Seniors complete a capstone experience in their area of emphasis. The capstone is an immersion in both theory and practice, and the research that supports those inter-related processes.  Despite the seeming “evanescence” of performance, seniors produce a portfolio (formerly known as the “senior project book”) that outlasts the senior project production and which archives the research, methods and practices employed by the senior major in the production. The Senior Capstone Portfolio is the a major’s testament to the maturity of their capacities in theatre and dance.

Senior Capstone and College Honors Projects

The Honors Project is a college-wide program supported by all departments; please consult the Academic Programs office for specifics.  The Honors Project is a year-long research immersion in theatre, dance and performance studies, and is undertaken in addition to the Senior Capstone Project required of all majors.

The Senior Capstone in Theatre & Dance


All senior projects must be approved by the faculty. Majors should be prepared to discuss their area of emphasis and senior project with faculty and staff at their Junior Review.  Senior projects must be completed while the student is in residence and before graduation;  the minimum requirement to qualify for the Senior Project is a B+ average in your area of emphasis.

Research questions for all department productions will be developed by our faculty/staff and distributed to all senior majors preceding their senior project semester.  These questions will give the seniors a sense of the range of preparation necessary to approach each of the productions.  Seniors will select three (3) questions as the bases for their initial research (see C). Capstone projects in the Fall are encouraged to begin their research during the summer; for seniors working on spring shows, research during January is encouraged. 

During their senior year, majors will meet each month as a group with faculty/staff.  This meeting will take place during the Tuesday department meeting, 11:30-1:00, on the last Tuesday of the month.  Attendance is mandatory.  The seniors will constitute a Senior Research Collective and are encouraged to work together in support of each others’ projects, sharing materials and insights filtered through their mature experience in these fields.

Chronology of Senior Capstone

The arc of the Senior Project includes the following required components:

1. Work on research questions for Initial Research Presentation: Summer and September for Fall; January/February for Spring.

2. Initial Research Presentation and Review Session: October (for Fall projects) and February (for Spring).

3. The Praxis Project: Acting/Directing/Choreography/Design/Stage Management/Dramaturgy, etc., including development and completion of the Senior Thesis. The Senior Thesis Portfolio includes your Prospectus, complete research (revised and updated, as appropriate), and archives your artistic process.

4. Capstone Review/Defense: The culmination of your research, praxis and portfolio presentation, end of Fall (December) or Spring Semester (May).

Initial Research Presentation and Review Sessions

At the Initial Research Review Session, students present the first stages of their Senior Research project, detailing their initial 3 questions in a 9-10 page Prospectus.  The prospectus addresses the pertinence of the research to the production, lists sources, and suggests analytical methods (3 pages each).

In terms of analytical methods, here are guidelines. Of the three questions:

  • one must address student knowledge of genre, styles and methods for approaching the creative work (3 pages).  For example, if the student is designing Beaumarchais’ The Marriage of Figaro, s/he must cover not only French comedy of that era but include influences of Italian commedia dell’arte.
  • one must address student knowledge of social history, to situate that work in time and space (3 pages).  If the student is working on Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls, research must survey class stratification in the U.K., the economic policies of Prime Minister Maggie Thatcher, and the employment prospects for working-class women of that era.
  • with the third question, students research the playwright or, in the case of devised work in dance or theatre, the major choreographic and/or textual influences on the proposed work.

The Research Review Session at which the Prospectus for these questions will be discussed with the Faculty and Research Collective will proceed accordingly:

  1. Pre-submission of the 9-10 page prospectus to Faculty and the Senior Research Collective members, with Bibliography.
  2. 15-minute oral presentation of initial research contained in the prospectus.
  3. Questions and suggestions from Faculty and the other Seniors in the Collective to guide the next stages of the Capstone research process.  Students should indicate which additional two questions they wish to pursue in this discussion with Faculty. 
  4. Closed Review of research activities, where Faculty deliberate whether and how students can advance their research.
  5. Open Session for recommendations for advancement, with all seniors in the Research Collective.  This session is scheduled later on the same day, and is mandatory.

Outline of Senior Capstone

The stage-related work of your Senior Capstone – through your work as an actor, designer, choreographer, etc. – will occur in Fall or Spring. The Senior Project Handbook and sessions with your primary advisor will provide you with detailed guidelines about preparing this work.

Preparing for the Capstone Review and Defense

The Portfolio includes all the materials from the Research Collective presentations, as drafts (see B.2, above, and C), and is an archive for further, completed student research on those questions and others, as directed by faculty/staff at the Research Review session and as requested by the director of the production

The Portfolio must be organized in sections, or what we’re calling “chapters,” using the following outline exactly:

  1. Title page, including title of production, playwright, director, dates of production, position held or role played by student completing capstone.
  2. Copy of production program
  3. Text Analysis (this also applies to choreography and devised work);  see standardized THDA text analysis for all capstone projects revolving around a script.  (3 pages)
  4. Chapter on production analysis.  This includes the initial three research questions, now fully-formed in 5-page papers, with additional investigations into:
    •  previous production histories (work with advisor on the timing and selectivity of this research work in relation to the development of your own concepts) (3 pages)
    • features of the current THDA production, including the student’s understanding of and research into the director’s/designers’ production concept) (4 pages)
  5. Chapter for the presentation of primary and visual sources, using full and proper citations.  These images should not be included without annotation re: their significance to the production and/or the student’s own work on the project. 
  6. Specialization-specific documents – performance scores, directors’ and stage managers’ prompt books, designers’ drawings, elevations, draftings, photos of models, etc., as outlined in each Senior Project/Portfolio Handbook.  These materials should be professional-quality, neat and ready for public presentation.  Drafts which the student and/or advisor deem necessary for understanding the whole process may be included in Appendixes.
  7. Chapter for the rehearsal journal.  This is a 10-page distillation of the daily process journal.  For purposes of inclusion in the public portfolio document, the capstone student should use key dates and passages and annotate how those events and revelations contributed to the overall process.  The final journal should be a “meta-journal,” using the original as source material for reflection on process and product.
  8. Chapter for final self-evaluation, addressing the entire process (5 pages).
    Appendixes:  drafts of scores, drawings, as deemed appropriate (see E.5, above). 

Presenting the Senior Capstone Review and Defense

  1. Materials and Procedures

    The Senior Capstone Review and Defense is open to the department community, and is the crowning moment for the completion of our major: a time when students demonstrate their knowledge, experience, and skills in their area of specialization.

    In a 20-minute prepared presentation, students present:

    • their research;
    • key questions that emerged from the research;
    • the ways that those questions informed the practical work of performance/choreography/direction/ design etc. -- and vice versa;
    • new questions or analyses.
  2. The Grading Process
    The Final Senior Thesis Defense is graded in four areas:
    • Effectiveness of the final production/performance.
    • Excellence of the Research and Production Portfolio.
    • Clear relationship & interplay between Research and Praxis.
    • Citizenship, Collaboration, & Conduct as an artist-researcher throughout the process.