The creative opportunities open to theater students are greater today than at any time in history. Stage, film, television are joined by web-based, immersive, and site-specific performance. You can reinvent the classics, tap dance in a musical, and take your solo show to Australia or China.

Find those opportunities at Cornish, where you can play Romeo or Juliet—or you can be the first to perform in a new one-act written by a classmate. You can record an animation voiceover for a Design student, or collaborate with Film colleagues on a web series intended to play on mobile phones.

In our dynamic Seattle campus you’ll find classrooms and performance spaces like historic Raisbeck Hall and the 400-seat Cornish Playhouse that we fill with stirring contemporary plays and musicals, improvisation, classical drama, neo-burlesque, solo performance, clowning, and anything else we can dream up.

Together, we’ll explore the art and craft of storytelling as well as the empathy and imagination that give it resonance and power. Our faculty of practicing artists can guide you to develop a healthy practice and your own unique creative process. Engaged with Seattle’s vibrant theater community, you’ll deepen the self knowledge that fosters creative risk-taking. You can walk into rehearsal and confidently access your skill set so that you can say “Yes, AND…” to any situation.

Our alumni act, sing, write, and direct on virtually every stage in Seattle, and all over the world. Recent grads are performing on Broadway, starring on television, starting new ensembles, leading theaters, dazzling cabaret audiences, making spectacular performance art at international festivals, attending prestigious MFA programs, and taking their communications and storytelling skills into executive positions at Google and Apple.

What stories are you going to tell?

Letter from the Chair Richard E.T. White

“The future is what artists are.” –Playwright Oscar Wilde


What are the stories you have to tell? What are the dreams you have yet to imagine? How can you use theater—the ultimate collaboration, an art form that can encompass every other art form—to tell those stories? 

At Cornish you develop your artistic voice in a secure environment in which you can take creative risks. You discover your possibilities within the broad and embracing art form that is theater while you actively connect your work with the world around you. Your journey is facilitated by a faculty and staff of working artists who also connect you to a vibrant local and national theater community.

Your goals might be in regional theater, musicals, television, film, improvisation or multi-disciplinary experimental work. You might develop some new imaginative hybrid that none of us have thought of. At Cornish you can fill your storytelling toolbox while developing a vision of yourself as an independent artist with a powerful creative voice and a fundamentally grounded process for making work.

As a Cornish Theater graduate you will be physically and vocally flexible and dynamic, critically astute and articulate, and in possession of a wide variety of techniques applicable to a range of theatrical styles. You work effectively within a group for a goal larger than yourself, and you present yourself and your personal aesthetic with clarity and confidence.

The Cornish Theater Department provides you with an education centered on a stimulating approach to making theater which:   

  • develops your gift for telling compelling stories in a range of mediums
  • values and fosters both personal and professional growth
  • places an equal emphasis on technical/performance education and intellectual/creative development
  • provides a bridge to the Seattle and national professional theatre communities, taking full advantage of the extended educational opportunities available
  • provides opportunities for students and faculty to engage in collaborative interdisciplinary projects including film and digital performance
Through our emphasis on professional preparation and whole-person education, the Theater Department supports the Cornish College of the Arts mission to prepare students to contribute to society as artists, citizens, and innovators.

Richard E.T. White
Theater Department Chair



The first two years of the program contain your foundational courses. Each year you will have a series of core classes covering Acting, Improvisation & Collaboration, Literature of Theater, Text Analysis, Theater History, Voice & Speech, and Physical Technique (which may include aerobics, tumbling, Suzuki training, Viewpoints, contact improvisation, dance, yoga, biomechanics, strength training and both neutral and character mask work). You can also explore Playwriting, Directing and areas of Musical Theater. You will also study the basics of theater production and work backstage in the Cornish Theater season in a variety of capacities. As the program progresses and you develop a greater sense of your own mission as a theater artist, you will move into more specialized courses in your area of interest.


The Acting Concentration

Following a successful audition at the end of the sophomore year, you will engage in intensive study of classical theater texts, exploring material from the Greeks to Shakespeare to Chekhov. You will learn the technical skills necessary to bring heightened and poetic language to life on stage, while imbuing your character portrayals with a sense of dramatic truth. Acting students also have the opportunity to do on-camera projects.

In the senior year, you delve deeper into subtext, ambiguity, and mystery through the work of Beckett, Pinter, and a range of contemporary playwrights. You will also strategize how to launch your career, while developing useful skills such as stage combat, voiceover, and auditioning for both live and digital performance. Your senior thesis project may involve self-producing a one-act play or performing as an acting intern in a local professional theater.

