Department of Performing Arts

About Us

Ballet style dancers in movement each holding a scarf

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 3 productions and one outreach tour 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.


Production photo with black background and gloved hands with glow in the dark strips on each finger

Classes are taught by a dedicated group of award-winning theatre professionals who teach a variety of classes in the area of performance and technical theatre.

NTID Department of Performing Arts offers a special certificate in performing arts that documents the academic training students receive while actively participating in Performance or Technical Theatre activities.

The Performing Arts Certificate program broadens employment opportunities for Deaf graduates in applied arts and imaging, professional and technical communication and related business areas, industrial technologies, and other fields by expanding their repertoire of marketable skills. Students develop knowledge of standard theatrical operating procedures along with principles and practices of theatre accessibility for Deaf people, allowing them to work in professional, regional and community theatre. It also provides a solid foundation for those who wish to pursue further education in film, video, theatre, and related forms of performing arts.

The Performing Arts Certificate is designed to provide students with knowledge of theatre terminology, practices and protocol in addition to practical experience in performance and technical theatre. Students must take 3-three-credit courses from the Performing Arts program and a production practicum (at least 1-credit hour) to meet the certificate requirements.

The certificate requires the successful completion of 10 credits comprising three separate courses chosen from the listing below. Additionally, one credit of Theatre practicum is required.

Prerequisites for Admission

Applicants for the Performing Arts Certificate must be students in good standing in an undergraduate program at RIT/NTID or hold an undergraduate degree from one of those programs.

At least 10 credit hours selected from the following courses:

Course Title Course Number Credits
Introduction to Performing Arts NHSS-120 3
Introduction to Stagecraft NHSS-122 3
Acting I NHSS-130 3
Sign Mime, Creative Movement & Visual Theatre NHSS-132 3
Dance I: Jazz & Hip Hop NHSS-134 3
Appreciation of Theatrical Design NHSS-220 3
Scenic & Lighting Technology NHSS-223 3
Scenic Painting and Props NHSS-224 3
Costume, Mask, & Stage Makeup NHSS-225 3
Acting II NHSS-231 3
Dance II: Modern Dance & Ballet NHSS-235 3
Theatre History through Deaf Eyes NHSS-240 3
Seminar in Performing Arts NHSS-249 3
Performing Arts Practicum NHSS-248 1

Total Credits:



Please note: All courses must be taken as an elective to qualify for the Performing Arts Certificate. Courses may not count towards multiple requirements.


