Having always been interested in both literature and theater, earning a BA in each, Marissa Fenley joined UChicago’s PhD program in English Language and Literature to work at the intersections between literary and theatrical modernism, “particularly around issues of perception and spectatorship.” 

Now in her second year, Fenley found support for her wide-ranging interests through English courses that apply a theatrical lens to their subject matter, such as assistant professor John Muse’s Staging Modernism and the workshop in the Theater and Performance Studies (TAPS) program. She expects her future work will “investigate experimental puppetry practices within the modernist theatrical avant-garde,” so when the Division of the Humanities created a new PhD program in TAPS, it seemed a natural fit.

The TAPS PhD program—the Division’s first new doctoral degree since Cinema and Media Studies began admitting students in 1999—began in Autumn Quarter 2016 and accepted its first cohort of PhD applicants in February.

The Committee on Theater and Performance Studies includes 24 faculty members from 10 different departments in the Division of the Humanities. The joint PhD program—unusual in the field of theater and performance studies—embraces the interdisciplinarity that is so important to students like Fenley.

Participants will enter the program through a cooperating Humanities department: Art History, Cinema and Media Studies, Classics, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, English Language and Literature, Germanic Studies, Music, or Romance Languages and Literatures. Degrees from those departments typically take five years to complete, and the joint TAPS PhD might involve up to an additional year of course work, yielding two separate doctoral degrees.

The program’s design helps to ensure that theater and performance “will be centrally in dialogue with other departments at the University,” says David Levin, TAPS chair and Addie Clark Harding Professor in Germanic Studies and Cinema and Media Studies. Levin, a principal architect of the program, along with Christopher Wild, associate professor in Germanic Studies and TAPS, anticipates the program eventually will reach beyond Humanities to other divisions, into areas such as anthropology.

Because it is a joint degree program, the “ideal student can only be thought of plurally,” says Levin. A student with an interest in performance and extensive academic training in, for instance, ethnomusicology would be an ideal candidate. “Performance, after all, reaches far beyond the stage to encompass a disparate group of cultural, historical, and political practices.”

The TAPS PhD program reflects a new model of graduate education, Levin says, encompassing traditional academic training in two fields rather than one, while also offering students an opportunity to pursue career paths beyond the academy: as curators, founders of theater companies, cultural policy administrators, and more. In addition to an array of course work in TAPS, encompassing history and theory as well as practice—such as directing, choreography, or design—students will also complete two internships with a professional theater, dance, or performance company.


Keep it up..!!

So proud of Marissa! Anyone looking for more information about the graduate program in TAPS can visit: https://arts.uchicago.edu/theater-and-performance-studies/graduate-program

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