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All the World's a Stage: A Guide to Theater and Performance Studies

Humans have celebrated theater, dance, music and other performance arts for centuries. Despite its prevalence in society, it is curious that performance studies have only gained popularity in the last few decades. Its swift growth has granted performance arts students the opportunity to specialize in the field of their choice. Explore these areas with this guide to the main disciplines of performance studies

Theater and Acting

A key part of acting is to understand what goes into a successful production. Theater and acting programs include courses such as theater history, writing, direction, theatrical literature analysis and workshops. Making programs more viable today, increasing numbers of schools are adding commercial components like theater business, stage management and marketing. Niche options include courses that ultimately lead to backstage careers: lighting, stage or costume design and theatrical makeup.

Dramatic Literature

Unlike conventional literature, dramatic literature is specifically written for theatrical performance. Studies in this area explore the history and works of prominent playwrights, as well as writing styles, structure, story development and writing for different mediums. It is common for such programs to feature workshops and final live performances of the students’ work. Since writing portfolios are usually part of the application process, students are advised to start practicing in advance.

Modern and Classical Dance

Classical dance is generally defined as well known dance forms devised until the beginning of the 20th century. Common examples include ballet, jazz, waltz and ballroom and also folk and cultural dances. By comparison, modern dance uses styles formed by newer music genres and are usually less strictly structured, like hip-hop, interpretive freestyle and fusion. Music studies programs combine theoretical and performance components.

Film Studies

With the advent and innovations of film and technology inevitably came film studies. Film studies usually encompass the history of film, analysis and critique, screenwriting and film genres. It can also extend to television and pop culture. Film studies usually do not involve technical aspects such as production, instead leaning more towards the theoretical side.


Like dance studies, music studies span a variety of genres and eras. Degrees can be in general music studies or alternately specialized, such as in jazz or popular music. Music studies usually involve music history, theory and sight-reading, styles and business. The performance aspect focuses on writing, performing, and recording.

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