PhD in Theatre

Specialization in Theatre History, Dramatic Literature, and Dramatic Theory and Criticism

The PhD in Theatre at LSU is a scholarly degree consisting of two or more years of in-person coursework in theatre and performance history, theory, criticism, and practice. This coursework then leads to the student proposing, researching, writing, and defending a substantial intervention into a critical subfield of theatre and performance studies (i.e., the dissertation). The PhD in Theatre is the terminal degree for academic studies of theatre and performance (as opposed to the MFA, the terminal degree for training in acting, playwriting, directing, or design). We welcome dedicated researchers as well as practitioners who seek to complement their production skills with a rigorous engagement with theatre history, theory, and criticism. 

The PhD faculty are committed to providing students with the necessary tools to compete in a rapidly diversifying job market. We focus on honing students’ skills in writing rigorous scholarship, teaching a broad range of theatre classes, and enhancing production experience, especially in the areas of dramaturgy and directing. Our students become nimble and adaptive teachers and scholars, able to occupy an array of positions in professional and/or academic theatre.

Our program’s curriculum provides students with a broad knowledge of theatre historiography, theory, literature, and criticism. In addition, students pursue a minor area of study in a field outside theatre, such as Women’s and Gender Studies, Performance Studies, History, Comparative Literature, Anthropology, or English. Our faculty balances our program’s generalist foundation with expertise in gender and queer studies, critical race theory, African and African diasporic studies, political performance, and sports history. We mentor students as teaching assistants and instructors for undergraduate classes including Introduction to Theatre, Theatre History, Script Analysis, Acting, and Directing.  Students also have the opportunity to design and propose Special Topics courses in their third or fourth year. Since most academic positions for PhD Theatre graduates require production work, we strongly encourage PhD students to participate in LSU productions as actors, directors, playwrights, designers, and/or dramaturgs.

Our program is tailored to suit the needs and goals of each student within a structured curriculum. Once students choose a major advisor at the end of coursework( usually in their third year), they work with that faculty member to ensure they spend the remainder of their time acquiring the necessary experience to prepare them for the position they seek whether inside or outside academia. Our students’ dissertations are similarly crafted towards the audience that student hopes to to work with whether academic, professional, or both. Our students go on to become professors at research one and liberal arts institutions, professors at community colleges, teachers in public and private high schools, and dramaturgs and literary managers at professional theatres. 

Recent dissertation topics include abolitionist approaches to performances at Angola State Penitentiary; roleplaying games as performance texts; asexual readings of canonical plays; cryptid tourism as performance; an organizational history and analysis of the Orlando Fringe Festival;  theatre for children in Christian mega-churches; and Nigerian standup comedy.

For more information about the PhD in Theatre, contact Dr. John Fletcher, Head of the PhD Program at

What's Needed To Apply

  • Online application and $50 application fee
  • Official transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate institutions attended
  • A statement of interest in LSU's PhD program
  • A CV or resume
  • A sample of scholarly research, such as a thesis chapter, conference paper, or article
  • Three letters of recommendation

Admission Requirements (see Graduate Catalog for full details)

  • A bachelor’s degree from an accredited U.S. Institution or the equivalent from a foreign institution: a master's degree is also strongly recommended
  • A GPA of at least 3.00 (A=4.00) on all undergraduate work (or at least half-degree requirement) and a 3.00 GPA or better on any graduate work already completed; international applicants must have at least a 3.00 GPA, or equivalent, on all college-level work previously attempted

We offer a graduate teaching assistant stipend of $23,000 per academic year (a 9-month appointment), with a waiver of tuition fees, the non-resident fee, and the Student Excellence fee. Some other fees, totaling $2000 per year, are still assessed, though we hope they will be removed for fall 2024. Gold-standard health insurance is available for $700 per year (obligatory for international students). Graduate Assistants work 20 hours a week, usually in some combination of teaching and administrative service to the School of Theatre. Graduate assistantships are guaranteed for five years, provided the student remains in good standing, which entails maintaining a minimum 3.0 GPA and making satisfactory progress toward the completion of the PhD. 

The PhD in Theatre at LSU is designed as a four-year program (five-year for students who enter without an M.A. or M.F.A.). Reading knowledge in a foreign language is required. Students achieve candidacy upon completion of general exams and prospectus, usually in the spring of their third year.

  • Minimum of 81 credit hours past the B.A. (excluding a minimum of 9 dissertation hours); an M.A. or M.F.A. can count for up to 30 hours
  • 9-12 credit hours in minor
  • 3 credit hours outside of major and minor (7000) level
  • 3 credit hours in THTR 7926 or other non-Western theatre, art or culture
  • 3 credit hours in THTR 7900, Introduction to Graduate Studies
  • 6 credit hours in theory sequence (THTR 7924 and THTR 7925)
  • 15 hours in literature and history (THTR 7901, THTR 7902, THTR 7903, THTR 7904, THTR 7912, THTR 7913, THTR 7914)
  • 3 credit hours in THTR 7920, Black Drama of the Diaspora
  • 3 credit hours in THTR 7923 or other Women’s and Gender Studies course
  • 3 credit hours of Electives
  • 3 credit hours in a pedagogy-focused course
  • 9 credit hours for dissertation (THTR 9000)

All courses should be taken on the 7000 level. On occasion, exceptions can be made by graduate advisor. Should you take a 4000-level course, the instructor must have graduate faculty status.

Annual Reviews
During orientation week every fall, all in-residence PhD students are required to meet with the PhD faculty to review the milestones from the previous academic year, and set goals for the upcoming academic year in order to ensure timely progression of all students toward their degree.

Committee Selection
By the conclusion of the student’s required coursework, students should select a major advisor and minor professor in order to begin preparing for the general exam process.

General Exams
General exams should be taken in the spring semester of the third year.

  • Sit-down exams given in 2nd week of classes, followed by oral defense of answers with PhD faculty. Note: failure requires retaking the exams after a 4 week break
  • The portfolio should be completed by 6th week of classes and submitted to the PhD faculty via email.
  • The take-home essay should be completed by 8th week. Normally, this is a research question arranged by the student’s major advisor by the 6th week and answered by the student in the form of a 15-page response, complete with bibliography. Ideally, the essay assists the student in constructing a dissertation prospectus. The major advisor approves this essay.
  • The prospectus defense with the student’s dissertation committee (i.e., major professor, minor professor, at least one other Theatre professor, and the dean’s representative) should occur by the 14th week. A General Exam Defense form must be filed with the Graduate School at least three weeks prior to the defense date. The prospectus itself must be circulated to the committee at least two weeks prior to the defense.
    All degree requirements, save for defending the dissertation, need to be satisfied before the start of the 4th year in order to receive 4th year of funding (or 5th year for MA/PhDs).

Additional details on the general exam process, courses offered, and other details about the program can be found in the School of Theatre’s Graduate Student Handbook.

For more information on the PhD Program Dr. John Fletcher.

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Questions? Contact Us!

School of Theatre Office
105 Music & Dramatic Arts Building
Attn. Dr. John Fletcher
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, LA 70803-2504