Department of Performing Arts

COVID-19 impact on performing arts.

The show must go on, perhaps even virtually!
Learn more


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.

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

Virtual Walkthrough of NTID Performing Arts

Photo of the outside of Panara Theatre
Click to play


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.


Upcoming Auditions

Like theaters all around the world, we've made adjustments to our 2020-2021 theatrical season in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our top priority is to offer exciting and innovative productions while maintaining the safety of our students and audiences. Some productions will be changing from how they were originally envisioned--for example moving from live to virtual performance spaces. Some productions have been postponed and replaced with plays that can more easily allow for safety protocols such as social distancing. We want to remind you that we are here, and we will be here with you, brainstorming new approaches for how best to create theatre in this ever-changing landscape.

Directed by Andy Head

Audition specifics: watch video for details

She Kills Monsters: Virtual Realms is a comedic romp into the world of fantasy role-playing games! In this high-octane dramatic comedy laden with homicidal fairies, nasty ogres and pop culture, acclaimed playwright Qui Nguyen offers a heart-pounding homage to the geek and warrior within us all. She Kills Monsters tells the story of Agnes Evans as she leaves her childhood home in Ohio following the death of her teenage sister, Tilly. When Agnes finds Tilly’s Dungeons & Dragons notebook, however, she finds herself catapulted into a journey of discovery and action-packed adventure in the imaginary world that was her sister’s refuge.​

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.

2020 - 2021 Theatrical Season

NTID Performing Arts and RIT College of Liberal Arts are thrilled to announce the 2020-2021 joint theatrical season. The plays and dance performance present a wide array of cultural, political, and social issues. All productions will be virtual.

Dates Production Location Access
Oct 30, 2020 SOMNIUM Virtual TBA
Nov 13-15, 2020 Spoon River Anthology Virtual TBA
Feb 26-28, 2021 THIS Virtual TBA
April 2021 She Kills Monsters: Virtual Realms Virtual TBA

Production Details

Conceived and Directed by Guest-Director Omen Sade
October 30, 2020
Virtual Event


SOMNIUM is an interactive digital-theatre experience where YOU are the hero! Journey through the collective dream-space of humanity in this first-person adventure inspired by classic Science Fiction. What dreams lurk beneath the surface of your waking mind? Find out, in SOMNIUM!​

Access Information
To be Announced

For More Information

Curated, compiled, and inspired by the poetic Anthology of the same title by Edgar Lee Masters
Directed by Luane Davis Haggerty
November 13-15, 2020
Virtual Event


Spoon River Anthology is a collection of verse epitaphs, created by Edgar Lee Masters of a 1918 (a parallel era of pandemic) small-town graveyard in Illinois, its panoramic scope--allows for individual stories to create a sense of what it takes and who it takes to create a community.

For this production curator, adapter-director Luane Davis Haggerty, Ph.D. highlights Masters's inclusiveness, drawing not only on the 1918 original but adding in modern original creations written in the style of Masters. The production gives a sense of past and present coming together through the magic of theater. In under two hours we're introduced to Deaf and hearing, diverse and inclusive characters whose lives reflect the spectrum of human experience.

November 13-14, 2020 - 7:30pm
November 14-15, 2020 - 2:00pm

Access Information
To be Announced

Written by Deaf playwright, Raymond Luczak
Directed by Fred Beam
February 26-28, 2021
Virtual Event


THIS is an elegy to the one person who made a star our of a nobody. 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 presented by Invisible Hands, Inc. at the Gallaudet University Ely Auditorium in 2003.

February 26-28, 2021

Access Information
To be Announced

Directed by Andy Head
April 2021
Virtual Event

A comedic romp into the world of fantasy role-playing games! In this high-octane dramatic comedy laden with homicidal fairies, nasty ogres and pop culture, acclaimed playwright Qui Nguyen offers a heart-pounding homage to the geek and warrior within us all. She Kills Monsters tells the story of Agnes Evans as she leaves her childhood home in Ohio following the death of her teenage sister, Tilly. When Agnes finds Tilly’s Dungeons & Dragons notebook, however, she finds herself catapulted into a journey of discovery and action-packed adventure in the imaginary world that was her sister’s refuge.​

Times and Access Information
To be Announced


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

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
Joseph Fox
Theater and Tour Manager
Joseph Hamilton
Stagecraft Manager
Andy Head
Assistant Professor
Aaron Kelstone
Principal Lecturer
Denise Morgan
Senior Staff Specialist
Eric Moslow
Technical Director

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.