Our curtain rises to welcome you to the Department of Theatre and Communication Arts at Whittier College.

Located 23 miles from the heart of downtown Los Angeles’ arts district, the Theatre Department strives to provide a balanced preparatory foundation, exposing students to multiple approaches and applications of theatre—all of which is firmly based in the liberal arts tradition.

Students majoring within the department follow a program of study designed to stimulate awareness of our cultural traditions and to explore the creative abilities of each individual. We provide courses in the areas of performance, directing, theatre history and dramatic literature, and stage design and technology. We also offer classes in speech communication, film history and criticism, and video production.

At Whittier

As part of a liberal arts institution, the Department of Theatre and Communication Arts focuses on providing both breadth and depth in the field, encouraging students to develop interdisciplinary connections, to demonstrate the collaborative nature of this discipline, and to articulate their own critical presentation of theatre as both an artistic art form and as a cultural artifact.

Department goals include:

  • Developing students through a series of progressive steps in both scholarship and creative engagement.
  • Requiring the collaborative experience of working with others as theatre practitioners.
  • Contextualizing theatre as an interdisciplinary and multi-disciplinary art form, connecting to the visual arts, history, politics, psychology, sociology, philosophy, religious ideologies, and technology.
  • Analyzing the context of historical theatrical influences and the interconnectedness of movements throughout history.
  • Synthesizing the interconnection between form, interpretation, and audience.
  • Articulating theatrical practices via cultural, sociological, and psychological lenses.
  • Presenting a final public creative or scholarly project with an accompanying historical, theoretical, and/or self-reflective paper.

Each year, the department produces up to four faculty-directed productions in the Ruth B. Shannon Center for the Performing Arts. Productions afford students multiple opportunities to engage in theatre as a collaborative process - as a performer, stage manager, assistant stage manager, etc., or as a member of various construction and running crews.

Graduating majors from the theatre program have the tools to pursue a professional career, graduate studies, or continue their path as lifelong appreciators of the theatrical arts. Recent graduates have found that their education in the department has prepared them for careers in personnel, education, sales and advertising, business, law, and publishing, as well as acting, directing, design and technical direction, writing, film, television, and the themed entertainment industry.

Majors & Minors in Theatre & Communication Arts

Requirements for the Major in Theatre & Communication Arts

To complete the major in Theatre & Communication Arts, a student must complete a total of 31-34 credits, which include the following:

Department Core Requirements for all majors (25-28 credits):

Theatre Practicum, THEA 50, 1 credit per year of residence.
Introduction to Acting, THEA 110, 3 credits
Introduction to Design and Technology, THEA 240, 3 credits
Play Analysis & Criticism, THEA 272, 3 credits
Shakespeare, THEA 328, 3 credits
Scenic Design, THEA 340, or
Stage Lighting, THEA 345, or
Costume Design, THEA 347, 3 credits
World Theatre, THEA 372 (A and B), 6 credits
Senior Project, THEA 485, 3 credits

Additional Requirements:

Theatre Arts—Performance Emphasis, 6 credits:
Fundamentals of Stage Directing, THEA 315, 3 credits
Voice and Movement I, THEA 220, or
Voice and Movement II, THEA 225, or
Scene & Monologue Study, THEA 210, or
Performing Non-Fiction, THEA 392, 3 credits.


Theatre Arts—Design/Technology Emphasis, 6 credits:
Two additional courses from:
Drawing and Drafting for the Theatre, THEA 245;
Painting for the Theatre, THEA 246;
Scenic Design, THEA 340;
Stage Lighting, THEA 345;
Costume Design, THEA 347

Requirements for the Minor in Theatre & Communication Arts

A minor requires 20 credits, including THEA 50, 2 credits; THEA 110, 3 credits; THEA 240, 3 credits; THEA 272, 3 credits; and nine credits in courses numbered 300 and above.

Requirements for the Minor in Film Studies

Film Studies at Whittier College is an interdisciplinary minor, emphasizing the analysis of film as an art form and a key media component in the multiple expressions of contemporary life.

