University of Sydney Handbooks - 2020 Archive

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Theatre and Performance Studies

About the major

In Theatre and Performance Studies we look at a broad range of aesthetic, social and everyday performances: from theatre, dance and ‘live art’, to the performative dimensions of politics, sport and popular culture. As a Theatre and Performance Studies major you will explore a range of different approaches to performance making, devise short works, and engage with professional artists-in-residence. While this program does not provide vocational training, it functions as a window onto professional practice. As well as developing practical skills in workshops, you will attend a wide variety of performances, learn how to document them, how to describe the way spaces and architecture are used, how bodies are moving, and how to build these observations into a detailed critical analysis.

Performance, as a conceptual lens, also provides a powerful way of interpreting many non-theatrical events, using both theoretical and critical approaches from a diversity of disciplines, including theatre and movement studies, anthropology, history, philosophy and sociology. A Theatre and Performance Studies major provides a strong theoretical basis for students who seek to later train as performers, directors, teachers, arts administrators, or those who wish to work in related areas of the arts and cultural practice.

In first year you will explore key ideas about theatre and performance through performance itself. Working in small groups we develop an understanding of how theatre and performance contribute to, and critique, our world. Second year builds a deeper understanding of artistic practices and performance in everyday life. We extend our understanding of what performance might be, research performance within social events such as festivals and ceremonies, develop a keen understanding of how theatre creates meaning, and explore Shakespeare’s rehearsal processes or the principles of Commedia dell’Arte. Third year takes up key issues in performance theory, applying the theoretical, methodological and analytical tools developed in your first two years to different areas of inquiry: acting in different contexts, the sociology and politics of theatre, the study of rehearsal, the work of playwrights and dramaturgs as they develop new writing for performance, experiences of ritual and play, cross-cultural and popular performance, and performance histories.

Students are also encouraged to take optional elective 2000-level units offered by the Department (PRFM2603 Between Improvisation and Text, PRFM2605 Rehearsing Shakespeare) available from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Electives list in Table S of the Interdisciplinary Handbook.

Requirements for completion

The Theatre and Performance Studies major and minor requirements are listed in the Theatre and Performance Studies unit of study table.


Our honours year brings theory and practice together. It involves specialised seminars, a research thesis on an individual topic and a detailed case study based on first-hand fieldwork. Honours students become a valued part of the department’s research culture.

Honours admission requirements
For students who commenced their degree prior to 2018: admission to Honours requires a major in Theatre and Performance Studies with an average of 70 percent or above, plus completion of PRFM3961 Rehearsal Studies.

For students commencing from 2018 onwards:
- Admission into Honours is via the Bachelor of Advanced Studies and requires the completion of a major in Theatre and Performance Studies with an average of 70% or above plus completion of PRFM3961 Rehearsal Studies and a second major.
- Prior to commencing honours, you will need to ensure you have completed all other requirements of the Bachelor of Arts or other bachelor degree, including Open Learning Environment (OLE) units.

Requirements and units of study for honours can be found on the Theatre and Performance Studies honours units of study page.

Advanced coursework

The Bachelor of Advanced Studies in SLAM offers students a program tailored to their disciplinary interests. Through units of study and individually designed projects, each student, guided by a disciplinary expert, will engage in advanced seminars that complement their individual research in project units. In SLAM this may be within the study of arts-based practices such as visual art, film, performance and writing, as well as literature, linguistics, or live and digitised media. Each student will be encouraged to develop and apply advanced disciplinary knowledge and methodologies to researching the past, present and future at local, regional and global levels in creative ways. In the Bachelor of Advanced Studies, students will have the opportunity to apply disciplinary knowledges and methodologies to the legacies of the past, the complexities of the present and possible futures in the areas of communication, literature and art.

Requirements and units of study for advanced coursework can be found on the Theatre and Performance Studies advanced coursework units of study page.

Contact and further information

Contact details can be found on these websites:
Department of Theatre and Performance Studies website:
School of Literature, Art and Media website:

Example pathways

Theatre and Performance Studies major pathway

Theatre and Performance Studies Major


Year 1

Sem 1

Core: PRFM1601 Making Theatre: Process & Collaboration

Sem 2

Core: PRFM1602 Dangerous Performances


Year 2

Sem 1

Core: PFRM2601 Being There: Theories of Performance

Sem 2

Core: PRFM2602 Performance: Production & Interpretation


Year 3

Sem 1

Core: PRFM3961 Rehearsal Studies

Selective: 3000 level unit from the Theatre & Performance Studies major table

Sem 2

Selective: 3000 level unit from the Theatre & Performance Studies major table

Interdisciplinary Project unit: PRFM3999 Interdisciplinary Impact


Theatre and Performance Studies minor pathway

Year and Semester  Units of Study 
Year 1 S1 Core: PRFM1601 Making Theatre: Process & Collaboration 
  S2   Core: PRFM1602 Dangerous Performances 
Year 2 S1   Core: PFRM2601 Being There: Theories of Performance 
  S2   Core: PRFM2602 Performance: Production & Interpretation 
Year 3 S1   Core: PRFM3961 Rehearsal Studies   Selective: 3000-level unit listed for the Thatre and Performance Studies major