The Musical Theater Concentration

Musical Theater students take the core acting-based skills classes in the Foundations years, supplemented with classes in singing, dance, and musical theater. You study singing and dance as well as music theory, including ear training, sight reading and singing, group singing, rhythm and harmony. This culminates in a musical capstone as part of the sophomore ensemble project.

Following a successful audition for continuance in the program at the end of the sophomore year, you participate in classes in theater dance styles, musical theater performance and audition techniques. You perform in productions of both original and established musical theater works, including a cabaret at the end of the fall of the senior year. You also take singing lessons. Your senior thesis project needs to demonstrate acquisition of a range of musical theater skills.

The Original Works Concentration

Original Works is designed for artists whose goals include directing, playwriting, generating original performance pieces, or being part of a generative ensemble or the artistic staff of a theater. After successful completion of an audition at the start of the junior year, you explore a wide variety of generative methods, including playwriting, directing, personal clown, and other physical/improvisational approaches, as well as self- producing and dramaturgy.

Reading and research are essential aspects of the program. In addition to intensive practice in writing and directing, you study the work of important generative artists, playwrights, and directors.

Your senior thesis project will be a generative piece, either written by you or created by an ensemble under your creative supervision which reflects your aesthetic vision.


A theater education at Cornish is grounded in a dynamic relationship to the history of the craft as well as an awareness of the conditions of the world. Students are trained to be physically and vocally flexible and powerful, critically astute, articulate, and in command of a wide variety of techniques applicable to a range of theatrical styles. In addition, they acquire the skills to work effectively within an ensemble for a goal larger than themselves, and to present their personal artistic talents with clarity and confidence.

Theater Degree Requirements

In order to earn a BFA in Theater, students must complete the program in their major field of study (94 Theater credits), as well as fulfill the other college requirements (6 arts elective credits, 30 Humanities & Sciences credits). Each Theater student is required to present a senior thesis project, which can include a self-produced one-act play (either original or established), an internship with a professional theater, or a thesis paper.

Model Programs are updated at the beginning of each academic year. This PDF contains the current year’s model programs for this program. Students should refer to the model program that was in effect for the year and term of their entrance to Cornish. View archived catalogs and model programs.


Theater Course Descriptions

​Theater courses at Cornish are designed to help students develop their personal interests as well as become grounded in a solid knowledge of the history and current practices of the art form.

Course descriptions are updated at the beginning of each academic year. For this year and previous years, please refer to the online archive of catalogs


Theater Learning Outcomes

Students enrolled in this program who fully participate and engage with peers, teachers and the learning environment will learn, know and demonstrate the ability to:

  • Articulate a personal aesthetic as a creative artist—grounded in theater history, literature and current practices of the art form – to provide a context for their work.
  • Apply a dynamic range of acquired skills to create and interpret multiple styles and genres of performance.
  • Employ imagination and empathy to make innovative work for diverse audiences by exploring beyond established theatrical forms and building the capacity to hold multiple perspectives.
  • Access, trust and employ Intuition, Improvisation, and Inspiration in all aspects of creative practice.
  • Read with comprehension and accuracy, and clearly communicate complex ideas in oral and written form.
  • Apply research, technology and critical thinking to deepen the quality of creative work.
  • Employ self-awareness, initiative and resilience in both personal and professional practice to form and maintain collaborative relationships.
  • Manifest and maintain an informed and ethical process as a working artist.

In addition to the Degree outcomes, performers will specifically:

  • Perform with physical and vocal strength, dynamism, flexibility, and the ability to fully embody creative choices.
  • Perform authentically in imaginary circumstances, conveying to the audience a sense of emotional truth.
  • Give and take from fellow performers, and practice focused, available, and responsive listening.
  • Audition confidently and appropriately in a variety of professional audition formats.


Faculty & Staff

Our faculty and staff are active as practicing theater artists, working in venues from major regional theaters to Broadway, from musical theater to film to community-based theater with underserved populations, as performers, directors, playwrights, administrators and dramaturgs. Your instructors meet regularly with you to discuss your progress and help you set goals for Cornish and beyond. Through your academic engagement with the faculty, you receive artistic mentoring and professional networking opportunities as well as intensive instruction. The Theater faculty is chaired by Richard E.T. White, and includes such distinguished artist-educators as Ellen Boyle, Kathleen Collins, Kate Myre, Lisa Norman, Timothy McCuen Piggee, Hal Ryder, Robin Lynn Smith, David Taft and John Kendall Wilson.


