Department of Performing Arts


Welcome to NTID Performing Arts! Fall 2022 brings many changes. First, we are proud to announce our new Theatre Design and Stagecraft Immersion and Minor programs. Second, all department spaces, including Panara Theatre, will be closed during Fall 2022 during our renovation. We anticipate Panara reopening in Spring 2023. Department offices will relocate to Peterson Hall tunnel rooms A121-A147 for the 2022-23 academic year. Finally, we are excited to announce our 2022-23 joint season with the College of Liberal Arts. Although our shows will happen in different venues than usual, we look forward to another year of outstanding theatre and dance. See you there!

Photo from Cabaret group dancing

The NTID Department of Performing Arts produces several shows per season. Faculty and staff collaborate extensively with the College of Liberal Arts’ School of Performing Arts, while also maintaining NTID’s long tradition of Deaf-centered theatre and dance. All of our productions are accessible to Deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing audiences, whether back stage, onstage, or in the house. We are also committed to offering accessible performances for audiences with visual and other disabilities.

The NTID Department of Performing Arts offers an array of courses in dance, Deaf performance, and technical theatre taught by our accomplished faculty and staff. The department offers a Certificate in Performing Arts for AOS and AAS level students; and a Minor and Immersion in Theatre Design and Stagecraft for bachelor level students. RIT DanceCore is also homed in the department. RIT students from any college are welcome to participate in our productions and classes.

Our History

Performing Arts at RIT originated with NTID. After the success of the student drama club founded by Dr. Robert Panara in 1969, drama became an integral part of NTID’s curriculum. The Experimental Educational Theatre Program opened in 1974 and eventually became the Department of Performing Arts. Until the College of Liberal Arts opened in 1997, we were the only college on campus offering theater, dance, and even music classes. Deaf theatre faculty over the years have included Patrick Graybill, Phyllis Frelich, Susan Jackson, Aaron Kelstone, Shanny Mow, and Howie Seago. Performance group Sunshine Too was part of the department from 1980-1989, touring nationally and internationally to present programs about Deaf awareness, social issues and the environment. The company was relaunched in 2017 as Sunshine 2.0. Dance was added to the curriculum in the 1980s, under the leadership of Michael Thomas. The RIT/NTID Dance Company, a unique ensemble of deaf, hard-of-hearing, and hearing students, presented a diverse repertoire of student and faculty choreography from 1980-2010. In 2021, the dance company was relaunched as Dance Core under the direction of faculty Marc Holland.

Upcoming Events

screaming skull with cue balls by open mouth, one with a heart on it



Written by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins
Directed by Andy Head
November 11-13, 2022

Ingle Auditorium
Student Alumni Union

A modern adaptation of the 15-Century play, Everyman. The play features the unique casting quirk of using a lottery system to define the roles of the play. This is meant to symbolize the randomness of death. The story is kept largely the same as Everyman with a few exceptions. The story follows the character of Everybody as they journey through life’s greatest mystery—the meaning of life.

Master Classes, Academics, Employment

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

The department offers a variety of classes in dance, Deaf performance, and technical theatre open to all RIT students. Students can complete a Minor or Immersion in Theatre Design and Stagecraft. The department also offers a special certificate in performing arts for NTID AOS students.

Learn more about
Performing Arts Academics

Performing Arts Scholarships

All first-year and transfer applicants to RIT/NTID are eligible to apply for the Performing Arts Scholarship, regardless of intended major. This scholarship may be received in combination with other awards and grants and is renewable each year you are involved in performing arts at RIT.

Learn more about
Performing Arts Scholarships

Careers in Theatre

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
Careers in Theatre

Student Employment

NTID Performing Arts hires students workers every semester to assist with backstage production. Duties range from helping construct costumes, props, scenery, to electrical and lighting work, to setting up and running events. Student workers must have completed at least one technical theater course or have prior technical theater experience.

Learn more about
Student Employment Opportunities

Productions and Auditions



Every aspect of an NTID production is accessible to Deaf, hard-of-hearing, and hearing people: back stage, onstage, or in the house. We also offer an audio described performance for each theatre production. To request other accommodations, please contact

Current Season

Past Seasons



Auditions will be August 26 from 6-10pm, with callbacks the next day. Auditions are open to all RIT students, staff, and faculty, as well as community members unaffiliated with RIT. Scan the QR code to learn more and send questions to

Walkthrough and Facilities

Please note that during renovations starting in August 2022, Panara Theatre, the 1510 Lab, and Dance Lab will be unavailable until further notice.

Virtual Walkthrough of NTID Performing Arts

Photo of the outside of Panara Theatre

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 449 seat auditorium, the theatre has played host to numerous guest artists such as Mikail Baryishnikov, Jane Fonda, Louise Fletcher, Marlee Maitlin, the 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, Sean Forbes, American Deaf Dance Company, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Danielle Ponder, 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 theatre program has a rich heritage of offering challenging, entertaining, and provocative works of theatre, 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

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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