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. 

Honors Program Details

The Honors Thesis

An honors thesis in the Department of Theater provides an opportunity to deepen skills and knowledge in an area in which the student has already demonstrated the ability to produce distinguished work. 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. Possible honors projects include:

  • A written academic thesis
  • An original full-length play with a supporting paper
  • A realized production with a supporting paper
  • A design project with a supporting paper

    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.

    Note: The supporting paper will become mandatory starting with the Class of '22.

    Honors program details

    Proposing an honors thesis

    Note that the proposal process is divided into two parts:
    Step 1: The preliminary proposal, which is due in May of the student's junior year.
    Step 2: The full proposal, which is due the first week of the fall term.

    Students must complete both steps in order to pursue an honors thesis.


    **NOTE: The deadline for Class of 2024 preliminary honors proposals will be Friday, May 20, 2023**
    Please email your proposal to the Academic Coordinator

    The preliminary proposal is an opportunity for the Faculty to provide the Honors candidate with initial feedback on their ideas in the spring of their junior year, 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. You should initiate these conversations no later than the very beginning of the spring term.

    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 educational goals?
      • 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.


    **NOTE: The deadline for Class of 2023 honors proposals will be Friday, September 16, 2022**

    Please email your proposal to the Academic Coordinator

    Students should work closely with their honors thesis advisor to develop their Honors Thesis proposal. Final proposals are typically due the Friday of the first week of fall term classes. 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.

    Note: These portfolios with a reflective essay will become mandatory starting with the Class of ’22. 



    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) sustained dedication across the two terms, 2) originality and boldness of creative vision and/or ideas, and 3) 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 also take into account the student’s collaborative demeanor 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.


    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 by no means an exhaustive list of the many remarkable projects our students have accomplished over the years.

    • Julie Solomon ’17: Away This Night, a fully-produced production conceived, designed, and co-directed by Solomon. Inspired by immersive and feminist theatre traditions, the project was a study of the intersections of gender identity, gender presentation, race, sexuality, and ability in physical space. The performance on the Moore Stage moved throughout three built environments designed by Solomon, taking the audience on a journey through the worlds of As You Like It, Twelfth Night, and The Merchant of Venice.
    • Carene Mekertichyan ’15: a fully produced production of For Colored Girls who have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow is Enuf by Ntozake Shange. Mekertichyan served as the dramaturg and assistant director; she also performed the role of the Lady in Red. As part of her dramaturgical research, Mekertichyan compiled a production history of the play and studied contemporary black performance theory to inform her understandings of how this play, originally premiered in 1974, speaks to the present.
    • Stew Towle ’12: “Walt 1855 - Performing a Democratic Poetics: A Work of the American Bard Project”.  This project consisted of two components: 1) a performance installation text that explored the theatricality and vision of Whitman's 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass, 2) an academic thesis that addressed the theatricality of Whitman’s poetry and the radical democracy of his vision, as well as a theoretical analysis of his own performance installation.  
    • Matthew Cohn ’08: “An Ethics of Acting: Alain Badiou, The Character-Subject and the American Method.”  This academic thesis used the philosophy of Alain Badiou as a theoretical lens to examine and interpret the writings of Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler and Sanford Meisner, focusing on how they approach the task of creating a character as a discrete—though fictional—truth-producing subject.