Before you go any further, Meet a Major in a Minute — recent alum Jessi Dimmock gives you a very quick run-down of what she loved about our program:
Is auditioning a part of the application process?
No. If you are admitted to the University of Massachusetts Amherst, you do not have to audition to become a major or minor. However, once you declare your major or add on your minor, we do require you to keep up a minimum GPA in theater classes and to complete required classes. See the Online Advising page for checklists and other helpful documents to help you navigate our requirements for the Major and Minor.
I'm only interested in performance. Why are you making me take lighting design (and dramaturgy classes, and tech crew credits, and...)?
We are proud to offer a BA program, and as such, we take a broad, "liberal arts" view of theater. We think that in order to be effective theater artists, people need to be aware of the many different sides of the theater world, and that holds for both our Majors and those who pursue the Minor in Theater. Theater is a collaborative art that improves when all the members of a production speak the same language and work toward the same goal. We also believe that whatever an individual's focus might be, they will be stronger in that area for having a knowledge of related areas. An actor, for example, might be able to make stronger acting choices based on an understanding of why a lighting designer is choosing certain effects and how they influence the way the audience perceives what's happening on stage. Besides, you might discover a passion for a side of theater you didn’t even know about before!
See our Major page to learn about different areas of theater you can study here.
While our minor only requires students to pursue two of the three areas in depth, we still believe a broad perspective is helpful. See our Minor in Theater page to learn about how we apply our philosophy to the minor.
UMass is HUGE. I'm a little freaked out about getting lost in the shuffle.
We hear you — everyone's a little overwhelmed at first. The Department of Theater will make it easy for you to feel at home, though. As a major, in the first week of classes, you'll be paired with a peer advisor from our Undergraduate Activities Council, who is a fellow student, likely someone in your area of interest. They will be happy, nay, EAGER, to answer your questions about the major, help you find your way around the building, and generally assist you as you learn your way around the department and the University. We also recommend checking on this website and following us on social media to learn about all the getting-to-know you stuff we do at the beginning of the year to help new folks get situated. Finally, we recommend checking your inbox every Tuesday — that's when our in-department newsletter, The Purple Lobbyist, comes out, and it has important information about classes, registration, auditions, workshops, internships, and more. (If you're a major, minor, MTC student or Theater-adjacent BDIC, and you're not getting the Lobbyist, contact our PR Director.)
I am thinking about double-majoring. Can I do that and still finish on time?
We have a lot of double-majors, and many of them do finish in four years. The key is to be goal-oriented and to start working on getting your general education and other required classes completed as soon as possible. You should also be in close communication with your faculty advisor (well, you should do that anyway, really!) to figure out the most efficient and effective way to plan your courses.
What about shows? Do I have to audition for those? And do I stand a chance at getting cast as a freshman? What about if I Minor in Theater? And what if I don't want to major OR minor, but I want to act in one of your shows?
Yes! You must audition if you want to be in one of our productions. And yes, you do have a chance at being cast as a freshman, a minor, or a non-major. That said, we don’t want to create an expectation that you’ll get the lead role your first time out. A strong work ethic, a willingness to learn, and a commitment to working supportively with the rest of the cast, crew, and creative team are really important to us. If you approach this discipline seriously, and we see that you’re ready to take on the challenge of a particular part, you will be cast.
Department mainstage auditions are posted in the department and on our audition page; we often host pre-audition workshops and recommend attending those, especially if you're new to the department. Being part of our productions is a key part of majoring in Theater, and acting in a show is credited through our 210 course. If you aren't cast in a mainstage show, there are also opportunities in independent student productions and end-of-semester class projects.
Musical Theater: I lovelovelove it. Do you offer it?
Yes! This is an area in which we are growing year by year. We regularly offer a course in musical theater that is collaboratively taught with faculty from Theater, Music, and Dance. Usually, our mainstage season includes a musical or a play with strong music and/or movement elements, and students frequently get the chance to put on their own independent musical theater productions. Music and Dance folks are frequent collaborators on our mainstage productions, and we are actively building creative partnerships with those disciplines as a whole and with individual faculty, staff and students. The Stephen Driscoll Musical Theater Endowment will allow us to ramp up this work to an even greater degree.
How can I participate in theater if I am not interested in or able to major?
We offer a Minor in Theater for UMass students who cannot commit to the demands of the major. In this 16-credit minor, students choose two areas of study from Performance, Dramaturgy, or Design for greater exploration. Classroom instruction and production experience go hand-in-hand as students apply what they learn to the mainstage season and/or independent student work. Details about the course requirements are on the Minor in Theater Page.
Additionally, we offer a Multicultural Theater Certificate, which is open to all majors and offers students an opportunity to look at the theater history, theory, and practice of people of color. Contact Dr. Priscilla Page, who is the Director of the Certificate program, if you want to learn more.
Finally, non-majors are welcome to be part of our department in a variety of ways. Students from all areas of campus take our introductory performance course, Theater 140, and artists find value in the cross disciplinary challenges offered by our design classes. Many of our classes are open to non-majors, although majors are prioritized in some upper-level courses. Non-majors are invited to audition for our shows; if you’re committed to doing the collaborative work a successful production requires, we’d love to see you try out for a role!
I’m already enrolled at UMass and would like to switch into or add the theater major or minor — what do I need to do?
If you are a UMass student thinking about switching into the major or adding a minor, welcome! We are thrilled to have you! Contact the Undergraduate Program Director, Amy Altadonna, to join the department, discuss your progress toward the degree, and sign up for an advisor.
What kinds of scholarships and awards are available to Theater students?
In the Department we recognize students with scholarships and awards in a variety of areas. Our students also are regularly represented in the college- and campus-wide awards given out every year. You can learn more about these kinds of opportunities, as well as the internship support offered by our department, on our Scholarships and Awards page.
What kinds of careers do UMass Theater undergrad alumni pursue?
Our alumni go into theater and many related fields. Some work as freelance artists, some join the faculty of other prestigious theater programs, and others find success with renowned organizations.
That all sounds great. Can I visit?
Yes! The Department of Theater currently offers in-person tours on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, 12:30pm to 4:00pm. Tours are 45 minutes long. To schedule a tour, email Administrative Assistant Bethany Sherwood with at least 48 hours' notice. For safety reasons, no walk-in tours can be accommodated, and all participants in the tours must be masked.