Theater Public Performances


The Theater student experience at Cornish goes beyond the classroom, beyond studio work, and onto the stage. The Cornish Theater Department presents public performances of over a dozen productions each year, in addition to over 30 developmental works, senior projects, and special events. Students may participate as performers, assistant directors and student dramaturgs.

In the first year, Theater students present their own ensemble-developed Myth Projects in the spring semester. In the sophomore year, students participate in spring capstone productions in areas of potential concentration (Acting, Musical Theater and Original Works). In the junior and senior years, students perform in full-length plays across a variety of genres and styles, ranging from classical texts to newly-devised work, from musicals and cabaret to Northwest premieres of contemporary plays and filmed projects. Junior Original Works students present a spring festival of work created in their playwriting, directing and clown courses. Musical Theater students across all four years also present concert performances at the Seattle Center.

In their last year, students create their own senior thesis, which can include either self-producing a production at a Cornish venue, or working with a local professional company as an intern.

Every year, all eligible students may audition for and perform in senior thesis projects, as well as independent projects and performances sponsored by Dance and Music.

​​Performance ​​eligibility in Cornish Theater productions is dependent on students doing consistent work and making progress in all classes, and maintaining a grade point average of 3.0.

Students are required in their first and second years to participate in production support and stage management as assigned by the department. ​

News & Events

First Slide

September 15, 2017

Cornish Presents Brings Diverse Series To Campus

Over the last three years, Cornish Presents has grown from a small series of jazz concerts in PONCHO Concert Hall to a year-long, multidisciplinary series of visiting artists, beloved alumni, and distinguished faculty at all three Cornish College of the Arts campuses in Capitol Hill, South Lake Union, and Seattle Center.

The 2017/18  Cornish Presents seasonlets art and discussion collide, and crossover occur natura...

Projeto Arcomusical November 6, 2017 at 8:00 pm PONCHO Concert Hall, 710 E Roy Street, Seattle ...

First Slide

September 7, 2017

Convocation Kicks Off the Year at the Playhouse

This year, the annual celebration of the beginning of the academic year at the College moved to the Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center and was set to the music of alumna and jazz notable Dawn Clement, class of 2000.

​The students, faculty, and staff of Cornish College of the Arts gathered for the College’s Conv...

First Slide

September 6, 2017

Cornish College Opposes The Ending of DACA

A letter from Interim President Chris Kevorkian on the recent announcement to end the DACA program.

Dear Cornish College Community, Yesterday was the first day of the fall semester at Cornish Colle...

First Slide

June 22, 2017

Film Festival Opportunities Found In LA

After graduating with a BFA in Theater, Kyle McAuley '11 found himself creating short films for a California film festival. This year, he is the committee chair for the “On Location” project of New Filmmakers Los Angeles and hopes to hear from other Cornish transplants.

Moving away from Cornish College of the Arts can be a challenge. The college prides itself on having...

First Slide

May 15, 2017

Commencement 2017 – You Will Climb the Sky

Invoking both Cornish College of the Arts’ storied past and the ever-changing creative landscape of the 21st century, Commencement speaker Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker told 2017 graduates: “You will climb the sky.

The 2017 Commencement took place at Benaroya Hall in downtown Seattle. Friends, families, and gradua...

First Slide

May 10, 2017

Creating Fables With A Baby Grand

Cornish Playhouse resident artists Ruth Marie Tomlinson (faculty), Fritz Rodriguez (alumni), John David Tomlinson, and Tania Kupczak have been deconstructing, cataloguing, rebuilding, and constructing fables of a Sohmer & Co. Baby Grand piano. The deconstruction began in November of 2016 and will culminate over Memorial Day weekend with a closing reception on May 25.

What do you do with a decommissioned piano? At Cornish College of the Arts, you turn it into art. In...

First Slide

March 14, 2017

Jobaris Casts Her Spell At On The Boards

Jessica Jobaris '97 and her collaborative collective General Magic use dance and theater as a quest into the human condition. Her work nurtures risk, mystery, absurdity, sensation of the body, and emancipation through imagination.

Since graduating from Cornish College of the Arts in 1997, Jessica Jobaris has been choreographing a...

First Slide

February 22, 2017

Sale’s Theater Career Focuses On Teamwork

In 2016, Cornish College of the Arts’ graduate Courtney Sale was selected as the artistic director of Seattle Children’s Theatre, which was named one of the top five children’s theatres in the country in 2012.

