Master of Arts in Theatre Arts

The School of Theatre and Dance offers a Master of Arts degree program that focuses on theatre history, theory, and dramatic literature. The program encourages students to engage critically with how theatre and performance (broadly construed) shape culture and identity across time and place. Students are also encouraged to make connections across other disciplines to expand their perspectives and deepen interdisciplinary theoretical approaches. The MA in Theatre Arts prepares graduate students for further study in a doctoral program, for those who wish to pursue an MFA, and for students who wish to further their knowledge and expertise within the Theatre Arts.

The Master of Arts in Theatre Arts provides training for students wishing to expand their knowledge and increase their competence in the fields of theatre history, dramatic literature, historiography, dramaturgy, theatre pedagogy, critical theory, cultural studies, mediated performances, and theories of theatre and performance.

Applicants to the two-year M.A. or to the blended B.A. + M.A. Scholars Program must meet University and School requirements. Admission to both programs is based on an evaluation of a student’s academic work, practical experience, and their promise towards finishing a graduate degree.


The School of Theatre & Dance previously offered a Master of Fine Arts in Theatre Arts with a Concentration in Design and Technical Production. This program has been temporarily suspended as of May 2021. We hope to offer the program again in the near future. 

California Tuition is Available to Residents of Many Other Western States

The Provost and the President have approved our participation in the Western Regional Graduate Program (WRGP) which enables students in 16 Western states and territories to enroll in participating public graduate programs as nonresidents, yet pay the lower resident tuition rate (in-state tuition). For more information, please see

The Theatre Arts MA is a 30-unit program, typically taken over two years (or four semesters). In the first year, graduate students take Core theatre seminars and upper-division supporting courses in the School of Theatre and Dance or in another department. We encourage students to consider interdisciplinary approaches by taking graduate coursework or upper-division supporting coursework in fields outside of theatre and performance. 

During the second year, students focus on an individual research or creative project. For more information on the Culminating Experience, please see the "Thesis Projects" tab.

Suggested roadmap for M.A. students

Degree Planning Worksheet (DPW) for M.A. Students

More information about the blended program is on the Scholars Program tab.

Additional information:

The School of Theatre and Dance welcomes applications from students with a wide range of experiences and diversity of undergraduate education. Some theatrical or performance foundation can be helpful but is not necessary for admission to the program. We encourage prospective students with interdisciplinary backgrounds to apply to our MA in Theatre Arts.



The Department accepts applications for fall and spring admission. Typically, applications are due by April 1st (Fall) and November 1st (Spring).



All application materials are submitted through the CalApply System.

Tips for navigating the online system:

  1. There are four sections in the online application, first fill out the Personal History Section
  2. In the Academic History Section, opt out of transcript entry and GPA entry.
  3. In the Supporting Materials Section: Enter work experience, awards for relevant achievements, if any. For the Statement of Purpose write: "Uploaded to Program Materials Section".
  4. Use the Program Materials Section to upload all documents (transcripts, writing samples, etc).

For more detailed instructions on using the online CalApply system, see the Division of Graduate Studies website.

If you have any questions about the Program Materials (especially with respect to your Statement of Purpose), contact the graduate admissions coordinator in Theatre by email at


Program Materials

CalApply will request the following Program Materials. These are the documents that the School of Theatre and Dance will use to review your application.


Statement of Purpose (500 word max)

Explain your experience, interests, and goals as a graduate student in theatre and performance studies. Your statement of purpose could provide details addressing the following topics (but may not need to address every bullet point):

  • Specify any particular theatrical interests you have. This may include: performance, theatre history and scholarship, design, directing, dramaturgy, etc.  
  • Describe any research interests you may have, such as particular genres, time periods, methods, and/or theoretical models of theatre and performance.
  • Describe the parts of your academic and extracurricular experience (e.g., industry, professional theatrical work, etc.) that have best prepared you to undertake graduate-level work in theatre.
  • If you have any particular ideas for a culminating project, you can describe those.
  • List what you are hoping to do after completion of the MA. What is it that the MA will bring to you that will prepare you for your academic and career goals?


Two Letters of Recommendation

Ask two people with knowledge of your abilities, achievements and character to write letters in support of your application. People you might consider include previous teachers, artistic collaborators, colleagues, advisors/mentors, etc. CalApply will prompt you to enter details about your evaluators. All letter writer email addresses should be from a professional or academic organizations (ex., or, not personal email addresses. Once contact information is submitted, an email request will automatically be sent to the evaluator on your behalf. Please advise your evaluator to look for this email in their inbox, as well as their spam or junk-mail folder, as emails do occasionally get filtered out.


Writing Sample

Provide a short essay which most clearly shows your ability to communicate in written form. This essay should be an analytical essay, rather than an excerpt from creative work. Your writing sample can be a complete essay or an excerpt from a larger academic work, but should be no longer than 10 pages. 



The Division of Graduate Studies requires you to upload unofficial copies of transcripts from every college or university attended, including study abroad and community college coursework. If selected for admission, you must submit official transcripts to the division of graduate studies in order to secure your admission offer.


Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores

We do not require GRE scores for admission to the Theatre Arts MA program. 


Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)

Students whose native language is not English and whose preparatory education was principally in a language other than English must take the TOEFL test and obtain a score of 550 on the written TOEFL test OR 80 on the internet based test (iBT TOEFL) OR have an band score of 6.5 on the International English Language Test Scheme (IELTS) OR an overall score of 55 on the Pearson Test of English (PTE).

