Scene from the musical 1776 by Peter Stone and Sherman Edwards. Directed by Jim Lortz.
Photo by Rachel Bayne.
What is Theatre?
The central goal of theatre study is to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of theatre and its role in human development, including knowledge of its history; the means by which theatre is created and realized; and the role of theatre in forming the past, present, and future of society and culture. Add your voice to the cultural conversation.
Theatre Arts Degree(s)
Theatre at Western
The Theatre major at WWU is grounded in the liberal arts. Declared students must complete a selection of core fundamental courses for a well-rounded education. From there, students select one or more areas of specialization:
- Entertainment Design and Technology: For students interested in costume, lighting, or scenic design. This area also explores new technology and skills in the field.
- Performance: For students who want to pursue a career in theatrical performance. Focuses include a collection of acting and musical theatre styles.
- Production: For students to learn dramatic writing, directing, or stage management. These positions are critical for the production of theatre.
- Educational Theatre: For those interested in youth outreach, education, and applied theatre. Students can also complete the teaching certification program with Woodring College of Education.
- Theatre Studies: For students interested in the general study of theatre. This concentration is also for individuals who want to blend concentrations.
Our curriculum also features devising, which is a process of collaboratively creating new work for the stage. Western has received 6 National Awards from the Kennedy Center for devised productions.
The major includes an introduction to playwriting class that many undergraduate programs overlook. Western students have won playwriting awards, including accolades from the Kennedy Center. Many have gone on to pursue graduate degrees or professional work in playwriting.
Through both playwriting and devising, we train our students to be self-generative artists. These skills are critical for students to engage in cultural conversations and spur social change by adding their voice, their perspectives to the work and world.
At Western, students can design and stage manage departmental productions. This is a rare opportunity at the undergraduate level. This includes working in our black box DUG Theater and our 1,100 seat Mainstage Theater. Designers and technicians graduate with hands-on experience needed to pursue graduate school or their career path of choice.
Professors focus all their attention on educating and training undergraduate theatre artists. All courses are taught by professional educators as opposed to graduate students. The majority of the classes in the Department offer a low student-to-faculty ratio.
THTR 316 - Beginning Costume Design
THTR 321 - 3D Digital Modeling and Design
THTR 370 - Play Direction
THTR 384 - Introduction to Dramatic Writing
Hands-on-Experience and Internships
Our students reinforce their studies through hands-on application of their skills. With numerous production opportunities, theatre students rarely find themselves without a production to work on. In addition to our five annual faculty-led productions, Student Theatre Productions (STP) also produces a three-to-six production season. These performances are student produced, designed, directed, and acted.
We also invite professionals to direct, design, write new plays, or host training residencies.
Recent guests include:
- Chris Walker (Broadway)
- Bill Bowers (NYC Actor, Mime, and Educator)
- Hand To Mouth Company (Portland, OR devising company)
- Amber Crowe (Professional Makeup Artist)
- Annette Devick (Casting Consultant for Cirque du Soleil)
- Idris Goodwin (BreakBeat Poet and Playwright)
- Brian Quijada (Actor, Playwright, and Musical Artist, NYC)
- Jeffrey Augustin (Playwright, story editor and episode writer for “Claws”)
- Blessed Unrest (NYC, devising company)
The department values student internships because they are the best bridge from college to a career in theatre arts. Western students have secured internships across Washington state and beyond, including:
- Tectonic Theatre Project and Blessed Unrest (NYC Professional devising companies)
- Oregon Shakespeare Company
- Seattle Repertory Theatre
- Seattle Children's Theatre
- Seattle Scenic Studios
- Arts West
- Mount Baker Theatre
- Village Theatre Kids’ Stage
Students are encouraged to attend conferences to supplement their education. At conferences, students attend workshops, interview for graduate school, and discover opportunities in their field. Each year, we support student travel to professional Performing Arts conferences such as:
- The Kennedy Center’s American College Theatre Festival
- United States Technical Theatre Conference (USITT)
- The Southeastern Theatre Conference (SETC)
Theatre Majors and incoming interests are welcome to apply to our scholarships! Please check out our Scholarship Webpage for up-to-date information! Scholarship applications usually open late-March or early-April.
Organizations and Clubs
Student Theatre Productions: Student led production company that produces 3-6 shows each year.
Dead Parrots Society: An improv comedy club with weekly meetings and monthly performances.
Plays4Us: Quarterly performances of short scenes or 1 acts featuring mostly new works.
New Music New Dance: This club produces an annual show with original music and choreography.
Theatre in general, and acting, specifically, teaches empathy and compassion. It teaches resilience, self-worth, work ethic, collaboration, and problem-solving. All those 'soft skills' that employers are always seeking, theatre teaches them in spades.
WWU Theatre and Dance Department Chair and Professor, Acting and Movement. Carnegie Foundation’s Washington Professor of the Year (2015)
What can you do with a degree in Theatre?
In addition to preparing majors for careers in the academic or professional theatre, the lessons acquired through this course of study are transferable to careers in teaching, law, business, and other areas where interpersonal and self-reliant skills are required.
Employers of Recent Western Graduates:
- Broadway Touring Company of The Book of Mormon: Conner Peirson as Elder Cunningham
- CBS & Comedy Central: Rashawn Scott as Kitty Goodnight in South Side
- NBC’s Modern Family: Andrea Nelson recurring role as Bartender
- Village Theatre and Kidstage: Production Manager, Stage Manager, Director, etc.
- Actors of Theatre of Louisville (Louisville, KY): Apprentice Program Performers
- Artists Striving to End Poverty: Workshop Leader/Theatre Education
- Centerstage Theater (Federal Way, WA): Stage Manager
- Disney: Performers & Cast Costumer
- Mount Baker Theatre (Bellingham, WA): Hair and Makeup Designer
- Upfront Theatre (Bellingham, WA): Performers, Sales and Marketing Director
- YMCA (Bellingham, WA): Theatre Programs Leader
- 5th Avenue Theatre (Seattle, WA): Production Assistant and Box Office
- Barter Theatre (Abingdon, VA): Props Intern
- Boys and Girls Club (Portland, OR): Theatre Program Coordinator
- Seattle Children’s Theatre: Teaching Artists
- Graphic Designer
- House Management
- Master Electrician
- Costume Designer
- Advertising/Marketing Manager
- Talent Scout
- Lighting Designer
- Stage Manager
- Events Coordinator
- Props Designer
- Technical Director
- Set Designer
- Booking Agent
- Marketing Communications Specialist