The Cornish Theater Department’s mission is to help students develop their own creative voice within the broad and embracing art form that is the theater, and to actively connect their work with the world around them. The Theater Department’s educational tracks grounds students in a fundamental understanding of techniques that will be of use whether their goals are in professional theater, television, film, improvisation, or multidisciplinary experimental work.

Letter from the Chair

“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.


Core Faculty:

Adjunct Faculty:


Theater External Opportunities


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

May 25, 2016

Cornish Challenged To Meet $35,000 Match For Visiting Artists

Cornish's supporters have been challenged and we need your help to spread the word! Three generous donors are matching up to $35,000 in contributions to the Cornish's new Visiting Artists Fund. Donate online to the program of your choice and help continue a storied tradition that brings amazing guest artists to our students for in-depth and up-close interactions through master classes, residencies, workshops, and presentations.

Alumni and Cornish supporters are spreading the word that a donation to the Visiting Artist Fund giv...


First Slide

May 17, 2016

Commencement 2016 Welcome: Be Thoroughly Outrageous

In her welcome to the graduating Class of 2016, Dr. Nancy J. Uscher, President of Cornish College of the Arts, exorted them to not only be ready for what comes next, but to meet it head on, to be thoroughly outrageous in their approach to the arts and to life.

Delivered May 14, 2016 Commencement 2016 Welcome by President Nancy J Uscher, PhD. This is a mome...

First Slide

April 18, 2016

Chiang Wins Vilcek Prize For Creative Promise

Seattle audiences have seen her work at Cornish, the Seattle Rep, and ACT; this past month Desdemona Chiang, who teaches directing at Cornish, was announced as a winner of the Vilcek Foundation 2016 Creative Promise Award in Theatre.

​ Her mother and father brought Desdemona Chiang to the New World from Taiwan when she was just a...

First Slide

April 13, 2016

Cornish Student Joins Alumni as Co-Host for Latina/o Theater Commons

Cornish has had for a long time an active Latina/Latino involvement. With College community members taking part in the 2016 LTC Pacific Northwest Convening, the activism achieves a new level.

Marco Voli '17 helping to host the Latina/o Theater Commons in association with HowlRound during a c...

In partnership with ACTLab, eSe Teatro will present Bernie’s Apt. in May. This world pre...

First Slide

March 23, 2016

Tony Award Winner Ben Vereen To Give 2016 Commencement Address

Broadway legend Ben Vereen will give the Commenncement address as part of the 2016 graduation ceremonies at McCaw Hall on May 14.

Cornish College of the Arts President Nancy J. Uscher announced today that Honorary Doctorate degree...

First Slide

February 25, 2016

Cornish Theater Offers A Wide Variety Of Shows In Spring

Cornish's Spring semester is in full bloom now. Upcoming spring shows include the popular O!Fest clowns and original works, famous musicals, and Shakespeare for good measure.

Cornish's spring theater shows fill the majority of the college's South Lake Union and Seattle Cente...

First Slide

February 20, 2016

Kronos Quartet Residency Begins This Month

As previously announced, the Kronos Quartet will be in Seattle from February 20 to 24. They will lead a two-day interdisciplinary residency on campus with Cornish students that extends well outside of the music department. There will also be a number of free off-site events for students.

Cornish students from all departments will have an opportunity to interact with the famed Kronos Qua...

The Kronos Quartet—David Harrington, John Sherba (violins), Hank Dutt (viola), and Sunny Yang (cel...

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January 5, 2016

Cornish’s Impact on Visual and Performing Arts Explored

The centennial of Cornish's founding continues to be a cause for celebration. With "Looking Back, Moving Forward: A Centennial Tribute to Nellie Cornish and Cornish College of the Arts," the brand new Cascadia Art Museum will be bringing together an extraordinary collection of art and artifacts from the early years of the College.

​Cornish's centennial year has just concluded at the College, but at Cascadia Art Museum, things a...

First Slide

December 18, 2015

Prof Timothy McCuen Piggee on “Golden, A Cabaret”

A theater student studying dramaturgy, Leah Webster '16 has spent this fall interviewing the directors for Cornish News. “Golden, A Cabaret” co-conceived and directed by professor Timothy McCuen Piggee, is open now and plays through December 18.

By Leah Erickson Webster This week I spoke with Timothy McKuen Piggee, award-winning actor, dir...

December 12, 2015

Cornish Launches Its Own Version of Wild Kate

Theater student Leah Webster '16 has spent this fall interviewing the directors for Cornish News. In Wild Kate, a production that opened this week, the director and students helped shaped a Seattle premiere, adding music and "in sync" swaying to a high seas adventure.

Wild Kate opens with the line:“Call me Isabel.” Then the audience is asked to board the Good Shi...

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 Anderson (actor, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, ACT Theatre, Seattle)
  • Richard Andriessen (AKA Major Scales) (writer-composer- performer, The Vaudevillians)
  • Brenda Arellano (writer-performer, Neo-Futurists, Chicago)
  • Mallery Avidon (playwright, Los Angeles)
  • Sherrine Azab (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)
  • Margot Bordelon (director, Steppenwolf Theatre, Yale Repertory Theatre)
  • Skye Borgman (cinematographer)
  • Wolfe Bowart (internationally touring clown/physical theater creator-performer)
  • William Burke (playwright-director, NY)
  • Emily Chisholm (actor, Seattle Repertory Theatre, ACT Theatre, Seattle Shakespeare Company)
  • Joshua Conkel (playwright-producer, DODO Theatre Collective, NYC)
  • Samie Detzer (actor/Literary & Executive Manager, ACT Theatre, Seattle)
  • Brendan Fraser (actor-producer)
  • Malte Frid-Nielsen (company member, Teater Momentum, Odensee, 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 (Artistic Associate, NY Public Theater Public Works;  Director of Community Engagement & Learning, 14th Street Factory, 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)
  • 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)
  • Eleuthera Lisch (YMCA Alive and Free, nationally renowned expect on gang violence prevention)
  • Natasha Martina (Associate Professor of Drama, University of Saskatchewan)
  • Pamala Mijatov (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)
  • Hannah Mootz (actress, Seattle Repertory Theatre, New Century Theatre Company)
  • Deanna Mustard (actress-voiceover artist, Super Mario Brothers’ Princess Daisy)
  • 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)
  • 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)
  • Courtney Sale (Artistic Director, Seattle Children's Theatre)
  • Lanise Antoine Shelley (actor-writer- visual artist, Stratford Festival, Canada)
  • MJ Sieber (actor-director, New Century Theatre and Seattle’s ACT Theatre)
  • Jasmine Jean Sim (actor-singer, company member at Seattle’s ACT Theatre
  • 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, company member at Seattle’s ACT Theatre)
  •  Kayla Walker (actor-director, Institute Manager, Village Theatre Institute)
  • 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 Google, Pixar and Apple.