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American University Theatre & Musical Theatre Programs

Offering a BA in Theatre, a BA in Musical Theatre, and a minor in Theatre.

Theatre & Musical Theatre

American University's Theatre and Musical Theatre Program will prepare you to succeed in a variety of professions within and beyond the performing arts. All majors are grounded in a strong liberal arts tradition.

Actors performing in Lost Girl

Our Mission

To be a supportive, vibrant, and rigorous learning community of artist-scholar-citizens within a diverse world-class liberal arts environment.

Our Vision

The American University Theatre and Musical Theatre Program is led by working theatre professionals and passionate educators who actively strive to:

  • Prepare students for the ever-evolving contemporary theatre landscape, with a deep respect for the past, but eyes always on the future.
  • Acknowledge and dismantle racism, anti-blackness and all discriminatory practices, while promoting inclusive and equitable ideas, values and policies.
  • Directly engage with the political, social, and cultural issues of our times.
  • Encourage students to take genuine risks, be brave enough to fail boldly, and continually grow and evolve as theatre artists and human beings. We encourage pushing boundaries, challenging assumptions, and expanding possibilities.
  • Offer students the tools, techniques, experiences and connections that will allow them to successfully pursue a life in the theatre within the thriving Washington, DC area theatre community, as well as nationally and even internationally.
  • Foster an equitable and inclusive learning environment that makes a significant personal investment in every student. We value the whole person and work diligently to help students on their path, wherever it may lead.

The Theatre major features two options: a broadly focused and interdisciplinary Theatre Arts track, and a specialized track in Theatre Performance.  The Musical Theatre major builds upon the same liberal arts foundation with serious training in acting, voice, and dance. Regardless of major or track, all students are encouraged to develop critical thinking skills and intellectual curiosity. Faculty are seasoned professional scholars, performers, writers, directors, designers, dramaturgs, and choreographers bringing the "real world" into the classroom.

Students interact with internationally recognized artists in classes, productions, and extra-curricular seminars and workshops. Recent distinguished guests and teaching artists include:

The Lost Girl cast and crew on set with Kimberly Belflower

Kimberly Belflower (Read the story: AU's "Lost Girl" Cast Coached by Playwright Kimberly Belflower)

Meghan Brown (playwright)

Rachel Chavkin (Tony-winning director of Hadestown and Natasha, Pierre, & The Great Comet of 1812)

Will Davis (director and choreographer)

Jessica Frances Dukes (Ozark actor)

Kostas Gakis (Greek actor and composer)

Peter Hedges (screenwriter What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, About a Boy)

Ameenah Kaplan (actor and director)

Billy Magnussen (Into the Woods and Aladdin actor)

Maria Manuela Goyanes (Artistic Director of Woolly Mammoth Theatre)

Megan Chan Meinero (playwright)

David Neumann (Hadestown Choreographer)

Jen Schriever (Broadway lighting designer)

Margo Seibert (Broadway actor & AU alum)

Paul Tazewell (Costume Designer for Hamilton and The Wiz Live)

John Douglas Thompson (Broadway actor)

Jessica Wu (actor and director)

Meet Our New Full-Time Faculty

Nancy Bannon and Kristin Stowell

Nancy Bannon and Kristin Stowell

Nancy Bannon, performer/writer/director, has written and directed multiple short films and stage plays including site-specific, interactive and immersive works. She is a current recipient of The 2023 Washington Award and Princess Grace Special Projects Grant and was awarded a DC Arts and Humanities Fellowship in 2022. Her work has been recognized by various festivals, contests and labs including New York Stage and Film’s Filmmaker Workshop, Slamdance Film Festival and New York Women In Film and Television. Nancy was last seen as an actor in Mark O’Rowe’s The Approach in DC and Off-Broadway in Occupied Territories and is a former professional dancer who toured internationally for over a decade. Faculty: American University, Studio Acting Conservatory BFA: Juilliard

Kristin Stowell is a music director, pianist, composer, arranger, copyist, and educator based in Washington, DC. Recent credits include music directing the world premieres of On Cedar Street (Berkshire Theatre Group) and Mystic Pizza (Ogunquit Playhouse), and the regional premiere of The Cher Show (Ogunquit Playhouse). Her original award-winning musical Endometriosis: The Musical was featured in the 2022 Minnesota Fringe Festival, and she has been a music supervisor for Norwegian Cruise Lines for the past decade. Kristin has previously served as a full-time faculty member at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and the University of Mississippi, and on the adjunct faculty of New York University and George Washington University.

News & Notes

Events Tickets to spring performances are on sale now. $10-$15, free for AU students.

Aaron Posner’s (Theatre) adaption of the Chaim Potok novel My Name is Asher Lev is playing at the Théâtre des Béliers Parisiens in Paris as Je m’appelle Asher Lev, February-March.

Aaron Posner’s (Theatre) adaption of the Chaim Potoknovel The Chosen is playing in March at the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre. Posner is also directing the show, a co-production with Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park.

AU Theatre faculty nominations for Helen Hayes Awards: Janos Szaz (Outstanding Direction of a Play/Angels in America at Arena Stage), Robb Hunter (Outstanding Choreography in a Play/ King Lear at Shakespeare Theatre Company), and Shanara Gabrielle (Outstanding Choreography in a Play/ The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe at Adventure Theatre).

Adjunct Professorial Lecturer Janos Szasz directed Angels in America: Millennium Approaches at Arena Stage, which appeared on The Washington Post’s list of “The Best of Theatre in 2023.”

