Many students who dream of becoming actors or performers may think the NYU Tisch School of the Arts Performance Studies major is designed to provide a well-rounded foundation for performing on stage or on screen. However, the programʼs name is quite literal. NYU performance studies students explore the concept of performance rather than learn how to perform, as they would if they decided to major in Drama.

Performance Studies majors learn that performance isn’t limited to what happens on stage. It is also a medium for studying the world. Through a range of interdisciplinary courses, students examine philosophical and critical texts in order to explore the performative aspects of race, gender, and culture. They discover that performance informs politics, activism, and nearly every part of day-to-day life. For many students, this journey starts with one course: Introduction to Performance Studies.

A collage (clockwise): 1) A student in her dorm writing in a notebook, 2) A stack of books, 3) Rows of theatre chairs.
Philosophy of the Stage

Introduction to Performance Studies is one of four courses that comprise the core of the Performance Studies major at NYU. Students have the freedom to complete these classes in any order they wish. But many students choose to begin with Introduction to Performance Studies to gain an incredible foundational understanding of the field.

Introduction to Performance Studies asks students not only to consider what performance is but what it does. Purposely blurring the line between performer and critic, Introduction to Performance Studies is more akin to a philosophy course than to an acting or theatre course. Many students and faculty in the program use this philosophical framework as a springboard to additional academic areas—such as gender or migration studies—that help them better understand society, politics, and culture. For example, Professor Alexandra Vazquez, who teaches Introduction to Performance Studies this fall, conducts specialized research in the areas of feminist theory, Latin American studies, music and sound, and race and ethnicity.

A collage: 1) A student pulling a book off of a shelf, 2) A subway station in NYC. A visible sign reads
Nowhere Better than New York

Because there are few places in the world better than New York City to learn stagecraft, there are also few places better to observe, study, and analyze performance—whether it’s happening on Broadway, at Lincoln Center, or on a subway platform. When the NYU Department of Performance Studies opened in 1980, it was the first of its kind. Today, because of its innovative approach to studying performance in one of the world’s most performance-driven cities, it continues to draw students from around the globe.

“With New Yorkʼs cultural magnitude, you can experience performance in its true, authentic form,” says Tisch alum Jeremy Swanton. “You can walk out of class and experience it for yourself every day. That type of immersion is unique to this department, and you won’t find it anywhere else.”