Department of Performing Arts

COVID-19 Safety Protocols

We are excited to welcome you back to Panara Theatre for the live performances since the Fall of 2019! The safety and well-being of our students, faculty, staff, and patrons is our top priority. We appreciate your willingness to join us in keeping our community safe from COVID-19.

Our top goal is to provide you with a safe theatre-going experience. Based on current federal health and safety recommendations, and following the practices of other local and state-wide theatres, RIT & NTID Performing Arts are now requiring all patrons to show proof of full vaccination upon entry to performances. No exceptions allowed. Regardless of vaccination status, all patrons must also wear a mask while inside any RIT/NTID facility.

“Full vaccination” means patrons will be attending a performance at least 14 days after the second dose of a 2-dose COVID-19 vaccine, or at least 14 days after a 1-dose COVID-19 vaccine.

Acceptable proof of vaccination includes:

  • Hard-copy CDC vaccination cards, including photos or copies, along with ID
  • NYS Excelsior Pass
  • Other government-issued immunization records that prove COVID-19 vaccination status

Current RIT students, faculty, and staff who are in compliance with the vaccination policy and do not have access to a vaccination card can present their compliance pass for entry into this event (

Currently, Panara Theatre will be seating audiences at a reduced capacity of 50%. Upon entering the theatre space, audience members will be able to easily identify which seats are available and which are not. This physical distancing will create an additional layer of COVID-19 protection. Panara Theatre will be cleaned and disinfected after each performance.

Department Overview

Photo from Cabaret group dancing

The NTID Department of Performing Arts was established in the fall of 1974, with the opening of the college's new permanent buildings, as an integral part of the curriculum following the success of the student drama club founded by Dr. Robert Panara in 1969.

Today, NTID Department of Performing Arts offers an array of theatre courses and produces several productions per season.

We are very proud of our students' accomplishments and our programs. Our success is demonstrated by the fact that, while we have no major in theatre, historically, the majority of Deaf theatre professionals have been NTID students or faculty. They have appeared, and continue to appear, in national and regional television commercials, network and cable television programs, major motion pictures and independent films, national and international theatre tours, Broadway, regional theatres, and international theatre festivals. Our programs and our students, faculty, staff and alumni have been honored with numerous awards from organizations ranging from theatres to government agencies to corporations and private foundations.

We also offer a professional traveling troupe, Sunshine 2.0, that provides performances and activities for deaf and hard-of-hearing children and adults that highlight the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM), as well as educational topics about the Deaf experience. For more information, visit their site.

In addition to all the accomplishments and programs described above, learn more about newly developing performing arts opportunities at RIT.

Master Classes, Academics and Scholarships

Master Class Series

Eight week online courses FREE to any Deaf, hard-of-hearing, or DeafBlind performing artist who was unemployed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The non-credit professional development courses will be taught by some of the top Deaf people in the profession.

Learn more and register for the
Master Class Series

Performing Arts Academics

Classes are taught by a dedicated group of award-winning theatre professionals who teach a variety of classes in the areas of performance and technical theatre. The department also offers a special certificate in performing arts.

Additional Academic and
Employment Information

Performing Arts Scholarships

You're interested in more than just your major. You have a love and a talent for theatre and tech production, acting, dancing, or playing music. At RIT/NTID, we just don't hope you'll continue participating in the performing arts, we absolutely encourage it through scholarship programs.

Learn more about
Performing Arts Scholarships

Productions and Auditions



Each season several productions are produced in the Panara Theatre and 1510 Lab Theatre. These productions are presented simultaneously by Deaf actors who sign the lines and hearing actors who speak the lines.

Every aspect of an NTID production is accessible to both Deaf and hearing people: back stage, onstage, or in the house.

Current Season

Past Seasons



There are no current auditions.

Walkthrough and Facilities

Virtual Walkthrough of NTID Performing Arts

Photo of the outside of Panara Theatre

Please note that during renovations the 1510 Lab and Dance Lab will be unavailable.

Buy-A-Seat Program

Make a gift to Buy-A-Seat in the Robert F. Panara Theatre! This gift will make you a permanent supporter of the exciting performing arts program at NTID and a participant in some exciting renovations. We will mount a brass plaque with the inscription of your choice on your seat in the newly renovated theatre. It will be a permanent symbol of your generosity for thousands of theater goers to view each year. And, you will be helping to support the first major renovations to the Robert F. Panara Theatre in its thirty-year history.