Discovery in Theatre and Communication Arts

The theatre can be a source of self-discovery. At Whittier College, students have opportunities to explore their talents and potential—both behind the scenes and in the spotlight.

Stage Design & Construction

Ian Clarke is closer to his dream of becoming a Disney Imagineer—the people who build The Happiest Place on Earth—thanks to his experiences bringing stage sets to life at Whittier.

The theatre major has worked on sets for various plays at Whittier, from Hairspray to The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. Along the way, he’s seen how he can power past whatever limits he encounters while bringing creative ideas to life.

“All the hard work that goes into each design is both grueling and daunting, but is extremely worth it just to see every set come to life through our actors, the lighting, and the rest of the practical elements that help tell the story,” Ian said.

Amid the whirring of power tools and the gentle swish of paintbrushes, students like Ian discover the artistic joys and technical expertise of bringing a stage set to life. Through two of the courses taught by Professor Brian Reed, students not only learn about the design skills and technology that are foundational to the entertainment world—they apply them to real productions, too.

In his Introduction to Design and Technology class, Ian learned the basic information about scenery, lighting, and costumes for the theatre, movies, and television. He also spent two hours a week working in the scenic studio with Professor Reed.

In his stage lighting course, Ian learned the theory and practice of illuminating a performance. After completing several lighting design projects on paper and with specialized computer software during the course, students can serve as lighting technicians for faculty-directed productions and as designers for student productions. This combination of classroom learning and practical experience can better prepare students for their professional careers.

Senior Project

Arranged as a directed study, this course is the capstone experience for all Theatre and Communication Arts majors. Each student completes a major project either in directing, acting, design, technical production, stage management, or critical research.

The project entails both analytical and creative endeavors and results in some kind of public presentation or performance. Students also document their work on the projects justifying the choices and/or conclusions they make.

Hands-On Learning in Theatre and Communication Arts

At Whittier College, Theatre and Communication Arts majors have opportunities to wow audiences and engage with their studies hands-on in various professor-directed productions.

Recent Productions

  • Frankenstein
  • Hamlet
  • The Penelopiad
  • Next to Normal

Bringing Frankenstein to Life

Garrett Spejcher portrayed the complex character of Dr. Victor Frankenstein in a Whittier College production based off of Dorothy Louise’s adaptation from Mary Shelley’s classic novel.

Besides telling the story of a scientist creating a monster, Frankenstein explores how a good and hopeful man can be the reason for his own downfall.

“It’s a challenge because I have to show how a good man can be turned into a monster by his own demons—both metaphorical and literal,” Garrett said, discussing the challenge in portraying Dr. Frankenstein. “But as an actor, all you can ask for is to be given that chance to really push yourself as a performer.”

Garrett’s years of experience in acting prepared him well for the part. He started acting when he joined the drama club in sixth grade and continued throughout high school. At Whittier, he found the opportunity to continue his pursuit of acting and became involved in multiple productions.

“Performing was the first thing I ever really loved doing. I felt like I found my calling,” he said. “I realized this is what I want to do.”

Study Abroad

Travel throughout multiple countries, cultural exchange, foreign language immersion, unique academic adventures—all of these are hallmarks of the international study experience.

For the last 50 years, in keeping with its mission to prepare students for a global society and evolving workplace, Whittier College has sponsored study abroad opportunities, placing qualified students in locations throughout five continents (or at sea) for a semester, year, summer, or January or May Term of international, academic experience.

While abroad, Whittier students have also had opportunities to complete international internships, conduct and publish professional research, and been offered foreign graduate school and work opportunities.

Students of all disciplines can also participate in any of Whittier's faculty-led study abroad courses, which take place during the shorter JanTerm and MayTerm and can fulfill major, minor, and liberal education requirements. Learn more about Whittier's Featured Faculty-Led Programs.

Program taught in:
  • English

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Last updated June 27, 2019
This course is Campus based
Start Date
Sep 2019
4 years
48,924 USD
Annual Tuition (for 12-16 credits per semester)
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Sep 2019
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