Theater and Performance Studies

Theater and Performance Studies

The Committee on Theater and Performance Studies (TAPS) supports innovative work at the intersection of theory and practice across a broad spectrum of disciplines. For students seeking an intensive immersion in theater and performance studies at the graduate level, the MAPH TAPS Option is an excellent choice. It is designed to take advantage of the vitality and rigor of MAPH, while capitalizing on the university’s faculty strengths in TAPS as well as the culture of collaboration between the TAPS program and Chicago's professional theater and performance communities.

Selected Faculty


Loren Kruger

Theory and History of Drama and Performance in Africa, Europe and the Americas; Marxist and Decolonial Cultural Theory; intersections between performance and visual culture.
David Levin

David Levin

German Cinema (Weimar and New German Cinema); Theories of Spectacle; Melodrama; Performance Theory; Intersections of Cinema, Theater, and Opera
John Muse

John Muse

English, 20th-Century Literature, Drama and Performance in Africa, the Americas and Western Europe, Theater and Performance Studies

Sample Courses

TAPS 34400 - Circus Performance Lab (Leslie Danzig)
Students will develop a fully realized original circus-theater performance piece to be presented at the end of the quarter. Theater-maker Leslie Danzig and visiting circus artist Amanda Crockett will lead this studio-based investigation into how to stage narrative texts through circus arts and physical theater vocabularies.  How do you stage scenes on trapeze? Through tumbling, juggling, rope climbing, dance choreography?  How do you compose these shorter scenes into a coherent production?  Previous experience with physical practices preferred (circus arts, gymnastics, athletics, dance). Beginners are also welcome.  Course will be customized to students’ backgrounds.

TAPS 35515 - Contemporary Political Strategies in Performance (Annie Dorsen)
The emphasis of the course is on strategies—in the words of curator Florian Malzacher, “artistic strategies in politics, and political strategies in art.” In moments of political struggle, what can art DO, and what can it not? We will be combining case studies with theoretical background, examining strategies like occupation, participation, parafiction, 'technologies of care,' détournement and the art strike. Students will have the opportunity to put some of these approaches to the test by designing one or more local interventions according to the interests of the group. 

TAPS 28438 - Before and After Becket: Theater and Theory (Loren Kruger)
Beckett is conventionally typed as the playwright of minimalist scenes of unremitting bleakness but his experiments with theatre and film echo the irreverent play of popular culture (vaudeville on stage and screen eg.  Chaplin and Keaton) as well as experimental Theatre and modern philosophy, even when there are no direct lines of influence. This course will juxtapose these points of reference with Beckett’s plays and those of his contemporaries (Ionesco, Genet and others in French, Pinter in English. It will then explore more recent plays that suggest the influence of Beckett by Pinter, Caryl Churchill and Sarah Kane in English, Albert Jarry and Michel Vinaver in French, as well as the relevance of theorists and philosophers include Barthes, Wittgenstein, and critics writing on specific plays.

TAPS 27610 - Engineering Shadow Puppetry  (Frank Maugeri)
This course will begin with historical research of shadow puppetry and directed design exploration, using both scripting and visual storyboarding to get your concept ready for production. We will then create scenery and visual environments while learning to bring shadow characters to life with movement, sound, and advanced manipulation techniques. We will also learn methods for crafting puppets from durable materials and will utilize mechanisms such as hinges and rivets. Students will be expected to work on projects outside of class time.

TAPS 28414 - Writing for Performance (William Pope.L)
This course is an exploration of select texts for performance written by performance artists primarily but not entirely operating within the context of art. Via historical context and literary technique, students read, discuss, and analyze texts by various authors spanning the history of performance art: Hugo Ball, John Cage, Richard Foreman, Carolee Schneeman, Joseph Beuys, Karen Finley, Nature Theater of Oklahoma, John Leguizamo, and create and perform their own writing. Field trips and attendance at first class are required.

A complete listing of offerings is available at the Committee’s course page.

The Theater and Performance Studies Option

The TAPS option allows students to gain fluency in the critical analysis of theater and performance studies, and to gain familiarity with or deepen their expertise in one component of theater and/or performance practice. MAPH students may complement their coursework in TAPS with study in Art History, Cinema and Media Studies, English, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Germanic Studies, and Poetry and Poetics, among other disciplines.

Students who complete the following requirements will receive a Theater and Performance Studies notation on their MAPH transcript:

  • The MAPH core course
  • One course designated to fulfill either the theory or history core requirement in TAPS (see the TAPS DGS or MAPH liaison for a list of these courses)
  • Three elective courses in theater and performance studies, of which one or two—depending on the student’s professional ambitions—will have a significant practice-based component (e.g., TAPS courses such as advanced acting, directing, dramaturgy, choreography or design; courses in Visual Arts such as video, experimental animation, writing for performance; or similar courses in Music and Creative Writing)
  • An MA thesis in theater and performance studies under the supervision of a TAPS faculty member. Depending on a student’s focus, the thesis may combine performance work with critical analysis. The final topic and form of the thesis project will be determined in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies in TAPS

Recent TAPS Thesis Projects

"'Hier und nirgend anders:' Badiou’s Modern Ceremony and the Dramaturgy of Space in Wagner’s 1882 Parsifal"
Matthew Stone, MAPH '14
Advisor: David Levin

"BAD TASTE: An ethnographic study of the absurdist performance art collective"
Kelsey Akers, MAPH '17
Advisor: Philip Bohlman

"Song We Forgot to Sing: A play in several scenes and poems"
Nigel O'Hearn, MAPH '17
Advisor: Mickle Maher