Now halfway through her first season as artistic director of Seattle Children’s Theatre, Courtney...

First Slide

February 14, 2017

Historic Seattle Lecture Explores Cornish History

David Martin, the curator of Cascadia Art Museum exhibition on Cornish College of the Arts' history, will lecture on the history of the school on March 6, 7 p.m., at PONCHO. This event is part of the Historic Seattle 2017 educational program for lovers of buildings and heritage.

“Miss Aunt Nellie” as she was affectionately known, was arguably the most important figure in Wa...

First Slide

February 2, 2017

Alumni In The News - February

Lots of alumni success to report from New York City as well as shows closer to home.

Julia Sirna-Frest '05 is getting a lot of notice for her work in the title role in Porto&n...

Theater Alumni Accomplishments

Cornish Theater alumni have found success:

  • Acting, directing and administration in regional theaters
  • Creating original performance pieces
  • Making feature films, television shows, and commercials
  • Establishing new theater companies
  • Teaching drama at all levels
  • Making and touring theater to Europe, Asia, Australia and Latin America

In Seattle, alumni work consistently at:

  • Seattle Repertory Theatre
  • Intiman Theatre
  • A Contemporary Theatre (ACT)
  • Seattle Children’s Theatre
  • 5th Avenue Theatre
  • Book-It Repertory Theatre
  • Seattle Shakespeare Company
  • Village Theatre
  • Annex Theater
  • New Century Theatre Company
  • Washington Ensemble Theatre
  • Strawberry Theatre Workshop
  • Many fringe theaters and outdoor Shakespeare productions, as well as forming their own companies

Alumni have also gone on to prestigious graduate schools such as Yale, ART/Harvard, NYU Tisch, Northwestern, University of Texas at Austin and the American Conservatory Theater. Our notable alumni include:

