General Guidelines for Senior Projects

By the fall of your junior year, you should have a fairly clear idea for a senior project. Formal proposals must be submitted to the faculty on a pre-determined schedule which is noted on the proposal forms. Students are required to submit a preliminary proposal by spring break of the junior year and a final proposal by mid-term of the fall semester of the senior year. Proposal forms are available in the department office or from your advisor. Students should select a project that either is an exploration of an academic interest or builds upon already existing area of interest and expertise. The senior project is not the time to start a fresh area of inquiry (i.e. write a play if you have never taken a playwriting course). Students are encouraged to work closely with their departmental advisor in the development of the project. The advisor must sign-off on the senior project proposal before it is submitted to the department. The advisor signature signals the advisor’s belief in the likely success of the project.

Types of Senior Projects

Advanced Academic Exploration

This represents a significant academic exploration of a subject of interest to the student. It usually takes the form of a lengthy research-based paper.


The prerequisites for the acting senior project are T/D 106, T/D 247, and T/D 376. Students are encouraged to engage in an extended character or style study, rather than to develop a series of monologues. You may choose to write your own material, or stage a one-act.


Dance senior projects may be research or performance-based. Students who wish to develop a senior project in dance should do so in consultation with your dance faculty advisor.


This project comprises the design and supervision over the execution of one or more technical elements for one or more Gustavus Theatre or Dance production(s). As such, it allows the student creative control over an actual production and serves as both a test of skills learned and opportunity for creative expression.


T/D 247 and T/D 378 are prerequisites for senior projects in directing. Such projects might involve the production of a short, full-length play or the development and production of an original work. January term and spring semester are generally the best times for these performances, but proposals must be flexible to avoid conflicts with mainstage productions and student one-acts.


A student may choose to write a one-act or a full-length play, which culminates in a staged reading. The playwright may enlist the help of a director in staging the final reading, or may serve in that capacity.


Students should remember that the senior project is not limited to a production project and could take a more theoretical or historical focus. A designer, for instance, may choose to design a production not included in the Anderson season. Also, many of the most successful projects in recent years have reflected the student’s individual interests and talents, and have not been strictly limited to any of the above categories. Examples include stage combat, vaudeville and performance art. We encourage you to think as creatively as possible about the nature of your projects. The department will determine the appropriate venue for the senior project.

Senior Year

Three important steps must be accomplished in the senior year:

  1. Senior review
  2. Organize/ finalize portfolio
  3. If not already done, execute senior project

Senior Review (often called the Senior Retreat)

The Senior Review is scheduled for the spring of the student’s senior year. It is an opportunity for individual theatre or dance majors to meet with the entire department and review the student’s experience within the program. Students present their completed portfolios and often articulate their ideas for work and or further training following graduation from Gustavus. The Review is usually held on the Sunday before graduation and often held in the Phi Beta Kappa Room in Confer Hall. It begins with a review of senior major departmental portfolios. All majors are expected to attend and exhibit their portfolios. Each student will be given about 15 minutes to present his or her work. After the portfolio review, the group will adjourn to dinner. At this time, majors will be asked to articulate their goals for their immediate and long-term future with special emphasis on their role as artists.

Preparing for the retreat will provide you with a chance to reflect on all that you have done during your time with us, and also to think about how what you have learned will prepare you for your future. We are not asking you to write anything, but rather to be able to articulate your position as a theatre and/or dance artist. In addition, the Review is a time when you can share with us your ideas about how we might improve the experience of our students.

Please make an appointment with your major advisor before the end of fall semester to review the guidelines for your departmental portfolios and to discuss the Senior Review.

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