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



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 one on-camera project each semester.

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 one on-camera project each semester.


This curricular emphasis is designed for artists whose goals include performing in musical theater: as with all our instruction, we want to facilitate your development as performers with range. MT students take the core acting-based skills classes and supplement with classes in singing, dance, and musical theater. There is a three-semester sequence – TH 132, TH 231-232 --in the freshman and sophomore years that introduces the fundamentals of singing and dance as well as the study of music theory, including the basics of ear training, sight reading and singing, group singing, rhythm and harmony This sequence culminates in a musical capstone as part of the sophomore ensemble project. There is also room in the sophomore year for Dance classes and private singing lessons.

Following a successful audition for continuance in the program at the end of the sophomore year, you participate in classes in dance styles, musical theater performance and audition techniques, and 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.


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 will research and do presentations on the work of important generative artists, playwrights, and directors. Although the Original Works concentration has fewer required performance skills courses (allowing you to take more electives within and outside the department), the demands of the necessary reading, research, writing, and directing are high.

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 particular 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

Graduates of the BFA programs in the Theater Department at Cornish College of the Arts are expected to achieve the following learning outcomes:

  • Development of a personal aesthetic as a creative artist, grounded in a solid knowledge of the history and current practices of the art form, and the ability to articulate it
  • Self-knowledge and self-awareness — of your strengths, your habitual patterns, and the areas in which you still need further development
  • Physical and vocal strength, flexibility, and the ability to fully embody your creative/acting choices
  • The ability to convincingly live in imaginary circumstances, conveying to the audience a sense of emotional truth
  • Focused, concentrated, and active listening, and the ability to give and take from your fellow performers
  • A strong, consistent work ethic and a clear understanding of professional ethics and decorum
  • A variety of skills in your “toolbox” of techniques that ground you in a variety of artistic situations
  • Understanding of subtext and the importance of discovering the contradictions and opposites within your character
  • Understanding of the parameters of the production process and how to operate productively within them
  • Respect for the work of the ensemble and all collaborating artists
  • The ability to use your research and critical thinking skills to deepen the quality of your artistic work
  • The ability to work well with diverse ensembles in a range of styles and for diverse goals


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


February 5, 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 with Cornish students that extends well outside of the music department.

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


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...


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...


December 11, 2015

Decking The Stages With Cornish Alumni

Every year, the Seattle theaters fill up in December with longer runs and bigger casts as Northwest families give the gift of experiences for the holidays. Going out for a show is tradition for many in December, with productions like ACT's A Christmas Carol now entering a fourth decade. As always, that means plenty of chances to catch Cornish graduates in action.

Holiday season means an explosion of shows throughout Seattle and nearby stages. As noted by Theater...


December 4, 2015

President Uscher Announces She Will Leave In July 2016

The Cornish community learned yesterday that Dr. Nancy J. Uscher will not seek to renew her contract when it ends in July 2016. Dr. Uscher announced her decision yesterday to allow for an orderly transition. During her five years at Cornish, Dr. Uscher has overseen the building of Cornish Commons, the establishment of the film/media program, the beginning of online courses, and several more projects intended to last well into Cornish's second century.

President Nancy J. Uscher announced to faculty, staff, and students yesterday that she will leave he...


November 20, 2015

Desdemona Chiang Talks About Directing at Cornish

"(Anon)ymous" opens plays through November 22 at Raisbeck Performance Hall — Naomi Iizuka's adaptation of "The Odyssey" appears under the direction of Cornish directing instructor Desdemona Chiang. Senior Leah Webster caught up with her as the play finished tech rehearsals.

Cornish College of the Arts Theater Department’s fall season has been focused on contemporary adap...


November 18, 2015

Cornish’s Second Century Starts With Worldwide Classes

Cornish’s second century began with the college’s first massive online open course hitting a top ten list in November. The same week, the college offered its first music master class via Google Hangouts, bringing composter/pianist Yitzhak Yedid in Australia together with students at PONCHO in Kerry Hall.

As Cornish began its second century this month, two of its global offerings let people around the wo...


November 17, 2015

Cornish’s Next Century Gala Launches Next 100 Years

Cornish's Next Century Gala raised more than $500,000 for scholarships. Tony Award and Pulitizer Prize winning playwright Brian Yorkey talked about the importance of education and the arts. Broadway star and Tony Award nominee Stephanie Block seranaded the guests. And Cornish students showed their stuff throughout the evening, from a photo montage of recent art shows to award-winning film to live performances.

Cornish's centennial year ended with the event, marking a time to focus the College on the its next...


