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


September 30, 2015

Timothy McCuen Piggee Receives Theatre Puget Sound’s Sustained Achievement Award

Cornish theater faculty Timothy McCuen Piggee finishes a year of honors with acknowledgment of his many contributions to Seattle theater at the annual Gregory Awards.

Cornish faculty member Timothy McCuen Piggee will receive the Sustained Achievement Award from Theat...


August 31, 2015

Cornish Well Represented In Gregory Awards Nominations

Cornish alumni and faculty work in every aspect of Seattle theater. Not surprisingly, when awards season rolls around in the fall, most lists include numerous Cornish names.

Earlier this month, Theatre Puget Sound has announced the nominees for the 2015 Gregory Awards*, hon...


August 27, 2015

President Uscher’s Remarks On Opening Of Cornish Commons

At 4:15 p.m. today, President Nancy Uscher and Capstone Development Partners principal Bruce McKee cut the red ribbon to open Cornish Commons, the latest addition to the Cornish College of the Arts' campus. Following are President Uscher's remarks on this historic occaison.

My dear friends: Today we are making history.  The new Cornish Commons is the first ground up b...


August 24, 2015

Cornish Announces Fall Events

Fall season 2015 at Cornish features visiting artists and student performances at Seattle Center, Cornish Main Campus, and Capitol Hill.

Since opening in 1914, the Cornish College of the Arts has introduced Seattle audiences to iconic vi...


August 20, 2015

Dr. Uscher Discusses Cornish’s Many New Projects

Cornish College of the Arts is “rising to new heights” in more ways than one! Most obvious is the state-of-the-art, 20-story Cornish Commons opening August 27, but KING-FM’s Marta Zekan recently talked with Cornish president, Dr. Nancy Uscher, about the expanding facilities and growing academic programs as well as several exciting events coming this fall, including the start of a 5-year residency for the Kronos Quartet.

Cornish College of the Arts has raised its national and international profile significantly in recen...


June 29, 2015

Cornish Playhouse Offers Space To Create

The Cornish Playhouse Arts Incubator program offers local artists a place to create and collaborate. The Changeling Project, part of the 2014/15 Arts Incubator, will be open to the public on Thursday, July 2. Creators Adriana Camoy and Charles McCall invite their audience to enjoy a combination of dance and poetry, then give feedback on their work-in-progress.

In a city where the space to create is hard to find, Cornish Playhouse offers artists interested in...


May 12, 2015

Black Box and Dhrupad Days Lead Off Busy Cornish Festival Season

Summer is festival time in Seattle, and Cornish has a film festival, a music festival, a dance festival, and a theater festival happening on campus this summer. This month, the Indian classical music festival, Dhrupad Days,starts at PONCHO while experimental film festival Black Box 2.0 plays at Raisbeck and the Main Gallery.

​May blooms forth, the sun lingers on into the night, and in Seattle, it’s festival season. By t...


April 23, 2015

The Clown Show: Who’s Laughing Now?

There’s only two more performances of a Cornish classic, The Clown Show; hurry and see how stars like Lady Rizo and Jinkx Monsoon honed their craft.

What are the most amazing things that Jinkx Monsoon and Lady Rizo have in common? OK, 1) they’re t...


April 21, 2015

Anne Bogart Selected As Commencement Speaker

As announced in March, author and award-winning theater and opera director Anne Bogart will address Cornish’s seniors during the 2015 Commencement on May 9 at Marion Oliver McCaw Hall at the Seattle Center. President Nancy J. Uscher will award honorary degrees to Bogart and to choreographer and McArthur “Genius Grant” recipient Liz Lerman. In addition, this year’s Distinguished Recent Alumni Awards will go to Jerick Hoffer and Richard Andriessen and the Distinguished Alumni Award will go to Kent Devereaux.

Many Cornish theater majors already know the work of award-winning stage/opera director and author A...


April 6, 2015

Grand Hotel Ready to Open at the Playhouse

The latest of the popular spring musical offerings from the Theater and Performance Production departments at the Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center, Grand Hotel is hours away from opening.

The concentration is intense: there are mere hours left to get the production elements right and the...

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)