2023-24 Edition

Drama and Theatre, Ph.D.

This is a joint program offered by the UCI Department of Drama and the UCSD Department of Theatre and Dance.

This program has the largest dedicated doctoral faculty of any Drama program in the nation and one of the lowest teacher-student ratios. The program is designed to encourage students to develop a unique body of research working closely with a small group of faculty at both UCI and UCSD. This "boutique" approach calls on each student to explore avenues of research and scholarship that will maximize opportunities for entrance into the highest levels of academia.

The program's goal is to prepare students for a successful career at either a research university or a major liberal arts institution, in a variety of possible disciplines ranging from Drama and Theatre, English, and Performance Studies, to Cultural, Gender, and Ethnic Studies. The Drama Department places a high value on collegiality and professionalism, and nurtures these qualities through cooperative work within seminars, independent studies, organized events, teaching opportunities and professional trainings. 

Students with a B.A. (minimum GPA of 3.5), M.A., or M.F.A. in Drama and Theatre are eligible for admission to the doctoral program. Students with training in literature (or another area in the humanities) will also be considered, provided they can demonstrate a background in drama or theatre. Experience in one of the creative activities of theatre (acting, directing, playwriting, design, dramaturgy) enhances a student’s chances of admission.

All applicants are required to submit samples of their critical writing. The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is not required.

While not required for admission, a working knowledge of a second language is highly desirable (see Language Requirement).

Course of Study

Students are required to take a minimum of 144 units, which is equivalent to four years of full-time study (full-time students must enroll for a minimum of 12 units each quarter). Forty of these units (10 courses) are taken in required seminars; the balance is made up of elective seminars, independent study and research projects (including preparing the qualifying paper), and dissertation research. Students must take four seminars in the UCSD Program in Theatre and Dance. The program of study makes it possible for students to take a significant number of elective courses and independent studies both with faculty in Drama and Theatre and in other departments.

Required Courses

A. Complete:
DRAMA 290 Dramatic Literature and Theatre History Prior to 1900 (two seminars/8 units)
DRAMA 291 Dramatic Literature and Theatre History, 1900 to Present (two seminars/8 units)
DRAMA 292 Cultural and Critical Theory (four seminars/16 units)
Two additional seminars (8 units) are required and are determined in conversation with the head of the Ph.D. program. Each student's course of study is tailored to their interests, and selection of courses is done in discussion with the head of the program and the student's mentor/advisor.

All graduate courses may be repeated when the topic varies. Descriptions of the topics to be treated in a given academic year are published by the Department in the fall. Enrollment in each course requires the consent of the instructor. The courses are limited to registered doctoral students.

These 10 required seminars must be completed by all students, including those who have an M.A. or an M.F.A., before the end of the third year. In addition, students must pass comprehensive examinations at the end of their first and second years.

DRAMA 293 Directed Studies and DRAMA 294 Dissertation Research are also required.

Graduate Emphasis in Dramaturgy (Elective):

This Emphasis may be taken at any time during a graduate student's doctoral work, preferably during the first 4 years of graduate study, prior to the dissertation. The Emphasis includes 3 courses:

A. Complete:
DRAMA 244 Dramaturgy: Theory and Methods
DRAMA 297 Dramaturgy Practicum
DRAMA 290 Dramatic Literature and Theatre History Prior to 1900
or DRAMA 291 Dramatic Literature and Theatre History, 1900 to Present

The emphasis also includes a research component on dramaturgy in consultation with the Instructor .

Comprehensive Examination

In the first year, students prepare for the Written Comprehensive Examination, which is based on a series of reading lists curated by the joint faculty. Students take this examination prior to the beginning of fall quarter of their second year. The exam consists of essay questions. At the end of the exam period, the student submits their essays, which are review by two faculty members.

Advancement to Candidacy: Qualifying Exam

Students should select an advisor by the end of winter quarter of year two. They should select two committee members (one from each campus) by the end of spring quarter of year two.

In spring quarter of year two, the student will work with their advisor to develop the area of dissertation focus and a field reading list. During the fall of year three, students will write a prospectus that establishes the scope, theoretical engagements, and rationale of the project. During winter quarter of year three, the student will write one qualifying paper, which serves as the strong foundation for a dissertation chapter. In the spring of year three, there will be a two-hour oral examination, with the full, five-member committee, covering the prospectus and qualifying paper.

Upon completion of this exam, the language requirement, and all course requirements, the student will be admitted to candidacy.

Students may select a dissertation advisor from either the UCI Department of Drama or the UCSD Department of Theatre and Dance. All UCI doctoral dissertation committees must include at least one faculty member from UCSD.

Language Requirement

Students are required to complete an advanced research project using primary and secondary material in a second language (materials may include live and/or recorded performance; interviews with artists, critics, and scholars; and other non-documentary sources, as well as more conventional textual sources). This requirement may be satisfied by writing a seminar paper or a qualifying paper (see Advancement to Candidacy above) that makes extensive use of materials in a second language. The second-language requirement must be satisfied before the end of the third year. This requirement will not be waived for students who are bi- or multilingual; all students are required to do research-level work in more than one language.

It is assumed that students will have acquired a second language before entering the doctoral program, although second-language proficiency is not a requirement for admission. While students may study one or more second languages while at UCI or UCSD, language courses may not be counted toward doctoral program requirements.


Students are required to teach a minimum of four quarters, via DRAMA 399. No more than eight units of apprentice teaching may be counted toward the required 144 units.

Departmental Ph.D. Time-Limit Policies

Students must advance to candidacy by the end of the fall quarter of their fourth year. Departmental normative time for completion of the degree is five years; total registered time in the Ph.D. program at UCI or UCSD cannot exceed seven years.

Financial Support

Ph.D. students entering the program with a B.A. may be supported (either by teaching assignments or fellowships) for five years. Students who have an M.A. and have been given transfer credit may be supported for four years. Such support depends upon the funds available, the number of students eligible, and the student’s rate of progress.

Graduates from the Department of Drama perform, stage manage, or design on Broadway, in national tours, regional and summer theatres, in films and on television. UC Irvine's Drama alumni serve as artistic directors, business managers, designers, art directors, and performers at more than 100 theatre companies, and are faculty at more than 75 institutions of higher learning.

A degree in Drama may or may not lead to professional employment in theatre or film. While some alumni may pursue careers as professional theatre artists, many may use the skills learned from their degree and embark upon careers in law, business, arts management, advertising, and teaching. Others may pursue further study at UC Irvine or other notable institutions.