November 12, 2015

15/16 Arts Incubator Residencies Begin with Kusanagi’s Durational Art

The Cornish Playhouse Arts Incubator residency facilitates the risk taking of the allied arts. This year, the first residency was completed by Cornish dance student Julia (JuJu) Kusanagi '16 in October.

The Arts Incubator residencies at the Cornish Playhouse began last year as part of the facility’s...

Theater Alumni Accomplishments

Many of our theater alumni have found success:
  • Acting in regional theaters
  • Creating original performance pieces
  • Making feature films, television shows, and commercials
  • Establishing new theater companies
  • Teaching drama
  • Bringing American theater to Europe, Asia and Latin America

In Seattle, alumni have worked at:
  • Seattle Repertory Theatre
  • Intiman Theatre
  • A Contemporary Theatre (ACT)
  • Seattle Children’s Theatre
  • Fifth Avenue Musical Theatre
  • Book-It Repertory Theatre
  • Seattle Shakespeare Company
  • The 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)
  • Richard Andriessen (AKA Major Scales) (writer-composer-performer, The Vaudevillians)
  • Brenda Arellano (writer-performer, Neo-Futurists, Chicago)
  • Mallery Avidon (playwright)
  • Sherrine Azab (director, A Host of People, Detroit)
  • Brett Baker (actor)
  • Gabriel Baron (actor-writer-director)
  • Greg Bennick (director-juggler)
  • Margot Bordelon (director)
  • Skye Borgman (cinematographer)
  • Wolfe Bowart (clown-physical theater writer-performer)
  • Emily Chisholm (actor)
  • Joshua Conkel (playwright-producer-director, The Management, NYC)
  • Samie Detzer (actor, Co-artistic director, Washington Ensemble Theatre)
  • Brendan Fraser(actor-producer)
  • Malte Frid-Nielsen (actor-jiu jitsu Black Belt,Denmark)
  • David Gasman(actor-director-voiceover artist)
  • Jose Gonzales (actor-musician, Jose Gonzales Trio)
  • Lisa Halpern (screenwriter)
  • Jessica Hatlo (playwright-director)
  • Megan Hill (actor-producer, The Management, NYC)
  • Jerick Hoffer AKA Jinkx Monsoon (actor-singer)
  • Jake Hooker (writer-director-scholar, A Host of People, Detroit)
  • Diana Huey (actor-singer)
  • Kate Huisentruit, Producer, New Day Northwest, KING-5 TV
  • Chet Huntley (NBC broadcast legend)
  • Alyssa Keene (actress-singer/musician-teacher-voice and dialect coach)
  • Robert Laughlin (reporter, E! Network)
  • C.S. Lee (Actor, Showtime's Dexter)
  • Eleuthera Lisch (YMCA Alive and Free)
  • Natasha Martina (Associate Professor of Drama, University of Saskatchewan)
  • Ryan Mitchell (St. Genet)
  • Ramiz Monsef (actor-writer/hip-hop performer, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Three Blind Mice)
  • Charles Norris (actor, 2012 Seattle Times Footlight Award)
  • Mandie O'Connell (Knuckle Cartel, Berlin)
  • Peter Dylan O'Connor (actor-producer-technical director, New Century Theatre)
  • Beethovan Oden (actor)
  • Brandon Olson (performer-stylist, NYC)
  • James Oliver (actor)
  • Alexander Pschill (actor, Vienna)
  • Wayne Rawley (playwright-director)
  • Don Darryl Rivera (actor-composer-playwright, Broadway: Disney’s Aladdin)
  • Stephanie Roberts (Assistant Professor of Physical Theatre, UMKC)
  • Elizabeth Rose-Browne (actor-singer, Wexford, Ireland)
  • Courtney Sale (Associate Artistic Director, Indiana Repertory Theatre)
  • Cassy Sanders (director, Theatre Seven of Chicago)
  • Lanise Antoine Shelley (actor-writer-visual artist)
  • MJ Sieber (actor-director, New Century Theatre)
  • Julia Sirna-Frest (actor-singer, Half Straddle Theater, NY, and Doll Parts, Brooklyn)
  • Kerry Skalsky (actor, director, teacher)
  • Yuri Skujins (Target Margin Theatre, NY)
  • Rhonda J. Soikowski (director-theater maker-teacher, soikowski research/performance)
  • Asa Taccone (writer-composer-performer, Electric Guest, Emmy award-winner)
  • Chris Tharp (author, Dispatches from the Peninsula and Homely Planet blog)
  • Connor Toms (actor)
  • Deedra Watts (Deedra Watts Casting, LA)
  • Lady Rizo AKA Amelia Rose Zirin-Brown (cabaret performer-actor)