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Master of Arts (MA) in Performance Studies


"Our Master’s in Performance Studies is built around a multifaceted understanding of performance. Using a wide range of qualitative methods and theoretical frameworks, our faculty have expertise in the study of religion & spirituality, theater, media & technology, popular music, state affairs, law, diplomacy, martial arts, urbanism, dance, race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality. They have done research in the US, Ghana, Brazil, Japan, Trinidad, and Spain. We aim to become a national model for the study of performance, combining innovative research, art activism, and community building -- while also keeping our Master's degree affordable. Contact me if you have any questions about our graduate program."                                                                                           - Leonardo Cardoso, Director of Graduate Studies

“Cultural performances are occasions in which as a culture or society we reflect upon and define ourselves, dramatize our collective myths and history, present ourselves with alternatives, and eventually change in some ways while remaining the same in others.”
-- John J. MacAloon, Rite, Drama, Festival, Spectacle

Communities, institutions, governments, identities, relationships, languages, religions, artworks, and artifacts all require some element of performance to endure. When a community stops performing a dance or a piece of music, that event is either forgotten or preserved in a different format (as a document in an archive or as a memory of an elder). In a similar way, a language can easily die when individuals cease to perform it through conversation. And what is democracy if not a cluster of performances involving collective deliberation (voting, campaigning, debating, protesting, etc.)?

Stills from Salsa Casino, an audiovisual interactive installation designed by Mayra Valle (MA 2015)

Program structure

“Pursuing a graduate degree in Performance Studies gave me the opportunity to bring together my performance practice and my interest in theory and rigorous intellectual exploration.”
-- Andrea Micu (MA 2012)

Stills from US, an interactive and immersive classical guitar concert designed by Elvis Bendaña (MA 2019).


Our two-year graduate program offers a true mix of scholarship and practice: besides learning and discussing ideas from a close reading of texts, students have room to explore other modes of knowledge transmission, such as concerts and exhibitions.

We keep our graduate classes small to give each student ample opportunity to engage more deeply with the course materials in class discussions. Our students often come from all parts of the world (the US, Mexico, Nicaragua, Ukraine, Ghana, Nigeria, South Korea, to name a few), which stimulates cross-cultural debates in our seminars. 

Students can choose between the thesis and the non-thesis track. The thesis track requires the submission of a 40-60-page monograph. It is recommended for students who want to focus on their writing skills.The non-thesis track includes different combinations of written and non- written components (from a thesis-like format to a performance-centered project). This track is recommended for students interested in designing plays, concerts, installations, exhibitions, short films, websites, and similar projects. In both tracks, students develop their research projects with the guidance of an advisor. For more details, please see our degree plan and course descriptions. Click here to see our current graduate students and here to see our state-of-the-art facilities.

In addition to class projects, students have the opportunity to participate in our Colloquium Series and in the various events organized by the Glasscock Center.

What you can do with our MA degree 

"Working as a program manager at a cultural institution in Kyiv (Ukraine), interacting with numerous arts curators and administrators, I realize how much the MA prepared me to question and understand the connections between art, culture, politics, and everyday life."
-- Marianna Tanska (MA 2019)
“My time in the department taught me how to be a successful scholar; how to think about my interests critically and discuss them eloquently. When I entered my Ph.D. program I was knowledgeable of a lot of cutting edge theory and was prepared to engage confidently with a variety of topics.”
-- Christopher Johnson (MA 2015)

Our MA prepares students to pursue a broad range of career paths, particularly in cultural institutions (such as museums), intercultural industries (such as tourism), and in the media/communication sector (music production, for instance). Our recent graduates have found jobs as project coordinators at organizations such as Texas Folklife, Safe Space, EMERGE Fellowship, PBK, Hands on Nashville, and the Oleksandr Dovzhenko National Center. Former students such as Yunina Barbour-Payne (MA 2014) have used the skills learned in the program to embark on an artist-scholar career.

Students interested in continuing their academic training have been admitted to highly competitive Ph.D. programs around the country (Indiana University, Northwestern University, University of California, Davis, among others).