3 years full-time
Theatre is one of our most ancient and enduring forms of art. From the Ancient Greeks to today, theatre’s unique engagement with the audience and ever-changing liveness make it the most exciting way to reflect society, challenge our preconceptions and entertain us night after night. This undergraduate degree draws the key roles of director, performer and playwright together, in order to provide you with an in-depth knowledge of theatre practice, and the skills you’ll need to succeed in any area of the industry.
Throughout the degree course, we emphasise a close connection between theatre practice and its histories, theories, politics and ethics. You’ll develop keen critical analysis skills alongside your practical work in acting, directing and playwriting, and explore a broad range of plays and productions covering theatre’s many pasts and presents. As you progress, you will hone your skills through increasingly ambitious production and research projects, gaining the experience and expertise needed to fulfil your potential in the theatre industry and beyond.
You will be taught by a unique team of theatre academics and practitioners. Many are leading researchers in theatre practice, history and theory, and have worked as professional writers, actors, directors and designers.
Our teaching takes place in a contemporary and dynamic environment, purpose-built for the study of theatre. The department’s theatre spaces, production facilities, rehearsal rooms and workshops are some of the best the UK higher education sector has to offer. We have close industry connections with many leading figures from the world of theatre, film, and television who share their knowledge and experiences through a series of masterclasses.
We are ideally placed to take advantage of some of the country's best theatres, in York, Manchester, Sheffield, Scarborough, Hull, Leeds and more. As a student of theatre we want you to become familiar with as much and as wide a range of theatre as possible. We run regular trips to local and regional theatres, some connected directly to a module and others of wider interest, and encourage you to make your own way to see more. The majority of organised trips are optional, but you should budget for at least one theatre trip a term.
The Theatre Design and Production module may require you to purchase some basic crafting and drawing equipment and materials for the design workshops and final portfolio.
Some projects - such as the Political Theatre Project, and final Independent projects - may require limited travel to conduct interviews and consult external libraries and archives. These trips are at your discretion.
The first year of the programme provides an all-round introduction to the theatre environment, giving you a broad base from which you can choose to specialise as you move through the course, while supporting you as you make the transition to independent, university-level study. Practical modules in acting and directing take a hands-on approach from the start. At the same time, you will begin to develop analytical and writing skills, exploring play scripts from ancient Greece to the present day, and learning how to transform a good idea into a truly memorable script.
Introduction to Play Analysis introduces you to the process of moving from script to performance and the challenges involved in imagining and extrapolating performances from plays from contrasting periods and styles. (20 credits)
Introduction to Performance introduces workshop practice and some key practitioners, and trains you in fundamental vocal and physical skills. Additionally, you'll begin to develop some key skills in analysing performance as an audience member. (20 credits)
Acting extends the performance training started in the first term. You'll begin to explore the challenges of characterisation in plays from different periods, and of ensemble work. (20 credits)
Directing allows you to learn and experiment with key directorial preparation and rehearsal techniques, and to enhance your practical skills in a collaborative environment. (20 credits)
Dramaturgy looks at ways in which plays are shaped by historical, cultural and material circumstances, and explores the issues involved in producing plays on the modern stage. (20 credits)
Scriptwriting 1 introduces you to core playwriting skills, especially in creating characters, crafting dialogue, plotting a scene, and imagining dramatically effective stage visuals. (20 credits)
Contact hours: 10-15 hours per week. (N.B. this does not include rehearsal and preparation time)
In addition to the above you will also need to complete our online Academic Integrity module. This covers some of the essential skills and knowledge which will help you to study independently and produce work of a high academic standard which is vital for success at York.
This module will:
Year 2 works thematically, with modules exploring a range of performance genres, styles and traditions, from comedy to site-specific practice. Some of these modules bring together the practical and analytical skills developed in the first year and apply them to a variety of historical and contemporary texts, working towards assessed group performances. Other modules encourage you to explore the polemical and political power of theatre. From the Holocaust to contemporary civil rights, we’ll examine how playwrights have dramatised political dilemmas and confrontations, and you will devise your own performances in response to a prominent political event or theme.
Additionally, you might choose to continue to develop your creative playwriting skills in a dedicated module, or to explore the design possibilities afforded by set, costume, lighting and sound, while developing your marketing and organisational skills. Towards the end of the year, you will do focused work on research skills, in order to help you move towards the larger group and independent projects of Year 3.
