Mills Performing Arts showcases boundary-breaking work by Mills students, faculty, and visiting artists in dance, music, theater, and the literary arts. Performing arts academic programs at Mills include undergraduate and graduate programs in music, dance, and creative writing, along with an immersive undergraduate program in theater. These programs embrace myriad artistic traditions and fearlessly cross boundaries to find timely and meaningful ways of revealing the human condition.
Mills has long been a center of musical creativity and experimentation. Its roster of renowned faculty and alumnae include Darius Milhaud, Pauline Oliveros, Dave Brubeck, Miya Masaoka, Maggi Payne, Rebeca Mauléon, and Holly Herndon. At performances hosted on and off the Mills campus, students, faculty, and visiting artists come together to push the cutting edge of music across genres—from electronic to classical to jazz improvisation. Each year, this work culminates in our highly anticipated four-day festival of new music and sound art, Signal Flow. The year-long Mills Music Now Concert Series enables students and the public to learn from visiting artists and academics through concerts, artist talks, workshops, and master classes.
The Mills Dance Department has been preparing artists for a lifetime in dance for more than eight decades, The program has been shaped by a legacy of dance radicals and upstarts that include Mary Wigman protégé Tina Flade, pioneering filmmaker and choreographer Marian Van Tuyl, liquid-limbed Trisha Brown ’58, and fierce Molissa Fenley ’75. Given a host of opportunities to command the stage each year, our dance students have the space to express their creative vision and the close faculty support to refine their technique and grow as daring artists. Mills students choreograph, promote, and perform their work in showcases such as the annual Undergrad Underground and the MFA thesis concert and frequently collaborate with musicians, actors, and visual artists on campus.
The Literatures & Languages Department at Mills amplifies the voices of our undergraduate and graduate writers through an inclusive, supportive community and deep connections to the vibrant Bay Area literary scene. On campus, Mills creative writing students produce and participate in open mic nights, readings, and talks with nationally acclaimed visiting writers. Students also benefit from a new public humanities project that connects them with poets and scholars in Oakland and beyond. Funded by a generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, programming for the project includes conversations, readings, and lectures by local and national poets, performers, and scholars hosted at Mills Performing Arts venues.
The Mills Theater Program is designed to help our undergraduate students succeed in every aspect of theatrical production—from acting and staging to directing and playwriting—through an immersive, hands-on curriculum. Students go into the field to build documentary theater pieces from firsthand sources such as survivors of tragedies or victims of economic change, and then create, design, direct, and perform original, topical plays. They stage experimental one acts and celebrated works from drama’s canon, like Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days or Moisés Kaufman’s Laramie Project. Anchored in one of the largest theater markets in the United States, our program’s partnership with the award-winning American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco ensures valuable experiential learning and professional networking opportunities.