The Honors Thesis

An Honors Thesis provides an opportunity to deepen skills and knowledge in an area in which the student has already demonstrated the ability to produce distinguished work.

The Honors Program

While THEA 90 constitutes the culminating experience for Theater majors, some students might also wish to pursue more intensive and advanced study/practice on one topic by developing an honors thesis over two terms in their senior year. Because it is additional to the requirements of a major, an honors thesis in Theater is intended to deepen a student's skills and knowledge in an area in which they have already demonstrated excellence in the Theater Department.

The Honors Thesis purposefully focuses on depth over breadth. It is not the appropriate venue for introductory experiences with creative roles, production roles, or critical perspectives; students seeking such breadth are encouraged to propose Student Productions as well as work with Department productions in as wide a variety of roles as possible. Students seeking to do a large-scale project involving more than two artistic roles (such as designing and playwriting), which is beyond the scope of Theater Department thesis, should consider applying in their Junior Year for a Dartmouth Senior Fellowship; these fellowships are for students whose projects exceed the disciplinary focus or resources of any single department.

The Honors Thesis


Students who have completed at least five major courses and who have an average in the major of 3.4 or higher (and a College average of 3.0 or higher) are eligible to apply for the Honors Program. Students with modified as well as standard majors may apply. An Honors project normally extends through two terms and receives two major credits. These Honors credits are in addition to the ten-course major.

Learning Goals

The Theater Department evaluates honors thesis proposals based on a) alignment between the project and specific learning goals; b) the student's prior accomplishments in the proposed area of study, as demonstrated through engagement with the Theater Department; c) the project's practical feasibility within the Department's resources.

Theater faculty will determine a customized set of learning goals for each accepted thesis proposal. They will choose multiple goals from among the following four categories, in consideration of the student's objectives and type of proposal (see elaboration of these learning goals below):

  • Production Skills
  • Collaborative Skills
  • Synthesis of Vision and Practice
  • Critical/Analytic Skills

Models for Honors Theses

Honors theses can take many forms, ranging from purely analytic research papers to primarily creative projects. They isolate one area of study for deeper work and analysis. In keeping with the College's liberal arts mission, all theses involve an academic component. Model thesis projects have included

  • A written academic thesis
  • An original full-length play with a supporting paper
  • Directing a pre-existing play with a supporting paper
  • A design project with a supporting paper

Exceptions may be granted for students who wish to do an honors thesis in solo performance. In those cases, it is expected that the students have demonstrated substantial experience in writing and performing, and it is preferable that they have taken THEA 25: Solo Performance.

Students interested in pursuing creative work through an honors thesis are strongly encouraged to collaborate with each other. For example, perhaps one student proposes to direct a play while another student proposes to design it—and they each receive separate honors thesis credit for their individual projects on the same production. 

Honors theses that are primarily creative in scope will include an academic component, which will typically consist of a reflective and analytical essay, approximately 15-18 pages in length. All thesis students will also produce a bound document for the Rauner library that includes the essay as well as additional documentation of the honors thesis project, as determined in consultation with the thesis advisor.

Honors Thesis Deadlines 2024-2025

Because of the schedule for our move back into the HOP, any 2025 Thesis projects that involve staged work will be performed in Winter 2025 (rather than in Spring 2025, which would be the usual schedule). This means that the calendar for submitting proposals and taking Thesis course credits (THEA 91 and THEA 92) is pushed earlier than usual.


Deadlines for STAGED projects:

Preliminary honors proposals due Friday, April 5, 2024     

Full proposals due Friday, June 28, 2024

Register for Fall 2024: THEA 91: The Honors Thesis I – Research/Design Meetings

Register for Winter 2025: THEA 92: The Honors Thesis II – Rehearsals/Performances


Deadlines for ACADEMIC PAPER or DESIGN projects:

Preliminary honors proposals due Friday, May 10, 2024

Full proposals due Friday, September 20, 2024

Register for Winter 2025: THEA 91: The Honors Thesis I – Research

Register for Spring 2025: THEA 92: The Honors Thesis II – Final Project


Please reach out to Catherine Jacobs, Academic Coordinator, with any questions.

Honors Program Details

Proposing an Honors Thesis

The proposal process is divided into two parts, and students must complete both steps on time in order to pursue an honors thesis.

Step 1: The preliminary proposal.
Step 2: The full proposal.

**NOTE: Because of the schedule for our move back into the HOP, any 2025 Thesis project that involves staged work will be performed in Winter 2025 (rather than in Spring 2025). This means that the calendar for submitting proposals and taking Thesis course credits (THEA 91 and THEA 92) is pushed earlier than usual.**


**The deadline for Class of 2025 preliminary honors proposals for STAGED projects will be Friday, April 5, 2024. Deadline for ACADEMIC PAPER or DESIGN PROJECTS will be Friday, May 10, 2024**

Please email your proposal to Catherine Jacobs, Academic Coordinator.

The preliminary proposal is an opportunity for the Faculty to provide the Honors candidate with initial feedback on their ideas in order to help them develop a more complete proposal during the summer. Preliminary proposals should be developed in conversation with a faculty member who could ultimately serve as an advisor for the project. 

Preliminary proposals should include the following:

  • A brief description of your project
  • A project rationale, built around the following questions:
    • Why are you proposing this project? How does it help you to fulfill your general educational goals as a theater major?
    • What are your top three concrete thesis learning goals with this project? (See "Learning Goals" above)
    • How will this project build upon your prior academic experiences as well as challenge you in new and unique ways?
    • Why does this project require an honors thesis (two-term) commitment versus other production or curricular opportunities? 
  • An estimate of the resources that your project will require (number of actors, director, space requirements, etc).

