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Center Stage at Barnard: Theatre

Photograph by Dorothy Hong

Alice Brady Pels Professor in the Arts and Chair of the department W. B. Worthen readily cites the advantages of studying theatre at Barnard: Not only is there an emphasis on performance and artistry, but there is demanding course work in the history and theory of performance that includes theatre history, dramatic literature, and global traditions. A concentration in theatre imposes distinctive critical and intellectual demands. The requirements are combined with the rigors of artistic work and the mentoring of professionals, which include a distinguished permanent faculty as well as adjunct faculty, all of whom have prominent theatrical careers in New York and other major performance centers.

Worthen, who holds a PhD in English literature from Princeton, is a recent arrival at Barnard, joining the faculty in 2008. He has since expanded the permanent faculty to include two assistant professors in research; both have increased the department’s offerings in global theatre as well. Shayoni Mitra, who obtained her doctorate in performance studies at New York University, specializes in Indian theatre and post-colonial studies. With a PhD in theatre studies from the University of Helsinki, Hana Worthen is an expert on modern European theatre and ideology. Together, they have contributed to the diverse array of courses, from “Modern Asian Performance” and “Traditional Indian Theatre,” to “Nazism in Performance,” and “Bertolt Brecht: The Making of Theatre.”

New assistant professors of professional practice are Sandra Goldmark, with an MFA in scenic design from Yale, and Alice Reagan, whose MFA in directing was earned at Columbia. Both have extensive professional experience, and have done well-received production work in New York; both lead the formal curriculum in their fields and have contributed to the department’s productions this season: Goldmark as costume designer for Moira Buffini’s Silence; Reagan as director of Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s The Physicists.

As department chair, Worthen wants to develop and train students to become smart actors, directors, playwrights, theatrical scholars, and critics, and sees the department providing both majors and non-majors with a solid grounding in the humanities as well as the arts. And for those who may opt not to remain in theatre? They’ve received a first-rate education in a rich tradition of world culture, as well as training in writing, design, research, and presentation, skills that migrate well to many professions—the law, the business of theatre, politics, among many others.

- Annette Kahn