  • Kjerstine Rose Anderson (actor, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, ACT Theatre, Seattle)
  • Richard Andriessen (AKA Major Scales) (writer-composer- performer, The Vaudevillians, ACT Theatre)
  • Brenda Arellano (writer-performer, Neo-Futurists, Chicago and San Francisco)
  • Meghan Arnette (artistic director, Live Girls Theatre, Seattle)
  • Mallery Avidon (playwright, Los Angeles)
  • Sherrine Azab (producer-director, A Host of People, Detroit)
  • Brett Baker (actor)
  • Jessica Barkl (Assistant Professor of Theatre & Speech, Sullivan County CC, NY)
  • Gabriel Baron (filmmaker, Gabriel Baron Studios)
  • Greg Bennick (performer-juggler- motivational speaker)
  • Tawnya Bhattacharya (television writer-producer, Los Angeles)
  • Todd Bjurstrom (instructor, Lee Strasberg Institute, Los Angeles)
  • Margot Bordelon (director, Steppenwolf Theatre, Yale Repertory Theatre)
  • Skye Borgman (director-cinematographer)
  • Wolfe Bowart (internationally touring clown/physical theater creator-performer)
  • Xanadu Bruggers (Senior Assistant to the Director, Pixar Animation Studios)
  • William Burke (playwright-director, NY)
  • Rose Cano (playwright-performer, artistic director, eSe Teatro, Seattle)
  • Emily Chisholm (actor, Seattle Repertory Theatre, ACT Theatre, Seattle Shakespeare Company)
  • Joshua Conkel (playwright-producer, DODO Theatre Collective, NYC; staff writer, Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events)
  • Andrew Lee Creech (playwright-performer, Seattle)
  • Samie Spring Detzer (actor/artistic director, Washington Ensemble Theatre, Seattle)
  • Chris Dodge (Partner Education and Program Manager, Google)
  • Brendan Fraser (actor-producer)
  • Malte Frid-Nielsen (stage, film and television actor, Denmark)
  • David Gasman (actor-director- voiceover artist, Los Angeles)
  • Tavia Gilbert (award-winning audiobook narrator, NYC)
  • Jose Gonzales (actor-musician, Jose Gonzales Trio, Seattle)
  • Sarah E.R. Grosman (Community Programs Manager, Turtle Bay Music School, NY)
  • Lisa Halpern (screenwriter)
  • Jessica Hatlo (playwright-director, Pe/Mo, Seattle)
  • Megan Hill (actor-playwright- producer, DODO Theatre Collective, NYC)
  • Jerick Hoffer AKA Jinkx Monsoon (actor-singer/award- winning drag artist)
  • Jake Hooker (writer-director- scholar, A Host of People, Detroit)
  • Diana Huey (actor-singer, NY)
  • Joel Isaksen (architect: Design Lead, ADD Inc./Stantec, Boston)
  • Alyssa Keene (actress-singer/musician- teacher-voice and dialect coach, Seattle)
  • Robbie Laughlin (host, E! Network)
  • C.S. Lee (actor: Dexter, True Detective, Power)
  • JoCurtis Lester (Professor of Theater, Suffolk County College, NY)
  • David Anthony Lewis (performer, American Shakespeare Center, VA)
  • Eleuthera Lisch (YMCA Alive and Free, nationally renowned expect on gang violence prevention)
  • Phillip Lomax (recording artist, account executive at Uber)
  • Natasha Martina (Associate Professor of Drama, University of Saskatchewan; artistic director, Ground Cover Theatre))
  • Pamala Mijatov (former Artistic Director, Annex Theatre, Seattle)
  • Derrick Ryan Claude Mitchell (Saint Genet Company, Austria’s Donau Festival)
  • Ramiz Monsef (actor-writer/hip- hop performer, The Unfortunates at Oregon Shakespeare Festival and ACT, San Francisco; actor, Los Angeles)
  • Jon Kristian Moore (actor, Santa Fe)
  • Hannah Mootz (actress, Seattle Repertory Theatre, New Century Theatre Company)
  • Deanna Mustard (actress-voiceover artist, Super Mario Brothers’ Princess Daisy)
  • Edward O’Blenis (actor, NY)
  • Mandie O'Connell (Knuckle Cartel, Berlin)
  • Peter Dylan O'Connor (actor-producer- technical director, New Century Theatre)
  • Beethovan Oden (actor, NYC)
  • Brandon Olson (performer-stylist, NYC)
  • James Oliver (actor, Los Angeles)
  • Opal Peachey (cabaret writer-producer performer, Seattle)
  • Christopher Peak (Senior Director/Head of Retail Design and Sourcing, Apple Inc.)
  • Sage Price (performer, media producer: Vacation Theory LLC)
  • Alexander Pschill (actor-producer, Vienna)
  • Ron E. Rains (actor, Goodman Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, film critic for The Onion)
  • Wayne Rawley (playwright-director, Seattle)
  • Laurie Records (Laurie Records Casting, LA)
  • Don Darryl Rivera (actor-composer- playwright, Broadway: Disney’s Aladdin)
  • Stephanie Roberts (Associate Professor of Physical Theatre, UMKC)
  • Elizabeth Rose-Browne (actor-singer/ Marketing Relations Manager, Wexford Opera, Ireland)
  • Caety Sagoian (singer-actress, Seattle; voiceover artist (“Buster, Jr” for Super Mario Brothers)
  • Courtney Sale (Artistic Director, Seattle Children's Theatre)
  • Lanise Antoine Shelley (actor-writer- visual artist, Stratford Festival, Canada, and Chicago)
  • MJ Sieber (actor-director, New Century Theatre and Seattle’s ACT Theatre)
  • Jasmine Jean Sim (actor-singer, Seattle)
  • Julia Sirna-Frest (actor-singer, Half Straddle Theater, NY, and Doll Parts, Brooklyn)
  • Kerry Skalsky (actor, director, teacher, Seattle)
  • Yuri Skujins (Target Margin Theatre, NY)
  • Dylan K. Sladky (Artistic Administrator, Milwaukee Repertory Theatre)
  • Rhonda J. Soikowski (director-theater maker-teacher, soikowski research/performance)
  • Asa Taccone (writer-composer- performer, Electric Guest, Emmy award-winner)
  • Chris Tharp (author, The Worst Motorcycle in Laos)
  • Connor Toms (actor, Seattle)
  • Kayla Walker (actor-director, Seattle)
  • Deedra Watts (Deedra Watts Casting, LA)
  • Tami Workentin (actress-director, Milwaukee)
  • Amelia Rose Zirin-Brown AKA Lady Rizo (internationally renowned cabaret performer-actor)

Cornish Theater alumni are empathic, nimble, and proficient communicators. Graduates of our program have also gone on to effectively use their communications, ensemble-interactive and storytelling skills as lawyers, teachers, social workers, drama therapists and counselors, marketing directors, event coordinators, architects, pastors and in management roles at Microsoft, Google, Pixar and Apple.