Credits 3
Studies the characteristics and elements of theatre and the performing arts, emphasizing the principles and conventions that have guided theatre productions through history. The course examines the ways that theatre influences and is influenced by cultures and by individual life experience. Particular attention is paid to the development of scripts, visual theatre, theatre vocabulary, and the emergence of Deaf and multicultural theatre.
Credits 3
Introduces the technical and design processes of theatre, including scenery, costume, lighting, make-up, and prop craft. Students experience the range of skills needed to create successful productions, and identify their own areas of interest and strength for future theatre participation.
Credits 3
An introduction to the actor's craft, process, and technique. Major performance methods are introduced in both physical approaches to acting (Grotowski, Delsarte, Alexander technique, multi-cultural methods from African Griot to Japanese Noh) and psychological approaches (Stanislavsky, Meisner, Hagan, Strasberg). Strategies for script analysis, translation, memorization, stage combat, mask, and mime prepare the student for Acting II.
Credits 3
Expands students understanding of the use of physical space through creative movement strategies. These are supplemented by images, gesture and sign representation of story elements. Techniques developed from visual theatre practices are studied. Through active participation, students learn the language of movement, mime and visual theatre. Ensemble work based on performance standards, character creation and theme development is emphasized.
Credits 3
Provides students with a wide range of dance movement and dance vocabulary, which is created from jazz dance, hip-hop and other contemporary dance idioms. Students will experience a variety of dance form through physical movement including the styles of Bob Fosse, Michael Bennett and Frank Hatchett as well as elements of street dance, including the styles of Laurie Ann Gibson and Shane Sparks.
Credits 3
This course fosters the understanding and appreciation of design as part of theatrical productions with specific reference to the fields of scenic, lighting, and costume design and the personnel involved. Students will explore the historical and cultural aspects of theatre while examining the relationship to their activities in everyday life. Students will learn how theatrical scripts and stage directions influence the design, aesthetics, and use of space in a theatrical production, and how to use the script to visualize the design process. Deaf Theatre and other cultural references will be used to discuss the ever growing need to address diversity and accessibility in theatrical productions. Emphasis will be placed on using literary analysis of themes and metaphors inherent in a script to develop an appreciation for the artistic and aesthetic aspects of technical theatre. No artistic or technical skills necessary.
Credits 3
Provides hands-on exploration of basic scenic and lighting techniques utilized in theatre productions. Students gain an understanding of scenic construction methods and technology and lighting practice, as well as the safe and proper use of tools and equipment. This course prepares students for Theatre Practicum and running crew responsibilities.
Credits 3
An introduction to the methods and materials of theatrical painting and props through a project-oriented class. Techniques, communication, and use of appropriate materials and tools are emphasized. Students apply the skills learned to individual and group projects. This course prepares students for more specialized work in Theatre Practicum.
Credits 3
Explores basic stage makeup, mask and costume construction techniques. Students will gain an understanding of the visual ways to develop and present a character on stage. Student actors and technicians will create makeup designs, masks, and small costume pieces as a hands-on expression of the research and development of a character concept. This course prepares students for Theatre Practicum and running crew responsibilities.
Credits 3
A second-level course in the development of college student actors. This course covers advanced acting techniques and vocabulary, both for developing the actor's craft and for understanding the practical theatrical jargon used by professionals. Particular attention is paid to the physical, emotional, and mental actions an actor reveals to his/her audience. Development of script translation technique related to character development is also emphasized. Practical attention is given in preparing the student actor to enter the entertainment industry or community theatre with viable working skills.
Credits 3
This course provides an introduction to Ballet and Modern Dance. Through Ballet's vocabulary (French, Sign, and English), discipline base, protocols, and specific movements, students perform floor, center, and barre work. The course also provides an introduction to dance that gives students access to the language as well as the fundamental movements of Modern Dance. The styles and technique of Martha Graham (contraction) and Jose Limon (fall and rebound) are explored. Ensemble work, performance standards and creation of character and theme are stressed. Each student is responsible for their own communication in the classroom. This course is open to all RIT students; an interpreter will not be provided.
Credits 3
Examines theater from its earliest origins to contemporary types of theater and issues in dramatic presentation. The role of theater in society and in a variety of cultures is examined with particular attention to the role of Deaf performers, directors and play creators in specific historical periods.
Credits 1 - 3
Applies technical, performing, script analysis, stage management, and other skills to an actual theatrical production. Students contract with a faculty mentor for responsibilities and the appropriate credit expectations. In addition to production responsibilities, students are expected to complete reading and writing assignments connected to the production. This course is repeatable for credit.
Credits 3
Using seminar and workshop approaches, this course gives students the opportunity for focused, in-depth study of a selected advanced topic in theatre. Specific topics vary from semester to semester, and address such areas as methods of acting, playwriting, production design, systems of analysis, genres of dance, translation, and historical influences on theatre art. This course is repeatable for credit.

Current Productions

Actors from Cabaret production, men on left, women performing on right

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. The following sections will give you an idea of how we produce this unique form of theatre.

2019-2020 Theatrical Season

NTID Performing Arts and RIT College of Liberal Arts are thrilled to announce the 2019-2020 joint theatrical season (season poster). The plays and dance performance present a wide array of cultural, political, and social issues. Two productions will be presented on the Panara stage, two productions will be performed in 1510 Theatre Lab, and one production will be performed in the Booth Black Box.

Dates Production Location Tickets
Oct 25-27, 2019 I and You 1510 Lab Theatre Free admission. Limited seating.
Nov 15-17, 2019 People of the Third Eye Panara Theatre Purchase
Feb 28-Mar 1, 2020 Dial M for Murder 1510 Lab Theatre Free admission with ticket. Limited seating.
Obtain ticket
Mar 27-29, 2020 Bent Booth Black Box (BOO-A428) Free admission. Limited seating.
Apr 17-19, 2020 Dance 2020: The Rhythm of Motion of Light Panara Theatre Purchase ticket

   Production Details

October 25 - 27, 2019
1510 Lab Theatre, LBJ, NTID

Director: Andy Head
Play by Lauren Gunderson
One afternoon, Anthony arrives unexpectedly at classmate Caroline's door bearing a beat-up copy of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, an urgent assignment from their English teacher. Homebound due to illness, Caroline hasn't been to school in months, but she is as quick and sardonic as Anthony is athletic, sensitive, and popular. As these two let down their guards and share their secrets, this seemingly mundane poetry project unlocks a much deeper mystery that has brought them together. I and You is an ode to youth, life, love, and the strange beauty of human connectedness.