DC Theater Arts' Gregory Ford reviewed Damn Things Will Kill Ya by Olivia Luzquinos (CAS '23): Fearless new writing in ‘Damn Things Will Kill Ya’ at American University

The American University Alumni Associated hosted a talk about the Broadway musical Here Lies Love featuring Don Mike Mendoza (SOC/BA ’10, MA ’17). Watch the recording and read Mendoza's profile.

AUTV featured Head Over Heels in its fall broadcast.

The Eagle's Jessica Ackerman reviewed Head Over Heels: Department of Performing Arts presents ‘Head Over Heels’

Professor Carl Menninger spoke on the podcast Mapping the College Audition: An MTCA Podcast about program auditions, blending art and social justice, and more. 

The Eagle's Isabelle Kravis reviewed Daughers of Leda: ‘Daughters of Leda’ rewrites the mythology you thought you knew

Caroline Bock reviewed Daughters of Leda for DC Theatre Arts: "A stylish romp in the underworld with ‘Daughters of Leda’ at AU"

The Eagle's Jessica Ackerman reviewed Overture: Musical Theatre freshmen make their Katzen debut in ‘Overture’

Aisley Wallace Harper, AU alumna.

Embracing Passion(s)—Plural—at AU

Aisley Wallace Harper, CAS/BA ’23, SPA/BA ’23, MS ’24, isn’t interested in disciplinary silos.

Read More

"Head Over Heels," photo: Jeff Watts

Arts ·

Announcing Spring 2024 Performing Arts Events

Read More

Daniella Ignacio (CAS '21) reviewed Overture for DC Theater Arts: "At American University, a personal ovation for ‘Overture’"

DC Theater Arts reviwed our March production of Kimberly Belflower's Lost Girl.

Theatre professor Aaron Posner directed William Shakespeare's The Tempest at Round House Theatre in Washington, DC. The play was reviewed by The Washington Post, and Posner was interviewed by BroadwayWorld.

Theatre professor Tara Giordano played the part of Ruby in an Off-Broadway production of Hot Fudge at Potomac Theatre Project in New York City. The play was reviewed by the New York Times.

Theatre professor emerita Caleen Jennings wrote Wanda's Way, which premiered at the Logan Festival of Solo Performance at 1st Stage in Tysons, Virginia in summer 2022. The performance was reviewed by DC Theater Arts.

Theatre professor Aaron Posner directs The Rivals at American Players Theatre in summer 2022 in Spring Green, Wisconsin.

Theatre & Musical Theatre Capstone: A Call for a New Federal Theatre Project See performance videos, FTP research, and program notes.

Distinguished Associate Professor Aaron Posner won the 2020 Off-Broadway Alliance Award for Best New Play for Life Sucks.

Theatre professor emerita Caleen Jennings won the first-ever AU Faculty Award for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

FAQ

The Department of Performing Arts produces 5 mainstage theatre shows per school year. Our students have the opportunity to participate in a wide range of shows from classics to contemporary works; from traditional book musicals to new cutting edge musicals. We also feature a New Works program that affords students the opportunity to be a part of premiere productions of original new plays and musicals. We produce shows in our Studio Theatre in the Katzen Arts Center, and in the Greenberg Theatre, a 296-seat proscenium theatre near AU's main campus.

We have an open casting policy! You don't have to be a major or minor to get involved. There are numerous student-run performing groups including AU Players, Rude Mechanicals, Open Dialogue, BlackList, AU Quills and Capes, and AU in Motion. In these groups and several others, students produce, direct, write, choreograph, design, and perform. In addition to participation from performing arts majors and minors, these companies draw students from all across the campus and from many disciplines. They perform to packed houses.

There are lots of opportunities in stage management and technical theatre for majors and non-majors alike. The Theatre Arts major allows student stage managers and design and technical theatre students to enjoy the same liberal arts foundation courses as our other majors, in addition to gaining terrific hands-on experience. Most significantly, our design and technical students get work on and off campus! Current students and alums earn money in DC's thriving theatre community.

The 300-seat Greenberg Theatre on Wisconsin Avenue is state of the art. It is in a thriving section of the city-accessible to campus, restaurants and the metro. This will be home to many outstanding seasons of events in the years to come.

The Katzen Arts Center brings all the visual and performing arts programs at AU into one 130,000 square foot space. Designed to foster interdisciplinary collaboration in the arts, the center provides state-of-the-art instructional, exhibition, and performance space for all the arts disciplines.

The Center features the extraordinary 30,000 square foot AU Museum, directed by Jack Rasmussen, with a variety of gallery spaces for exhibition of exciting contemporary art from the nation's capital region and the world, along with AU's own Watkins Collection, the collection of Cyrus and Myrtle Katzen, the Corcoran Legacy Collection, and the Alper Initiative for Washington Art.

The Katzen Arts Center stands as a clear statement to the community that there exists a place where the arts are honored as an essential part of higher education. That place is American University.

The 51-credit Theatre or Musical Theatre major is designed to allow students the opportunity the double major in another area of study.

Recent alumni have worked at virtually every major theatre and arts organization in the DC metro area, including The Kennedy Center, Signature Theatre, Ford's Theatre, The Folger Shakespeare Library and Folger Consort, Studio Theatre, Arena Stage, and The National Players National Tour. Many have gone on to graduate school in a variety of disciplines including acting and design. Our alumni also range in profession from actors, designers, and arts managers, to educators, lawyers, translators, writers, and business people. Some have started their own professional theatre companies.

DC offers a large, diverse and exciting theatre community with over 80 working professional theatres. Students are therefore exposed to a wide range of styles and types of theatre. Additionally, the DC area provides rare opportunities to see and be a part of international and multicultural performances, performance on the national and international political "stage," government jobs in the arts, arts education, and arts policy.