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PhDs smile for the camera. Photo: Jim Carmody (2019)UC San Diego Theatre + Dance PhD students and candidates in fall 2019. Photo: Jim Carmody. 

Ph.D. in Theatre and Drama

UC San Diego Theatre Dance offers a groundbreaking PhD in Drama and Theatre in conjunction with the Department of Drama at UC Irvine. The joint nature of the PhD program provides an unrivalled diversity of theatre faculty and affiliated faculty between both campuses available for coursework and advising. Within the context of the program’s twin focus on theory and history, an innovative structure permits each student to pursue a custom-designed curriculum that draws from a rich variety of seminars in faculty research areas that include: Theatre of the Americas (modernist and postmodernist theatre and performance; African American theatre and dance; Asian American performance; Latinx and Indigenous performance) and European Theatre, as well as Asian Theatre, Gender Studies, Intercultural Theatre, and Critical Theory.

PhD students take seminars at both UC San Diego and UC Irvine and write dissertations under the supervision of faculty at both campuses. In addition, UC San Diego's PhD students have historically received part of their financial support by creating publicity materials for productions staged by the department’s top-ranked MFA program. The scholarly, theoretical nature of the doctoral program thus exists alongside the thriving artistic scene of the UC San Diego Theatre District, which includes the La Jolla Playhouse. Students with backgrounds in theatre and interests in history and theory find the breadth of the UC San Diego Theatre & Dance department and the joint nature of the PhD program to be fruitful ground to prepare for a professional career in scholarship.

Faculty Research Areas

Julie Burelle

PhD UC-San Diego. Indigenous Theatre and Performance in the Americas, Dramaturgy, Indigenous and Critical Settler-Colonial theoriesFull Bio

Mysia Anderson

PhD Brown University. Black Performance Theory, Black Studies, Black Feminist Studies, and African American theatre. Full Bio

Rishika Mehrishi

PhD Stanford University. Ecocriticism, Multispecies Ethnography, Critical Animal Studies, Postcolonial Studies, South Asian Studies, Anti-caste Pedagogies and Activism, Performances in/from the Global South. Full Bio

David Ruiter

PhD Baylor University. Shakespeare and Social Justice, Theatre History, Pedagogy. Full Bio

Jade Power-Sotomayor
PhD UC-San Diego. Latinx theatre and performance, Caribbean studies, dance studies, feminist of color critiqueFull Bio

Hentyle Yapp

PhD UC Berkeley, JD from UCLA Law. Disability Studies; Asian and Transnational Asian American Studies; Law and Aesthetics; Queer of Color Critique; Performance and Dance Studies. Full Bio


Other faculty areas of expertise: Asian Theatre, Gender Studies, Intercultural Theatre, and Critical Theory.

UC Irvine Faculty

Anthony Kubiak
PhD, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee; Professor: American and Modern Drama, Modern Poetry, Critical Theory, Philosophy. Full Bio

Daphne Lei 
PhD, Tufts University; Professor and Head of Doctoral Studies: Chinese Opera, Asian and Asian American Theatre, Intercultural and Transnational Theatre, Gender and Performance Theory. Full Bio

Ian Munro
PhD, Harvard University; Associate Professor: European Drama and Performance, Early Modern Popular Culture, Theatrical Performance of Wit. Full Bio

Zachary Price
Ph.D. University of California, Santa Barbara; Assistant Professor of Doctoral Studies: African American theater and Black performance, Afro Asian performance. Full Bio

Bryan Reynolds
PhD, Harvard University; Professor and Head of Doctoral Studies: Shakespeare, Renaissance Drama, Critical Theory, Transversal Poetics, Feminist Theory, Performance Theory, Cultural Studies. Full Bio

Tara Rodman
Ph.D. Northwestern University; Assistant Professor of Doctoral Studies: Japan, Europe, and US performers and performance forms of the 20th century. Full Bio

The UC San Diego/UC Irvine Joint Doctoral Program

Each department selects its own students. Students earn their degrees from the campus to which they are admitted. Each department supports its own students in accordance with applicable departmental and campus financial support policies.

  • Students take a minimum of one graduate seminar per year with a faculty member of the other campus.
  • Students have access to all PhD seminars in both departments.
  • Graduate classes and seminars count toward graduation in both departments.
  • All doctoral committees in each department include a faculty member from the other campus.
  • The dissertation director may be selected, as a result of specific interests and after coursework, from either campus.
  • Both departments offer strongly competitive support packages to qualified students. Support packages may include tuition, fees, and stipend.
  • Students who have advanced to candidacy may have the opportunity to teach undergraduate classes in their research areas.