A typical preliminary proposal is between two and three pages in length.

The faculty will provide feedback on your preliminary proposal during the end-of-year meetings that we have with all of our junior students, which are traditionally scheduled at the very end of the spring term. The Department does not vote on preliminary proposals; we understand and expect that your concept and plans will not yet be fully defined at this early stage.


**The deadline for Class of 2025 honors proposals for STAGED projects will be Friday, June 28, 2024. Deadline for ACADEMIC PAPER or DESIGN PROJECTS will be Friday, September 20, 2024**

Please email your proposal to Catherine Jacobs, Academic Coordinator.

Students should work closely with their honors thesis advisor to develop their Honors Thesis proposal. Proposals will be evaluated based on the originality and depth of the project, the quality of the proposal, and the student's prior record of accomplishment. The faculty also seeks to balance the student's educational aims with the available resources of the department.

Students who prepare for an Honors project by pursuing approved courses of advanced independent study may, with approval of the Department, be allowed to complete the project (thesis) in one term. Students in the Honors Program must complete the ten courses required for the standard or modified major; the Honors credits are in addition to the ten-course major. Students may complete the ten-course major simultaneously with the Honors thesis: the ten-course major does not necessarily have to be completed before the honors work has begun.

For reference, students may view our Honors Thesis proposal template .

Examples of successful honors thesis proposals are also available from the Department's Academic Coordinator. For additional information, students should consult with the Chair of the Department of Theater.

Wrapping Up

We do not have formal "defenses" in our department; however, the end-of year-meetings that the faculty holds with each senior provide an opportunity in which the student can reflect on what they learned during the honors thesis process. 

Academic projects are required to be turned into Rauner library; the due date will be determined by the student's advisor. We also strongly encourage students with creative projects to develop portfolios of their projects to ensure archival documentation of their work.  


According to College policy, students must achieve at least a B+ average in the work of the Honors Program in order to earn Honors in their major. Students who receive less than a B+ will still earn academic credit for their work. At the end of the academic year, the faculty will also vote on whether to award the student "high honors." Although the faculty feels strongly that receiving "honors" is already a mark of excellence, we will consider awarding "high honors" to those projects that demonstrate 1) Concrete achievement of the proposed learning goals, 2) sustained dedication across the two terms, 3) originality and boldness of creative vision and/or ideas, and 4) thoughtfulness and care in the execution of the project—all of which will add up to outstanding artistic and/or academic work that goes above and beyond our expectations. For creative projects, the faculty will evaluate the student's collaborative skills with peers, staff, and faculty. Even though the department will seek to honor the student's vision in the execution of the project, flexibility is crucial given the nature of our art form. Please note that in order to be considered for high honors, any written work (the supplemental essay for creative projects, or full thesis in the case of academic theses or playwriting theses) must be shared with the faculty at least one week in advance of their voting meeting.



Production skills. The student successfully demonstrates an understanding of and the ability to execute production skills by

  1. actively participating in all scheduled production and design meetings
  2. respecting the budget laid out for the thesis project, or any other related projects
  3. providing all necessary paperwork, models, renderings, fabric swatches, light plots and all required documentation by the deadlines set for the thesis project
  4. always being on time

Collaborative Skills. For an honors thesis with a production component, the student successfully demonstrates collaborative skills by

  1. listening to and creatively adapting to the ideas and feedback of the production team, staff, and faculty mentors
  2. articulating the foundational cultural perspective(s) of the vision in written and verbal forms, demonstrating awareness of and concern for disparate impacts on diverse communities
  3. establishing an ensemble based on respect and mutual understanding, foregrounding the notion that empathy is at the heart of the theatrical arts
  4. problem-solving individually and in teams at every stage of the process and articulating lessons learned from key issues that arise or discoveries made (i.e. as would occur in rehearsals and rehearsal notes and responses to rehearsal notes)

Synthesis of vision and practice. The Department does not necessarily consider the content of the student's vision, but rather how that vision is articulated, how it is deployed, and how it informs the process and the final product as well as its impact. The student successfully synthesizes artistic vision and practice by

  1. completing the development phase of the project - ideation and articulation, proposal development and engagement with faculty advisor and peers.
  2. recognizing and proactively filling gaps in knowledge and skills in preparation for the project
  3. completing the production/written component of the project - practical steps to transform concept into an actual production through an intentional and informed process
  4. completing the post-project phase of the project – articulating lessons learned, assessing correlation between intended and actual impact, projecting next steps



Critical/Analytic skills. The student successfully completes an academic honors thesis by

  1. conducting independent research on a significant question, based on a bibliography of both primary and secondary sources developed in close consultation with their advisor (suggested: 10-15 sources)
  2. articulating a central idea/thesis for a research project that critically engages with and expands upon the scholarly literature
  3. communicating findings in a carefully written document that clearly tracks the trajectory of the argument
  4. presenting key findings in an oral presentation

Past Honors Thesis Projects

The following examples of theses were selected to show the range of what theater students have accomplished through our honors program. This is just a small sample of the many remarkable projects our students have accomplished over the years.

  • Kelleen Moriarty '19 directed The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams through a disability justice lens, using casting and staging choices to add depth and nuance to the play's representation of disability.
  • Annie Furman '19 drew on ecotheatre and animal studies to develop a solo performance, "Water Horse," which featured herself in collaboration with a horse named Bodie. The piece itself was staged in a barn at the Dartmouth Riding Center.
  • Matthew Treiber '16 wrote an academic thesis, "Teen Suicide in the Contemporary American Musical," which analyzed of representations of teen suicide and mental illness in three recent U.S. musicals—Spring Awakening, Heathers, and Dear Evan Hansen. His oral presentation included the singing of those numbers that were especially significant to his argument.