PhD in Theatre & Performance Studies

Admission Requirements

MA in an Arts, Humanities, or Social Sciences-related subject and a B+ average or higher.

Important: Please be advised that our international student acceptance rate is extremely low and we may not accept international MA applications every academic year.

Degree Requirements

This page aims to provide a brief overview of the degree requirements for the PhD in Theatre & Performance Studies. Detailed, specific requirements can be found in the student handbook.

Normally completed in a maximum of five years, the PhD in Theatre & Performance Studies requires successful completion of the following:

Program Components


18 credits (six half–year courses or equivalent) at the 5000 or 6000 level within your first two years of study. All students are required to take the following as part of their coursework requirement:

  • An approved Research Methodology course of at least 3.0 credits;
  • An approved Canadian Theatre course of at least 3.0 credits;
  • A Theatre & Performance Studies (THST) course of at least 3.0 credits that is aligned with the program's sub fields;
  • Theatre & Performance Studies Colloquium (THST 5052 - non-credit)

(Courses which can be used to fulfill these requirements can be found on the 'Courses' section of the website.)

Remaining coursework requirements can be met through successful completion of graduate level Theatre & Performance Studies (THST) or approved cognate courses.


Students are required complete Theatre & Performance Studies Colloquium (THST 5052 0.0), a bi-weekly non-credit colloquium during the first two terms of study. Students meet with the Graduate Program Director to discuss research approaches, pedagogical strategies, and various aspects of professional development. In the winter semester, guest visitors will offer mini-lectures on key issues in Theatre & Performance Studies. In addition to equipping students with the skills they need to succeed in grad school, the Colloquium serves as an important venue for creating a sense of intellectual community among new students in the graduate program.

Students are evaluated on a pass/fail basis.

Professional Placement

As part of our commitment toward ensuring that all of our students have some applied, professionally–oriented work experience, students in the PhD are given the option of setting up a working placement of at least 75 hours through the completion of Theatre & Performance Studies Professional Placement course (THST 5051 3.0). This work should be connected to one of the student's fields of specialization and/or research interests. The placement must be under the guidance of an approved mentor, on or off–campus. Should students be unable to set up a professional placement on their own, an advisor will work with students to find a suitable program.

Many of these placements lead to continuing work for our students. They also help to connect York with local, national, and international theatre and performance communities. Here is a brief sampling of some of the companies and organizations with which students have conducted professional placements:

  • AfriCan Theatre Ensemble
  • magazine
  • Augmented Reality Lab
  • Big Brother Canada
  • Cahoots Theatre Company
  • Canada Council
  • Canadian Theatre Review
  • Canadian Stage
  • Clod Ensemble (UK)
  • Downward Dog Yoga Centre
  • Factory Theatre
  • FADO Performance Art Centre
  • Fu-GEN Asian Canadian Theatre Company
  • Harbourfront Centre World Stage
  • Hudson Bay Company
  • La Pocha Nostra (US)
  • Libido Productions
  • MT Space
  • Mixed Company Theatre
  • Modern Drama
  • Modern Times Theatre Company
  • Native Earth Performing Arts
  • Obsidian Theatre Company
  • Performance Studies International
  • Sandglass Theatre (US)
  • The Shaw Festival (Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON)
  • The Artists Newstand
  • Theatre in the Ruff
  • Theatre Research in Canada
  • Toronto Review of Books
  • Vtape
  • Young People's Theatre
  • + working with individual researchers and artists

Note: Students who don’t have applied professionally oriented work experience in theatre and/or performance will be required to complete a placement of at least 75 hours (THST 5051 3.0). Students who haven’t been assigned the professional placement requirement may opt to take THST 5051 as part of their coursework requirement.


Comprehensive Exam (Written and Oral)

Before embarking on the writing of a dissertation, students must successfully complete a comprehensive exam. Students are strongly encouraged to complete the written and oral portions of the exam by end of term 6, summer term of the second year of the PhD, particularly if they will be carrying out fieldwork. The exam must be completed by end of term 8 for a student to remain in good standing.

The comprehensive examination is intended to ensure students’ familiarity with and ability to identify core ideas in the texts and identify key debates in the fields of theatre and performance studies. It also aims to test knowledge of a student’s chosen research and teaching areas to verify sufficient grounding in scholarship relevant to those areas, particularly the dissertation topic.

The written portion of the comprehensive exam will consist of a take-home examination. Students have two weeks to write three 12-15 page responses to three essay questions. Questions for all lists will be developed with input from students, who will propose 3 possible questions for each list, for a total of 9 questions. The committee will choose one question per list, and students will learn which questions have been chosen on the day the exam begins.

If the written exam is deemed “examinable,” the committee will meet with the student for an oral exam of approximately 90 minutes in length. The oral exam will be scheduled for approximately one week following the committee’s review of the written exam. During the oral exam, students will be expected to answer follow-up questions arising from the written exam as well as other questions that the committee deems appropriate. The purpose of the exam is to: 1) Establish competence in the field; 2) Navigate a way forward for writing the proposal and carrying out the research.

Dissertation Proposal

No more than three months after the successful completion of the comprehensive exam, students are required to submit a prospectus of 3,500 words (max.) to the Faculty of Graduate Studies. To ensure timely submission of the proposal, students should plan to submit a draft to their supervisor and supervisory committee no later than six weeks after the comps.


The dissertation must embody the results of original research with significant value for the study of theatre and performance and must be successfully defended at an oral exam, normally by the end of year 5 (term 15).

Language Requirement

If the dissertation topic requires work in another language as deemed by the advisor, students must prove reading proficiency in that language by the end of year three of their studies.