Program of Study

All students are required to:

  • take an Introduction to Doctoral Studies
  • take a minimum of six seminars in history of drama and theatre
  • take a minimum of four seminars in theory and criticism
  • pass through a sequence of annual exams that focus progress toward degree completion
  • satisfy the second language requirement before the end of the third year
  • complete and defend a dissertation

Course Offerings

Students are required to an introduction to doctoral studies plus ten departmental seminars to achieve candidacy. The following doctoral seminars are a sampling of those that have been taught in the past couple years; the syllabi are available for reference here.

  • Introduction to Doctoral Studies (instructor varies)
  • Radical Dramaturgies (Professor Burelle)
  • Theatre of War (Professor Burelle)
  • The Nation Enacted on Imaginary Stages (Professor Burelle)
  • Indigenous Theory and Performance (Professor Burelle)
  • Canadian Theatre (Professor Burelle)
  • Performing Latinidades (Professor Power-Sotomayor)
  • Latinx Theater History: Movements and Genealogies (Professor Power-Sotomayor)
  • Practice as Research (Professor Power-Sotomayor)
  • Performance and Nightlife (Professor Power-Sotomayor)
  • Black Performance Theory (Professor Anderson)
  • The Transnational Turn: Race, Ethics, and Method (Professor Yapp)
  • Marxism and In/Humanism (Professor Yapp)
  • Disability and Queer Theory (Professor Yapp)
  • Law, Race, and the Humanities / On the Concept of Law (Professor Yapp)
  • Sensing Race: Affect, Phenomena, and Relation (Professor Yapp)
  • Performing Beyond the Human (Professor Mehrishi)

Students are also eligible to apply for admission to the Graduate Specialization in Critical Gender Studies where they will take select graduate courses through the Critical Gender Studies Program in addition to their Theatre and Dance graduate seminars. Visit the CGS Program website for more information >>

Theory and Practice

The UC San Diego Theatre & Dance department supports the development of PhD students who consider themselves artists as well as scholars, and, depending on their artistic backgrounds and the consent of the relevant instructors, doctoral students in our program have been able to pursue coursework and extracurricular opportunities that intersect with the MFA areas of directing, acting, dance-theatre, and design. In addition, the PhD program at UC San Diego honors its origins as an MFA Dramaturgy program by offering coursework and opportunities to work as dramaturgs on university and professional productions. At the same time, doctoral students must manage their workloads to ensure that artistic work does not impede their timely progress toward the PhD. Recent examples of these theory-practice intersections include:

  • directing undergraduate theatre productions and graduate studio projects that relate to their dissertation research
  • training as an apprentice acting teacher with the Head of our MFA Acting program
  • training alongside MFA directors and designers in the department’s directing and design seminars
  • serving as assistant directors, actors, fight choreographers, and dramaturgs for our MFA theatre productions
  • serving as dancers and dramaturgs for our MFA dance productions
  • devising and performing in applied theatre outreach to the larger academic community
  • enrolling in scholar-artist coursework such as "Performance as Research” and “Crossing Boundaries”

Completed Dissertations

        Alison Urban (2023)

        Act of Remembrance as Acts of Resistance: Performances of Intergenerational Memory as Memorial

        Will Jones (2021)

        Imagining a more engaged spectator: imagination as active participation in performance

Sam Aros Mitchell (2021) 

W/riting Indigeneity; Circularities through the Codices of the Native Body

Jim Short (2021) 

Spectatorial Risk: Performing Uncertainty in Early Modern Europe

Jon Reimer (2020) 

Proximal and Reminiscent Nostalgias: Queer Potentiality in Postwar Japan and the Post-Method American Theatre

Kristen Tregar (2020) 

Bison, Bears, and Borders: Animals and the Performance of National Communities

Tezeru Teshome (2019) 

From Pursuing Innocence to Ensuing Innocence: How Performance Can Empower Youth to Access and Establish Shared Governance in Juvenile Justice

Kara Raphaeli (2019)

The Clothes Make the Man: Theatrical Crossdressing as Expression of Gender Fluidity in Seventeenth- through Nineteenth-Century Performance

Laura Dorwart (2019)

Mad Girls: Charting Cultural Representations of Psychosocial Disability and Contemporary Hysteria(s)

Bryan White (2019)

Renegotiating National Identity: Modern and Contemporary Irish Drama and Performance

Jason Dorwart (2017)

The Incorporeal Corpse: Disability, Liminality, Performance

Melissa Minniefee (2016)

Ritual Negotiations: Abjection, Kinship, and (Re)Performance in German-Occupied France and Post-Katrina America

William Given (2015)

Photography and Film in Nineteenth-Century France : Negative Space Performance and Projected Unreality

Matthieu Chapman (2015)

The Other “Other”: Anti-Black Racism in Early Modern English Drama

Naysan Mojgani (2015)

