements for the major incorporate all aspects of the theater arts: performance (acting/directing), design and technical production, and critical inquiry (theater history/dramatic literature). Majors work closely with their faculty advisors to design individualized courses of study, concentrating on their own particular 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. Class sizes 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.

Acting Requirements


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. Also required are cognate courses in other departments including psychology, art history, and cinema studies. We offer many opportunities to direct at Oberlin, so it is not unusual for students to direct a show in each of their four years at Oberlin. The theater faculty truly values and supports student-directed work through active mentoring and attending student performances.

Directing Requirements

Design and Technical Production

We offer courses in all areas of design: sets, lights, costumes, sound, technical production, and stage management. Students concentrating in Design/Production receive 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.

Critical Inquiry

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 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.

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 nor the theater program offer courses in musical theater.

A large number of theater majors take advantage of Oberlin’s Study Away program 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, and the Trinity LaMama Program in New York City.

During the spring semester, students may attend NYU/Tisch, which features separate programs in drama, film production, and musical theater, and the British Academy of Dramatic Arts’ Shakespeare Intensive Program in London.

Related Programs

Discover related majors, minors, and concentrations in The Practicing Arts at Oberlin.