Students in grades K-3 receive drama instruction through the Orff program. Fourth graders continue their Orff interdisciplinary studies and also have an additional weekly class that focuses more technically on their dramatic skills such as text interpretation, character development, and movement for stage.
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 any of three Theatre Arts classes offered each year – Theatre Arts 1: The Fundamentals of Acting and Improvisational Performance; Theatre Arts 2: Theatre Methodology and Drama as Literature; and an Advanced Theatre Studies Senior Seminar class. Upper School students may audition for extracurricular productions, including a fall Upper School play, a winter musical that includes both Upper School and eighth grade students, and a spring student-directed play. Students may also participate in a technical capacity for each and/or all of these productions.
- 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.
- 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.
- Upper School
Upper School students may enroll in any of the three Theatre Arts classes offered each year.
Theatre Arts I – The Fundamentals of Acting and Improvisational Performance
Theatre Arts I is designed for students with any range of theatre 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). Students explore the twelve guideposts of character development and acting as described in Michael Shurtleff’s, Audition. Weekly acting projects allow students to apply each new guidepost they study. Course objectives and goals include a presentation by students of a memorized monologue of their choice performed for a select audience, fluency in improvisational performance, collaborative problem solving, and a final expositional process paper.
Theatre Arts 2 – Theatre Methodology and Drama as Literature
In this class, students are exposed to the acting methods created and developed by Constantin Stanislavski, Sanford Meisner, Stella Adler, and Lee Strasberg. Simultaneously, students begin reading, analyzing, directing, and performing scenes from plays that span well over 400 years including, but not limited to plays by Aristophanes, William Shakespeare, Moliere, Enrik Ibsen, Oscar Wilde, Richard Sheridan, Anton Chekov, Carson McCullers, Samuel Beckett, Eugene O’Neill, Edward Albee, Sam Shepard, Beth Henley, Herb Gardner, Brian Friel, and Jim Leonard, Jr. Students enrolling in this class must have successfully completed Theatre Arts I.
Senior Seminar – Advanced Theatre Studies
In this senior seminar production intensive class, students are introduced to a number of technical areas including costuming, set design, construction, and realization, properties construction and management, and lighting techniques. Students are responsible for creating design plans in all areas of production and executing their concepts under the direction of the course instructor. Students develop twenty-first century educational skills including communication, collaboration, creative problem solving, compromise, and as a result of story, a deeper understanding of cultures and societal traditions.
Extracurricular Productions – Fall Play, Winter Musical, Student-Directed Plays
All Upper School students may audition for extracurricular productions, including a fall Upper School play, a winter musical, and a spring student-directed play. Past productions include The Fiddler on the Roof, Cinderella, Oklahoma, Grease, Hello, Dolly!, Guys and Dolls, My Fair Lady, Much Ado About Nothing, The Diviners, Twelfth Night, The Servant of Two Masters, Someone’s Knocking, Romeo and Juliet, The Servant of Two Masters, Once Upon A Mattress, and other similar plays.