The Performative Image and the Power of the Audience: Shakespeare in the Visual Arts

Laura Anne Brueckner (2014)

The Master of Ceremonies: Dramaturgies of Power

Grace Shinhae Jun (2014)

Moving Hip Hop: Corporeal Performance and the Struggle Over Black Masculinity

Heather Ramey (2014)

Performing Black Rock City: Theatre of Affect and Burning Man

Lily Kelting (2014)

Agrarian Pasts, Utopian Futures: Food, Nostalgia, and the Power of Dreaming in Old Comedy and the New Southern Food Movement

Julie Sara Véronique Burelle (2014)

Encounters on Contested Lands : First Nations Performances of Sovereignty and Nationhood in Quebec

Maiya Murphy (2013)

In Corporation: Physical Theater, Cognitive Science, and Moving Toward a Paradigmatic Revolution in Epistemology

Rana Salimi (2012)

Political Performance of Violence: Palestinian Female Bombers and the Politics of Visual Representation

Fan Liao (2012)

The paradoxical Peking opera : performing tradition, history, and politics in 1949-1967 China

Jade Y. Power Sotomayor (2012)

Speaking Bodies: Body Bilinguality and Code-switching in Latina/o Performance

Terry Sprague (2010)

Ambiguous Bodies in Motion: Representations of Female Identity in Contemporary Screendance

Aimee Zygmonski (2010)

Using the master's tools : representations of blackness and the strategies of stereotype

Raimondo Genna (2010)

Empty Sky: 9/11 and Performing Regenerative Violence

Zachary Whitman Gill (2009)

Soldiers performing/performing soldiers : spectacular catharsis, perpetual rehearsal, and theatricality in the US infantry

Michael Perin Jaros (2008)

To Have Lived is Not Enough for Them: Performing Irish History in the Twentieth Century

Summer Neilson Moshy (2008)

The Empty Center: Acting Out Theatric Alliance in Three Texts by Sarah Kane

Heather Lynn Donahoe LaForge (2008)

Rupturing the stage: Performing Women in Brian Friel's Theatre

Christopher Lowell Berchild (2003)

Staging Dublin : urban representation in contemporary Irish drama

D.J. Hopkins (2003)

City/stage/globe : a genealogy of space in Shakespeare's London

Employment Record

Our graduates leave our program well equipped to excel in a variety of positions. Some have secured positions at academic institutions including Emory University, Indiana University, Salem State University, San Diego State University, University of Arizona, University of Nevada at Las Vegas, University of California Santa Cruz, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of South Dakota, University of Southern California, University of Texas, Washington University, Simpson College, National University of Singapore, Flame University in Pune, India, and Hong Kong Baptist University. Others have served as literary managers, dramaturgs, artistic directors, and in key senior leadership and administrative positions at institutions like the Old Globe Theatre, the La Jolla Playhouse, Round House Theatre, Crowded Fire Theatre, Wooly Mammoth Theatre, Diversionary Theatre, and the Association for Theatre in Higher Education among others.

Living in La Jolla and the San Diego Area

  • Renowned regional theatres La Jolla Playhouse and The Old Globe Theatre
  • Lively fringe arts scene including San Diego Rep, Sushi Art, Sixth at Penn, Cygnet, Diversionary, Adams Avenue, and Studio of the Arts
  • Close proximity to Los Angeles and Mexico

Contact Information

Department of Theatre & Dance
University of California, San Diego
9500 Gilman Drive 0344
La Jolla, CA 92093-0344
Tel. 858.534.1046 (Graduate Admissions)
Fax. 858.534.1080

Department of Drama
University of California, Irvine
249 Drama
Irvine, CA 92697-2775
Tel. 949.824.6614 (Graduate Admissions)
Fax. 949.824.3475

Admissions and Selection Process

Applicants must have or must be about to receive a BA (with a minimum GPA of 3.5), MA, or MFA degree prior to applying for admission. Experience in one of the creative activities of theatre (acting, design, directing, dramaturgy, playwriting) will enhance chances of admission. While not required for admission, a working knowledge of a second language is highly desirable. The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is required for all those applying to the doctoral program. Applicants must also submit two samples of their critical writing ( e.g. seminar paper or MA thesis chapter ), one of which must deal with an aspect of drama or theatre. Please note that due to the nature of our program, students may enter only in the fall quarter, and we do not accept transfer credits from other programs.

Students selected for admission will be notified after a complete review of the file and all submitted documents and after a personal or telephone interview. Entrance into the program is highly selective. On average, two students are selected each year.

To apply online, go to our Admissions Page.

If you have questions or would like more information about our Graduate programs, call the Graduate Coordinator at 858-534-1046 or email at