Friday, October 25, 2019 - 7:30pm to 9:00pm
Saturday, October 26, 2019 - 2:00pm to 3:30pm
Saturday, October 26, 2019 - 7:30pm to 9:00pm
Sunday, October 27, 2019 - 2:00pm to 3:30pm

Ticket Information
To be Announced

November 15 - 17, 2019
Robert F. Panara Theatre, LBJ, NTID

Directors: Patti Durr and Karen Christi
The show is a unique work showcasing slices of Deaf lives-both contemporary and historical. Created collaboratively by the cast members, audiences will be treated to various genres of ASL performance art—poetry, narrative personal experiences, creative storytelling, reenactment of historical events, as well as dramatic monologues and dialogues. Woven into the action on stage will be film clips and live painting. Bookending the play will be a contemporary encounter with a well-known historical Deaf figure who still has much to teach us.

Accessibility Information
November 8th - ASL and Voice Interpreted  (open to the public as part of the ARTiculating Deaf Experiences Conference)
November 15th - ASL only performance
November 16th at 2pm - ASL only performance
November 16th at 7:30pm - ASL and Voice Interpreted
November 17th - ASL and Voice Interpreted

For other accommodations please contact Patti Durr at

Friday, November 8, 2019 - 7:30pm to 9:30pm
Friday, November 15, 2019 - 7:30pm to 9:30pm
Saturday, November 16, 2019 - 2:00pm to 4:00pm
Saturday, November 16, 2019 - 7:30pm to 9:30pm
Sunday, November 17, 2019 - 2:00pm to 4:00pm

Ticket Information
$5.00 - Students and Seniors (60+)
$10.00 - RIT Faculty/Staff and Alumni
$12.00 - General Public

February 28 - March 1, 2020
1510 Lab Theatre, LBJ, NTID

Director: Luane Davis-Haggerty
Written by Frederick Knott
Tony Wendice has married his wife, Margot, for her money and now plans to murder her for the same reason. He arranges the perfect murder. He blackmails a scoundrel he used to know into strangling her for a fee of one thousand pounds, and arranges a brilliant alibi for himself. Unfortunately…the murderer gets murdered and the victim survives. But this doesn't baffle the husband: He sees his hireling's death as an opportunity to have his wife convicted for the murder of the man who tried to murder her, and that is what almost happens. Luckily, the police inspector from Scotland Yard and a young man who is in love with the wife discover the truth, and in a scene of almost unbearable suspense they trap the husband into revealing his guilt, thus freeing Margot.

Friday, February 28, 2020 - 7:30pm to 9:30pm
Saturday, February 29, 2020 - 2:00pm to 4:00pm
Saturday, February 29, 2020 - 7:30pm to 9:30pm
Sunday, March 1, 2020 - 2:00pm to 4:00pm

Ticket Information
Free admission. Limited seating.

March 27 - 29, 2020
Booth Black Box, Booth Hall A428

Director: Matthew Nicosia
Written by Martin Sherman
In 1934 Berlin on the eve of the Nazi incursion, Max and his lover Rudy are recovering from a night of debauchery with an SA trooper. Two soldiers burst into their apartment, thus beginning a nightmare odyssey through Nazi Germany. Eventually taken to a death camp at Dachau, Max is branded with the "pink triangle" but clings to his hope for survival.

Friday, March 27, 2020 - time tba
Saturday, March 28, 2020 - time tba
Sunday, March 29, 2020 - time tba

Ticket Information
Free admission. Limited seating.

April 17 - 19, 2020
Robert F. Panara Theatre, LBJ, NTID

Director: Thomas Warfield
Conceived by Thomas Warfield
“Dance: The Rhythm of Motion and Light” is multi-arts, multi-experiential dance performance utilizing innovative collaborations with technology and live music. The performance utilizes Augmented Reality and the choreography is created from the technology itself. This will be a true spectacle of color, light, movement and music.

Friday, April 17, 2020 - 7:30pm to 9:30pm
Saturday, April 18, 2020 - 2:00pm to 4:00pm
Saturday, April 18, 2020 - 7:30pm to 9:30pm
Sunday, April 19, 2020 - 2:00pm to 4:00pm

Ticket information
$5.00 - RIT Student, Youth (12 and Under), Senior (60+)
$10.00 - RIT Faculty/Staff and Alumni
$12.00 - General Public
Purchase Now


For events requiring a fee

  • Purchase tickets at:
  • Or purchase tickets by phone: 585-475-4121
  • Or purchase tickets at the door two hours before show time on the day of the performance.

