Admissions FAQ | Ph.D. in Performance Studies

With whom do I speak with questions about the program?

You may contact Avy Valladares, Graduate Student Services Advisor. You can reach him at

How do I know if I have to take the TOEFL?

Please read the information on the Graduate Division website and application about admission requirements.

How important are GRE scores?

Effective January 2020, we no longer require the GRE for admission.

How important are the writing samples?

Both personal statements and the critical writing sample are very important. This is the place where the admissions committee will be best able to gauge a candidate’s readiness for doctoral research. Candidates should choose the critical writing sample that best exemplifies their critical capacities as theorists, historians, ethnographers, and/or as cultural critics. Ideally, the writing sample will be in dialogue with a candidate’s statement of research interests, though we understand that some candidates’ “best” writing samples might be somewhat outside declared research interests. Candidates who have been away from academia for a while are encouraged to take the time to develop a new or revised well-researched and critically sophisticated writing sample. While the personal statements are fairly brief (usually 2-3 pages each, double spaced), the critical writing sample should be 15 to 20 pages, double spaced.

How important are letters of recommendation?

The letters of recommendation are very important. The letters should speak as best as possible to a candidate’s readiness for and interest in doctoral research. While one of three letters might speak to a candidate’s skills as an artist, administrator, or activist, at least two letters should speak knowledgeably about the candidate’s abilities as a researcher and writer.

What kind of financial package is offered to doctoral students in performance studies?

We offer each student a six-year package of tuition support and stipend. The details of each package vary somewhat depending upon the availability of external campus funding and on the mix of fellowship and teaching responsibilities offered a student in any given year. However, we do not admit any student unless we can guarantee a six-year package.

Can any requirements be waived through work completed in my master's program?

Not usually. The doctoral program in performance studies is rigorous and very specific to UC Berkeley. Many students enter our program with a master's degree, however, and we find that such students are particularly adept in composing a specialized research curriculum and often take less time to finish their dissertations at the end of the program.

Do you encourage students to take courses in departments outside of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies?

Seminar experiences outside of the department are essential to the performance studies doctoral program at Berkeley. While the first year is largely devoted to program requirements in theory and methods and to professional development, the rest of a student’s coursework is carefully selected from an array of courses offered on the Berkeley campus. Students meet regularly with the Head Graduate Advisor to craft a curriculum that best suits the research interests of the individual students, each of whom will be pursuing a research agenda that varies historically, regionally, theoretically, artistically, politically.

What is the role of the Graduate Group faculty in Performance Studies?

The Graduate Group in Performance Studies is composed of scholarly faculty from within TDPS as well as a network of faculty whose work engages issues of performance from a variety of disciplinary angles. Graduate Group faculty rotate in two and three-year cycles onto the Executive Committee which is responsible for graduate admissions, curriculum decisions, and graduate student reviews. Graduate Group “affiliate” members regularly admit PS students into their courses and serve on their qualifying exams and dissertation committees. Graduate Group “core” members serve on the Executive Committee and can also serve as dissertation directors.

Can I apply to the doctoral program if I have a B.F.A. degree?

Some students are justifiably concerned that their undergraduate degree has not prepared them for doctoral research. In those cases, we encourage candidates to take interim steps through coursework or other kinds of intellectual affiliation to develop skills as a researcher and theorist.

Can I apply to the doctoral program if my bachelor’s degree is in a field other than theater, drama, dance, or performance studies?

Performance studies is a diverse and interdisciplinary field with scholarship representing a range of specialties in the humanities and social sciences, as well as occasionally the sciences. In light of this, a variety of undergraduate degrees are acceptable as long as the admissions statement includes a clear intention to pursue performance studies at the graduate level.

Can I pursue a doctorate while living outside of the San Francisco Bay Area?

Because students take courses on campus for the first two to three years and teach regularly in the program, it is not possible to pursue our doctoral program on a commuter basis. In the summers and in the fourth or later years, students whose research requires national or international travel are certainly allowed to relocate for an appropriate period of time.

Is there financial support for conference or research travel?

Students can receive Graduate Division support for two conferences during their time in our program and we can then help finance two or three additional conference trips. The department also offers partial support for travel to facilitate doctoral research, usually after year two and again after year four or five; allocations are made every year and depend upon the number of requests received. There are also other sources for travel funds throughout the campus as well as a variety of fellowship opportunities to support lengthier periods of research.

Is it possible to pursue scholarly research in dance at UC Berkeley?

Yes, Dance Studies is an important aspect of our program and we currently have several students in residence who work in this field. In addition, several Graduate Group members publish on dance in the context of larger scholarly projects in contemporary performance, transnational performance, and popular, mass, or vernacular performance forms. Additionally, our choreographers are active in promoting dance studies, and some are very committed members of our Dance Studies Working Group, a multi-disciplinary scholarly group composed of faculty and graduate students in Performance Studies, Rhetoric, Art History, Digital Art, English, Anthropology, and more.

What is the role of production in the performance studies doctoral program?

The doctoral program is designed to enable graduate students to become competitive in an academic job market and is therefore centered on academic reading, writing, and research. We invite students to participate in performance practice to the degree that it advances their profiles as emerging scholars in performance studies. Our program is not intended to train students in performance practice, therefore we recommend that students who wish to cultivate their artistic work seek out opportunities in the robust artistic communities in the wider Bay Area. That said, graduate students who come with extensive artistic experience and whose performance work coincides with their research have some opportunities to maintain their skills as artists in the Department, from the Performance Practicum class to courses in directing, choreography, and dance technique. After the first year, students can apply to direct a workshop production, assistant direct an undergraduate production, choreograph a piece for Berkeley Dance Project, or to coordinate the graduate student-led New Play Reading Series.

Should I contact a graduate faculty member before applying?

The profiles and research interests of our faculty are available here. Faculty members cannot meet with prospective applicants before the application deadline. If you are a finalist for admission, we will get in touch to schedule an interview with you (and admitted students will have the chance to meet faculty members before they accept the offer of admission). If you have questions about the program, please read the Program of Study. If you still have any administrative questions, feel free to contact the Graduate Student Academic Advisor, Avy Valladares,

Can I visit a seminar?

Prospective students may visit a seminar at the discretion of the professor. You can feel free to contact a professor about the possibility of visiting a course. Our course schedule is available at

Can I speak with any current students in the program?

The profiles and research interests of our current graduate students are posted on our department website, along with their emails. After perusing their biographies, you can contact students, especially those whose interests are closest to yours.

Is it possible for international students to take graduate courses at Berkeley?

International students are welcome to apply directly to the doctoral program. Those international students who wish to pursue graduate study at Berkeley for a limited time may apply through a number of programs:

Is it possible for domestic students to take graduate courses at Berkeley?

Domestic students who want to undertake graduate study without working for a higher degree may apply for course-work-only status. They must, however, meet the same admission requirements as degree candidates, have a definite scholarly or professional purpose in applying, and be admitted to a regularly established major field of study. There is no limited or unclassified status available to graduate students. Course-work-only students do not qualify for fellowship consideration or for academic appointment as a Graduate Student Instructor and can be accommodated only if a department is willing to include them in its enrollment target. There is a maximum of two semesters of study. Admission to course-work-only status precludes all future admission to any degree program at UC Berkeley. Please see information on this website about graduate admission and the link to the application itself on the Graduate Division website.

Current graduate students from any UC campus, Stanford University, CSU East Bay, San Francisco State University, Mills College, or Sonoma State University may participate in an Intercampus Exchange Program. Check with your home campus for details. For those attending universities other than those mentioned above, check with your home campus to see if any kind of exchange may be arranged.