Performance Styles and Traditions develops your practical and analytical skills through the exploration of a particular performance style as it developed across time. Past years have explored feminist theatre, site-specific practices, physical theatre, monologue plays and wit comedy. (20 credits)
One of the following optional modules:
Theatre Design and Production introduces a wide range of design and production processes, including set, costume, lighting and sound design, producing and marketing, supplemented with a range of industry professionals. (20 credits)
Scriptwriting 2 allows you to hone the skills developed in Scriptwriting 1, focusing on the finer points of the playwright’s craft and applying those skills to larger narrative structures. (20 credits)
Comedy: Genres and Sub-Genres explores the transformation of a major comic tradition, farce, from Ancient Rome to The IT Crowd. (20 credits)
Political Theatres examines the ways in which political issues have been expressed through theatre in the 20th and 21st centuries, and grapples with the philosophical and ideological ideas behind political theatre. (20 credits)
Political Theatre Project develops the political and ethical discussions of the previous term, as you research a political event or theme and devise and stage a new political play from scratch. (20 credits)
Research Skills will develop your research skills in preparation for your final year dissertation. (20 credits)
Contact Hours: c.10 hours per week. (N.B. this does not include rehearsal and preparation time)
In the third year, you will tackle some of the highlights of the classical theatrical canon, working as a company of actors, directors, dramaturgs, designers, stage managers and producers to stage full-scale productions of major plays from before 1900 on the department’s main stages.
With an eye towards the future, you may choose to collaborate with BSc Film and Television Production colleagues to explore directing for theatre, film and television, or take a module keeping you up to date with the current trends in theatre.
In your final terms you will focus on two major pieces of work. The first, an independent dissertation project, allows you the freedom to conduct a significant piece of research on any aspect of theatre. In the second, you may choose to write a full-length play, or work practically in small groups on a production of a play of your choice.
Pre-1900 Theatre Production Project allows you to deploy the full range of practical and analytical skills developed over the past two years as you prepare a full public production of a major work from before 1900. (30 credits)
One of the following optional modules:
Directing for Theatre, Film and Television is a shared module with the BSc Film and Television Production, and encourages dialogue and sharing practice between the three media between which actors and directors regularly move. (10 credits)
Current Trends in Theatre: New Writing, New Practices, New Contexts develops your skills in researching, writing and presenting on the most recent developments in theatre, including new writing (processes of script development, new writing initiatives), new practices (such as rehearsal techniques, devising processes, and technological interventions) and new contexts (such as the development of new audiences, theatre spaces, funding models, artistic policies and employment practices). (10 credits)
Independent Dissertation Project gives you the chance to research and write on a topic of your choosing. (40 credits)
One of the following optional modules:
Independent Production Project allows small groups to prepare and perform a play or section of a play of your choosing. (40 credits)
Independent Playwriting Project allows you to develop a full playscript. (40 credits)
Contact Hours: c.8 hours per week in term 7. (N.B. this does not include rehearsal and preparation time)
There are a number of Study Abroad options at York. Here are some of the many opportunities you'll find here at the University:
Your base will be one of the best theatre production facilities in any UK university. Our facilities include a 200-seat thrust-stage theatre, a 110-seat black box theatre, rehearsal rooms, dressing rooms, workshop space and production areas.
Our course emphasises the constant interplay of practical and academic theatre skills. You will explore theatre through hands-on seminars and workshops, interactive lectures, independent rehearsals, and library-based study. Alongside the vibrant tutor-led and student-led content, masterclasses from visiting professionals will enhance and expand on various aspects of your learning.
We embrace a range of assessment methods, in order to best reflect each individual module and the course as a whole. Every module involves a written component of assessment, and many will also assess your practical work as an individual or in a group. During your studies with us, you may find yourself preparing essays of various lengths (from short reflective pieces to the final year dissertation project), portfolios or logs documenting practice, seminar presentations and oral examinations.
Masterclasses, delivered by high profile theatre directors, actors, and playwrights, run throughout the academic year. These invaluable sessions give you the opportunity to ask question about everything from career opportunities to ideas and inspiration.
Recent visitors have included the actors Penelope Wilton and Sam West; directors Max Stafford-Clark and Sean Holmes; producer Jenny Topper; and the writers Simon Stephens, Nick Payne, Alan Ayckbourn and Laura Wade.
Our approach to learning has been designed to provide wide ranging knowledge and skills that will set you up for a career in the world of theatre. Many of our graduates move on to work as writers, directors and performers in the industry, while others have taken up roles in the film and television industries and the wider arts world. For more information on our graduates take a look at the graduate achievement page. Our track record speaks for itself.
Applications must be made through UCAS. We look for applicants who can demonstrate a real passion for theatre, through your studies, extra-curricular activities and wider reading. We don’t require you to have taken a Theatre or Performing Arts course at college, and welcome students studying a mix of subjects and/or qualifications.
UK students may be asked to attend an interview in the department, for which you will need to bring one piece of analytical writing (normally an essay from your recent studies). We will also look at up to one piece of creative writing. There is no audition process, although we may offer a practical workshop as a taster of the kind of work you might expect to do on the course.
International students unable to travel to York may be asked to interview via Skype.
Our normal offer is AAB.
Other qualifications may be accepted. Please contact Undergraduate Admissions for more information.