For free events

Upcoming Productions

NTID Performing Arts and RIT College of Liberal Arts Announce 2020-2021 Joint Theatrical Season

NTID Performing Arts and RIT College of Liberal Arts are thrilled to announce the 2020-2021 joint theatrical season. The productions present a wide array of cultural, political, and social issues. Two productions will be presented on the Panara stage, and two productions will be performed in 1510 Lab Theatre.

2020-2021 Season Posters

The season includes:

    Conceived and Directed by Guest-Director Omen Sade
    October 16-18, 2020
    1510 Lab Theatre, LBJ Building
  • In the Heights
    Music and Lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda and book by Quiara Alegría Hudes
    Directed by Luane Davis-Haggerty
    November 13-15, 2020
    Robert F. Panara Theatre
  • THIS
    Written by Deaf playwright, Raymond Luczak
    Directed by Fred Beam
    February 26-28, 2021
    1510 Lab Theatre, LBJ Building
  • Angels in America: Millennium Approaches
    Directed by Andy Head
    April 16-18, 2021
    Robert F. Panara Theatre

For more information, please visit: and​

[Image Description:
​White flyer with four separate images. On the top left is a box with a black watch face with brown straps on top of handwritten notes, a transparent face, and a swirl of stars. Across the top is the word "Somnium". On the top right is a box with buildings and the George Washington Bridge in the background. In the foreground are two dancers, one is male in a black shirt and black hat, the other is a female in a white top and torn jeans. Across the top are the words "In the Heights". On the bottom left box are two dancers posing together on a wooden dance floor. Across the bottom is the word "THIS". On the bottom right box is a view of the New York City skyline. Above that are a set of large black angel wings. Written across the wings are the words "Angels in America: Millennium Approaches". Text from top to bottom: “NTID Performing Arts and CLA Theatre Arts Program present Joint Theatrical Season 2020-2021;

October 16-18, 2020 - 1510 Lab Theatre.
SOMNIUM, a devised, physical-theatre piece inspired by the world of classic sci-fi. Confined to a small platform, a team of slumber-nauts” trek through the hilarious and dangerous badlands of our collective Dream Scape. SOMNIUM is an exploration of our collective hopes and fears, desires and nightmares, memories and visions. Conceived by NYC-based physical theatre artist Omen Sade, this production makes use of live music, projection art, and physical theatrical techniques including mime, object manipulation, and cinematic theatre.

November 13-15, 2020 - Panara Theatre.
IN THE HEIGHTS tells the universal story of a vibrant community in New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood--a place where the coffee from the corner bodega is light and sweet, the windows are always open and the breeze carries the rhythm of three generations of music. It’s a community on the brink of change, full of hopes, dreams and pressures, where the biggest struggles can be deciding which traditions you take with you, and which ones you leave behind.

February 26-28, 2021 - 1510 Lab Theatre.
Curtis Higgs, a talented dancer cursed with low self-esteem, meets Dwight, a charismatic and funny hard-of-hearing dancer who is incredible onstage and yet exploitative of his friends offstage. It is through the hunger of wanting to be an unmistakable star like Dwight, that Curtis learns the true value of friendship and gains faith in himself. This exciting play was originally performed at the Gallaudet University Ely Auditorium in 2003.

April 16-18, 2021 - Panara Theatre​
New York City, 1895. President Reagan sits in the White House while the AIDS crisis rages on. Caught in the middle are a Valium-addicted Mormon and her closeted lawyer husband and two men ripped apart by an AIDS diagnosis.These New Yorkers are desperately fighting for survival as they wrestle with love, politics, and God. Throw in a few ghosts, angels, and the infamous McCarthy-sidekick Roy Cohn and you have a fantastical and heart-breaking story. Tony Kushner's ANGELS IN AMERCA is an epic masterpiece of American drama and winner of the Pulitzer Prize.

At the bottom of the flyer are logos for RIT College of Liberal Arts and RIT/NTID.]​

Past Productions


Actors on stage in time lapse so their movement is a blur of motion

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.

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.

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


Erin Auble
Senior Lecturer
Nicole Cruz
Technical Theater Assistant
Cezanne Enriquez
Technical Theater Assistant
Joseph Fox
Theater and Tour Manager
Luane Haggerty
Principal Lecturer
Joseph Hamilton
Stagecraft Manager

585-286-4589 (VP)

Headshot of Andy Head.

Andy Head
Visiting Assistant Professor

Aaron Kelstone
Principal Lecturer

Director, Dept of Performing Arts
Principal Lecturer & Development Office for NTID Performing Arts
585-286-1659 (VP)

Denise Morgan
Senior Staff Specialist
Thomas Warfield
Senior Lecturer

Director of Dance

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.

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.