Eligible M.A. Culminating Experience Projects

Students will work with their advisors and the Graduate Coordinator to identify suitable research question(s) and potential project options that may best serve their needs.

Students only need to fulfill one of the following options to earn the degree:

Research Project

The MA student will develop a substantial and rigorous original piece of research on any aspect of theatre and performance. Working with their advisor, the student will identify their topic and propose a research question that can be addressed within the timeframe and scope of their research project. The final research project should be a minimum of 60 pages and must be accompanied by an oral defense. As part of developing a scholarly voice and perspective, students will receive feedback from their advisor and be asked to revise their work as part of the writing process.

Culminating Exam

Students will work with their advisors to create three (3) substantial research questions and a comprehensive bibliography of their field/discipline. Exam topics are typically chosen based on student interest and/or the areas in which the student has taken seminars. Students typically take one semester to read through an agreed-upon reading list of scholarship on the field before crafting their questions. In the following semester, students officially take the exam at home and submit their response essays to their advisor(s). Typically, each response paper is approximately 15-20 pages. Students will defend their responses in an oral defense and may be asked to rewrite portions of their essays if necessary.

Creative Works Project

In conversation with their advisor, the MA student will propose a topic for their Culminating Experience that is best explored through a creative or practical process. As part of the Culminating Experience proposal, the MA student will identify a research question and the potential creative or practical avenues that will help answer this question. As such, the practice-based components are intended to serve as a method for exploring the research question. Creative Works can take many forms and may include dramaturgy, directing, design, and/or performance. Throughout the creative process, students will work with their advisor(s) on connecting practice with theory and research. In addition to the Creative Work, students will submit a 25-30-page paper that examines how the process of creating the work was instrumental in addressing their research question. Students will also present their findings and answer questions as part of an oral defense. Students doing Creative Works projects should also anticipate potential revisions to their paper.

In conversation with the Graduate Coordinator, the M.A. student will choose a primary and a secondary advisor, also known as the primary/first and second readers. While the Graduate Coordinators and members of the Graduate Committee can certainly serve in these roles, M.A. students may also choose other faculty as primary or secondary advisors.

How and When to Choose Advisors

Choosing a primary advisor is an important part of graduate study. A primary advisor’s role typically includes helping shape a thesis project and writing a recommendation letter. Before asking someone to be your primary advisor, research multiple faculty members’ areas of expertise, and inquire about their availability, style of advising and expectations.

Though each faculty member has their own advising style, second readers are typically less involved than the primary advisor. Some second readers prefer to approve a prospectus and receive regular updates, while others prefer to review only the finished thesis draft. Consult with your primary advisor before choosing a second reader.

The “Advising” section includes tips on advisor selection and best practices for requesting recommendation letters. Though some tips are specific to the Ph.D., it will be helpful to review these links before securing your readers. Plan out what you will need to accomplish during your M.A. to ensure letter writers can discuss your work positively.

  • Two-year M.A. students should confirm both advisors by the end of year one.
  • 4+1 Scholars Program students should confirm both advisors by the end of their final B.A. year.

Primary advisor (AKA primary/first reader)

Any tenured or tenure-track faculty member in any SF State unit (not just LCA) can serve as the primary advisor.

  • If you want your primary advisor to be a School of Theatre & Dance faculty member, no approval from the Graduate Committee is necessary.
  • If you want your primary advisor to be a non-School of Theatre & Dance faculty member, you must secure approval from the Graduate Committee BEFORE asking a potential advisor. Schedule all meetings well in advance.
  • If your primary advisor is an approved non-School of Theatre & Dance faculty member, your secondary reader MUST be a School of Theatre & Dance tenured or tenure-track faculty member.

Secondary advisor (AKA second reader)

Any SF State faculty/staff member in any unit (academic or non-academic) across SF State can serve as the secondary advisor.

  • If you want your secondary advisor to be a School of Theatre & Dance faculty member, no approval from the Graduate Committee is necessary. Non-tenure-track (lecturer) School of Theatre & Dance faculty members are eligible, as long as they hold the correct degree to qualify.
  • If you want your secondary advisor to be a non-School of Theatre & Dance faculty member, you must secure approval from the Graduate Committee AND your primary advisor BEFORE asking a potential secondary advisor. Schedule all meetings well in advance of deadlines.

Advancement to Candidacy

After completion of 18 units and prior to the semester of enrolling in your Culminating Experience course you must submit your Advancement To Candidacy (ATC) Form. The ATC form acts as your contract between you, your department, and the university. The ATC lists the specific requirements you must complete before your degree can be awarded. Once the ATC is approved, you are advanced to candidacy and classified standing. The ATC is a permanent record of your completed and planned course work as well as other requirements necessary for you to complete your degree. The ATC form must be approved by Graduate Studies before enrolling in and beginning research for the culminating experience course.

Proposal for Culminating Experience

In addition to the Advancement to Candidacy form, all Graduate students must complete a Proposal for Culminating Experience. This is the form you use to inform the Division of Graduate Studies of your proposed project or thesis and who will be on your "committee" (ie, your primary and secondary readers). You must submit this through Docusign and have it approved by your Culminating Experience Committee and the Department Chair or Graduate Coordinator before signing up for your culminating experience course (TH A 894, 896EXM, 898).

The deadlines for submission of PCE form to Graduate Studies are April 1 for fall enrollment and November 1 for spring enrollment.