The Mission of the Theater Department

The Wesleyan Theater Department is invested in graduating students who identify as "theater makers" able to think holistically about, and work dynamically with, the range of elements and relationships defining a performance event.  By teaching the fundamental tools of theater and emphasizing collaborative, exploratory work, we give our students the ability to navigate and change the real world without hesitation and with confidence. Our graduates are self-empowered, well-informed, creative story-tellers engaged in their communities.

We believe that theater can be created from multiple points of entry, such as utilizing scripted plays and texts; movement and physical composition; objects and visual elements; sound and music. Therefore, we invite and welcome all students; particularly those with a strong passion to express themselves while also being willing to fail, fall, laugh and grow. As modeled by the faculty, students learn pathways to change themselves and others.

The theater department faculty believes in the power of performance as a transformational discipline. It is an embodied process that, through technique, methodology, study and commitment, has a unique capability to ask hard questions about who we are as a society, and serve as a rehearsal space for alternate futures.

More about the Theater Department

Created in the 1930’s by English Professor and Designer Ralph Pendleton, Wesleyan’s Theater Department now carries on its long tradition of examining performance on both creative and critical levels, in both theatrical and civic spheres. As an essential component of the liberal arts eco-system, our faculty's interdisciplinary interests and specialties draw students into a range of conversations and embodied practices that bridge from our rehearsal rooms, seminar circles, and stages out into the world. Our current faculty brings particular attention to forms and schools of theater making/thinking in the twentieth and twenty-first century through a primarily Americanist lens.


Our pedagogy is grounded in an intersectional perspective: we believe continual and collaborative exchange between the disciplines of theater is necessary to both rigorous scholarship and applied creative practice. As such, our students do not focus in one area within theatrical production but rather learn as "theater makers," becoming skilled in interrelated theater practices: devising, production design, directing, theater history, critical and performative writing, acting, voice and movement, playwriting, stage management and technical theater. Our productions range from adaptations of classical texts, to contemporary scripts, to movement- or visually-based performance installations.


Theater Department productions are staged in The Center for the Arts Theater, the Patricelli '92 Theater, and across campus in alternative locations. In addition to full time theater faculty, we often host visiting artists for guest lectures, unique courses, and workshops. Recent visitors have included Pulitzer Prize winner and playwright Quiara Alegría Hudes; Broadway performers Crystal Dickinson and Brandon J. Dirden; the acclaimed performance company Elevator Repair Service; 2022 USA Artist Fellow and queer artist/costumer Machine Dazzle; and 2021 Guggenheim winner and Wesleyan Theater alum, choreographer Kaneza Schaal.


Wesleyan's Theater Department aims at graduating empowered creative artists engaged in their communities. Both our faculty and our alumni are notably active in the professional métier and they appear on international and national stages, on, off, and off-off Broadway. Many are the recipients of prestigious awards: "Bessie" Award designers Chloe Brown and Roderick Murray, Emmy Award recipients Dana Delany and Bradley Whitford, Tony Award winners Frank Wood and Lin-Manuel Miranda are just a few examples. Collectively, our faculty have won Creative Captial and Obie Awards, been supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, have performed and directed on and off Broadway, and are internationally respected scholars and leaders in the field. Many alumni have joined renowned theater companies, while others are founding members of cutting-edge collaborative ensembles, acclaimed solo performers, and community activists. Theater alumni hold graduate degrees in acting, arts management, design, directing, theater history, education, and performance studies from the nation's most reputable programs.



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