To buy a seat, please use this form  

The Robert F. Panara Theatre is named in honor of Dr. Robert Panara, RIT's first Deaf Professor and founder of the NTID Drama Club. A 500 seat auditorium, the theatre has played host numerous guest artists such as Mikail Baryishnikov, Jane Fonda, Louise Fletcher, Marlee Maitlin, National Theatre of the Deaf, Phyllis Frelich, Bernard Bragg, Patrick Graybill, Howie Seago, Cleveland SignStage, Annabelle Gamzon, Garth Fagan Dance, Hartford Ballet, Foreigner, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Jethro Tull, American Deaf Dance Company, and many others.

The theatre opened its doors on October 3, 1974 with a production of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew. Originally called the Experimental Educational Theatre (EET) the theater department has a rich heritage of offering challenging, entertaining, and provocative works of theater, all created for both Deaf and hearing audiences. We have produced work in a wide variety of theater styles; Comedy, Musical, Dance, Drama, Classical, Kabuki (Japanese), Experimental, Puppets, and new works by both Deaf and hearing authors.

A Unique Form of Theatre

In developing a production that is equally accessible to Deaf and hearing, on-stage, backstage, and for members of the audience, there are many factors to consider that are unique to this form of theater ie: designing costumes and sets that are historically accurate yet provide sightlines and clear background for the Sign Language to play against (it's difficult to read Sign Language from the audience if the actor has on a bright, paisley shirt or the set is a series of "busy" colors and lines); or how to represent off-stage dialog and/or sound effects visually; keeping focus on the actors and not on extraneous, but often necessary movement; how to interpret dialog from the script that is based on sounds such as imitation of another's voice; how to stage or "block" the show so that both the audience and the actors can see each other at all times; how to cue an actor that cannot see the action on stage, but must enter on a certain line; how to incorporate voice actors; and many, many other unique things that make this type of theater so exciting. Design and staging challenges, script translation to Sign Language, and non-traditional casting are examples of the factors that cause our Director's imaginations to soar--much to the benefit of our audiences.

From the experimentation and imagination required to mount one of our productions, we have developed a body of works that have enriched the lives of hundreds of thousands audience members and a working process that has greatly benefitted and encouraged hundreds of young Deaf performers. We are very proud of the fact that many of the Deaf Professionals in the performing arts and entertainment industry are our former students, faculty and staff.

Our very successful heritage is now the backbone for our future growth. We are looking to expand our academic programs as well as our relationships with mainstream professional and community theaters. We produced the first-ever "American Deaf Play Creators Festival" and look forward to its continued growth and development. We look forward to the future, having the confidence and desire to promote artistic growth within the Deaf community and awareness of the many talents of Deaf Artists within the hearing community.

Theatre Capacity

The Robert F. Panara Theatre seats 440 people plus 9 handicap accessible spaces.

Seating Chart 

Click to view the seating chart.

During renovations this lab space will be temporarily unavailable.

The 1510 Lab Theatre is our smaller, "blackbox" type of space. In addition to holding classes the space serves as a venue for a variety of experimental, intimate, and student-directed productions.

Numerous successful productions have taken place in this space in a wide variety of theatrical styles. Admission to plays in this space are always free, but due to the popularity of the shows presented here, and because shows tend to fill up fast, we pass out tickets for admission on a first-come, first-served basis one hour prior to curtain on the day of a show--there are no reservations except those made by prior agreement with the House Manager.

Theatre Capacity

The 1510 Lab Theatre holds 50-85 persons, depending on the design of the set.

During renovations this lab space will be temporarily unavailable.

Available for blended (deaf, hard-of-hearing, and hearing) modern dance class, other classes and groups.

Faculty / Staff

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Contact Us

Please use the form below to send us any questions about NTID Performing Arts. Your question will be routed to the appropriate faculty/staff member for a response. You can also reach us by phone at 585-475-4219 (voice), 585-283-2630 (videophone), or fax us at 585-475-6787.

Contact Info
585-475-4219 (V)
585-283-2630 (VP)
585-475-6787 (Fax)

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