Students in kindergarten through fourth grade have weekly theatre arts classes that stress movement and basic theatre skills. In addition, third and fourth graders participate in a formal, original production each school year.
In the Middle School, fifth graders continue their theatre arts study with a required nine-week unit, with an emphasis upon storytelling as a form of theater arts. Sixth graders continue studying theatre arts, as well, in a required one-semester class, which includes an in-depth look into a selected Shakespearean play, one which students later see performed professionally at the Blackfriars Playhouse in the spring. Seventh and eighth grade students may choose to enroll in a year-long Stop-Action Animation course, taught collaboratively between the Visual and Theatre Arts departments. The theatre arts component introduces playwriting, set/scene composition, and character development. Middle School performance opportunities include auditioning for the combined Upper and Middle School musical and a spring Middle School play.
Upper School students may enroll in Theater Arts classes for up to five semesters in four years. Theatre Arts I is offered during the first semester of each school year, and focuses upon acting technique, character and scene development, and improvisational skills. The second semester Upper School Theatere Arts class of each academic year is devoted to some aspect of technical theater, directing, or playwriting. Upper School students may enroll in this second semester course every year during their Upper School career. Upper School students may audition for extracurricular productions, including a fall Upper School play, a winter Middle and Upper School musical, and a spring student-directed play.
- Lower School
Lower School Performing Arts
The kindergarten performing arts program builds on children’s innate joy in combining sound, movement and imaginative play to explore and interpret their world. The children apply their creativity and developing skills in Music, Drama, and Dance to an array of activities: singing, rhythmic speech and body percussion; instrument playing; ear-training and music reading, interpretive, creative and rhythmic movement; pantomime and dramatization. The students learn through imitation, guided exploration and structured improvisation. Themes and performances are coordinated with areas of study and celebration in the students’ homerooms.
The 1-3 approach to performing arts draws from the music education methods of Orff and Kodaly and best practices of creative drama. The students apply their creativity and developing skills to sequential, inter-related, and often, simultaneous activities in Music, Dance and Drama. The students learn through imitation, guided exploration and structured improvisation. Themes and performance projects are coordinated with academic studies and seasonal celebrations.
Fourth Grade students engage in activities designed to encourage creative self-expression, physical awareness, confidence, and personal character development. theater Arts class is designed to deepen the awareness of drama as a series of life lessons: improvisation as the ability to think creatively and spontaneously; role play as a form of empathy; diction and emphasis as effective communication skills; ensemble as teamwork.
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- Middle School
In the Middle School, theater Arts instruction continues in a required nine-week unit for fifth graders that meets twice a week and a semester unit for sixth graders that meets twice a week.
- theater Arts is offered as an elective year-long course in collaboration with the Visual Arts department for seventh and eighth graders. All Middle School theater Arts students participate in skill-building activities at an intermediate level. These activities are designed to increase kinetic awareness, refine vocal techniques, and enhance imagination, analytical thinking, and improvisational skills. Performance opportunities include participation in the combined Upper and Middle School musical, other small scale class scenes and/or one-act plays, and a spring Middle School play. Grade level instruction is constructed as follows:
Fifth grade students are introduced to basic actor tools—voice, emotion, gesture, facial expression, imagination, and body—over the course of a required one-quarter term. Students learn to apply these tools to their work in class through exploration and scene presentation of short American folktales. Students also become acquainted with the art of storytelling as a form of dramatic arts.
Sixth grade students continue to build their awareness of basic actor tools in their required semester-long theater Arts class. Additionally, they examine a selected Shakespearean play at an in-depth level, and later, in the spring, they travel to nearby Staunton, Virginia to see this play performed professionally at the Blackfriars Playhouse by the American Shakespeare Center actors.
Seventh and eighth grade students may choose to enroll in a year-long Stop-Action Animation course, taught collaboratively between the Visual and theater Arts departments. The theater Arts component introduces playwriting, set/scene composition, and character development. Students apply these skills to several Stop-Action Animation projects, having sculpted clay characters and designed and built small, box sets in the Visual Art component of the class. Students then film their work, edit it, and present it to a variety of audiences. Read More >
- Upper School
Upper School students may enroll in theater Arts classes for up to five semesters in four years.
theater Arts I, offered during the first semester of each school year, is designed for students with any range of theater arts background and does not require previous stage experience. In this course, students become familiar with the elements of action as outlined in A Practical Handbook for the Actor (Bruider, Cohn, Olnek, Pollack, Previto, Zigler), and they explore the twelve guideposts of character development and acting as drawn from Michael Shurtleff’s Audition. Weekly acting projects allow students to apply each new guidepost they study. The course concludes with students presenting a memorized monologue and a expositional process paper for a select audience.
- Students may enter the theater Arts II class mid-year without prior stage experience, however, completion of theater Arts I is strongly recommended for students entering the second semester theater Arts course. Second semester students examine a variety of theater components on a four-year rotation basis. These areas of study and practicum include playwriting, costume design and construction, set/scene design, and directing and production. The second semester theater Arts class culminates with student presentations in which students will, for example, write a one-act play or extended monologue; choose a published period play from which they will select one character for whom they will design a costume plot and construct at least one costume from their own designs; select a published play and design a set and/or backdrop scene that they will present in a three-dimensional model; or select a scene from a published play to which they apply specific directing techniques and then present their work using fellow classmates and/or outside actors. Additionally, students of the directing and production class will learn to execute various tasks of theater production such as box office procedures, advertising, stage management, and properties management. Students will present their work during the final week of the semester for their classmates and/or a select audience.
Upper School students may audition for extracurricular productions, including a fall Upper School play, a winter Middle and Upper School musical, and a spring student-directed play. Past productions include Fiddler on the Roof, Much Ado About Nothing, Cinderella, The Diviners, Oklahoma!, Twelfth Night, and The Servant of Two Masters. Read More >