About Performance Studies

The academic field of "Performance Studies" began at NYU. Founded in 1979-80 by Professors Richard Schechner, Michael Kirby, and Brooks McNamara in 1979, the department was created to foster research on the how of performance—asking not "what does it mean?" but "what does it do?". Professor Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett joined the faculty in 1981 as its first Chair, and served in that role for 13 years.

Since then the department has flourished, training leading thinkers in a range of disciplines: in theater, dance, and performance studies, as well as in gender/sexuality studies, ethnic studies, literature, and a wide range of fields where "performance theory" and its terminology have taken root. Performance Studies takes a broad understanding of "performance"—Schechner's now-famous formulation of "twice behaved" action—that encompasses not only theatrical spectacles and concert dance, but performance art, street performance, dance, music/sound installation, as well as "quotidian" enactments of political and social identities. We analyze that broad spectrum of enactments using an interdisciplinary methodology (that includes both theoretical, ethnographic, and practice-based approaches).

In Fall 2015 the Department began a new phase, welcoming our first class of undergraduate majors. The BA program in Performance Studies offers a range of courses on topics ranging from "Performances of Race and Ethnicity" and "Gender and Performance" to "Performance in New York City," as well as workshops and presentations created specifically for BA students.  

explore PS @ NYU

  • Ph.D. Program

    Ph.D. in Performance Studies

    The Ph.D. in Performance Studies at NYU was ranked #1 by the National Research Council. Our graduates have gone on to academic careers at leading institutions around the world, and are at the cutting edge of new research in theater, dance, gender/sexuality, critical race studies, and beyond.

  • Masters Program

    M.A. in Performance Studies

    The Masters in Performance Studies is an intense, one-year program of study that provides a firm theoretical grounding in performance theory. The M.A. program is ideal for those artists or other professionals seeking to develop an expertise in performance analysis; it also prepares students for advanced doctoral research in performance studies (or related fields). For those seeking particular professional training in the area of Performance Curation, the department offers several courses focused specifically on that topic.

  • undergraduate studies

    B.A. in Performance Studies

    Our new undergraduate major and minor in Performance Studies train students to examine, think, and write about performance across a wide range of settings.

  • PS Spotlights

    PS Spotlights

    Meet our fabulous faculty, students, and alumni

  • Praxis, Inc.

    Praxis INC: Innovate, Network, Collaborate

    An annual gathering of PS students, alumni, and friends to reconnect with old friends, network with new ones, and share your skills, knowledge, and energy with others

  • Publications

    Programs and Affiliations

    The department is home to leading journals in the field performance studies

  • Events

    Department Events

    The department hosts lectures, workshops, and conferences throughout the year featuring leading figures as well as emerging artists and theorists