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Performance Studies

About the Performance Studies Major

The Department of Performance Studies explores performance in all its forms, extending and deepening the understanding of performance as central to the human condition. Students majoring in performance studies engage performance both as an object of study—something to be documented and analyzed—and as a method of study—something to be experienced and enacted. From the adaptation and staging of texts, to the exploration of rituals and festivals, to the study of performance in everyday life, students in the department enter the world of performance and performance theory as an important and emerging field of study.

First-Year Courses

As part of your first-year requirements, you will take two (2) performance studies introductory courses, a First Year SoC Seminar, and are encouraged to make progress toward their Distribution Requirements.

Performance Studies Intro Courses

Starting in the fall, you’ll enroll in PERF ST 101-0 Modes of Performance. The course introduces students to performance as a concept, embodied practice, and a critical methodology. Followed by your choice of either:

  • PERF ST 200 Introduction to Performance Studies; This course explores fundamental themes and debates that animate the field, introducing a range of ways of theorizing, conceptualizing, studying, and making performance.
  • PERF ST 203 Performance Culture and Communication; Explores how live performance and dramatic forms of communication are methods used to examine social behavior and cultural expressions.

Non-required courses, starting with 100- and 200-level Performance Studies courses, are most appropriate.
To read more class descriptions, please visit our Performance Studies Course Catalog page.

Distribution Requirements

Your second goal for your first year at NU should be to work toward the completion of your distribution requirements.  Distribution requirements (“distros”) are classes taken outside of SoC that all students in the School of Communication must complete to receive a bachelor’s degree.  There are three categories of distribution requirements: Math/Science/Technology; Individual and Social Behavior; and Humanities and Fine Arts. These are a great way to explore areas you might consider as a second major or minor.

AP and IB Credit

AP and IB credits may be applied to the SoC distribution requirement with certain restrictions. The Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences determines what scores will earn what credit at NU. If your credit is not yet posted, have your scores sent from the College Board to the Registrar’s Office for processing.

Once your AP/IB credit is posted to your transcript, it can be applied to your distribution requirements as follows:

  • One AP/IB credit in each of the three areas: Math/Science/Technology; Individual and Social Behavior; and Humanities and Fine Arts
  • An additional six AP/IB credits may apply as additional distribution classes
  • A final credit may count as an elective
  • A maximum of 10 AP/IB credits may apply to your NU degree

Sample Schedule

Here is what a sample first-year theatre schedule might look like:

Fall:  4 Credits

PERF ST 101-0 (major requirement)
GNDR ST 220-0 (Humanities & Fine Arts Distro)
PHIL 110: Introduction to Philosophy (Individual & Social Behavior Distro)
BIOL_SCI 103: Diversity of Life (Math/Science/Technology Distro)

Winter:  3.5 Credits

PERF ST 200-0 (major requirement)
CMN 101: First Year Seminar (First-Year SoC requirement; 0.5 credits)
SOCIOL 110: Intro to Sociology (Individual & Social Behavior Distro)
HISTORY 250-2: Global History II (Individual & Social Behavior Distro)

Spring:  4 Credits

PERF ST 210-1 (fulfills major 2-200 level requirement)
PSYCH 110:  Intro to Psychology (Individual & Social Behavior Distro)
ECON 201-0:  Intro to Macroeconomics (Math/Science/Technology Distro)
ENGLISH 206-0:  Reading and Writing Poetry (Humanities & Fine Arts Distro)

Perf St Minor

The minor in performance studies offers training for students interested in pursuing the theories, methodologies, and techniques of performance to develop artistic and/or scholarly work in other primary disciplines across the University. For more, please visit Performance Studies Minor Catalog page.

Career Paths

Performance Studies alumni pursue a wide range of careers. Several have been instrumental in founding innovative theatre companies (including Lookingglass, Redmoon, Lifeline, and Roadworks companies). Many elect to pursue graduate study in performance studies as well as other disciplines. Other recent majors have begun successful careers as theater and film artists, as actors, directors, and producers. Others now employ their critical and creative thinking skills in their careers as teachers, psychologists, lawyers, and urban planners.


For more information about the major, contact Performance Studies Advisor Exal Iraheta SoC students can make an appointment via Non-SoC students can make an appointment by calling 847-491-7214.