INTRODUCTION TO THEATRE
The juniors read major dramatic works throughout theatre history: The Bald Soprano, Antigone, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth, The Importance of Being Earnest,and A Doll’s House. They studied the social conventions and history surrounding each piece and drew some fun, creative connections to their own life experiences through creative writing, collages, a Victorian tea party, and even Twitter. In this dual enrollment course, taught by guest artist Mary Evans Lott, the juniors began by exploring stage language and alternative theatre and its spaces. They studied West Side Story as an example of the American Musical and learned about various other contributors to that unique genre. They examined August Wilson’s Fences and Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman as examples of modern American drama. Then they explored the roles of various theatre practitioners, researching and presenting on major directors, composers, choreographers and designers. They also completed a design project based on Bertolt Brecht’s Good Woman of Setzuan, which they studied in class.
DRAMA THEORY & CRITICISM
The seniors followed the evolution of drama from the Ancient Greeks through Realism by reading and analyzing works from each major period and studying the historical context of each piece. They also completed a three-part project that involved reinterpreting a major classic work that they read and analyzed outside of class and creating their own short film reinterpretations of these plays. The seniors seemed to enjoy their journey forward into modern and contemporary drama. They studied three greatly influential American pieces: Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, as well as the historical and cultural contexts that influenced these plays. They then examined the absurdist movement through Samuel Beckett’s Endgame and Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. The students researched the purpose of regional theatre and proposed a regional theatre of their own, complete with mission statement, logo, relevance, and inaugural season. The year wound down with a study of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Proof, and then each student created a director’s design concept for one of the plays they’d read.
The first-year acting students studied the building blocks of acting – imagination & creativity, focus & concentration, communication, improvisation, and body & voice. They worked in groups to create performance interpretations of poetry pieces and then turned their focus to their exam monologues. Earlier in the year, they had a visit from Mary Baldwin’s Rogue Shakespeare acting company who performed their version of Macbeth and conducted an unarmed stage combat workshop with the juniors. The juniors worked very hard second semester to expand their skills in text analysis and character creation. As a group, we studied William Inge’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Picnic, and then the students performed in scenes taken from the play. We also read and analyzed Arthur Miller’s All My Sons. The students integrated classroom exercises and information from their Acting Is Believing textbooks to explore the ideas of physical action, objectives, tactics and characterization. They then turned to two- and three-person undirected scene studies, which they performed for their final exams.
In the second year of studio, our performers used Michael Shurtleff’s Audition as a guide (a common college text often referred to as the Bible for working actors) to delve more deeply into character creation and scene/monologue analysis. They worked on several undirected scene studies, including their three-person exam scenes. Their big project was their one-act cutting of Much Ado About Nothing, which they performed at the Virginia Theatre Association Annual Conference in Reston. The seniors started off second semester by working on two larger, six-person group scenes. They also worked together as an ensemble to rehearse and perform a cutting from the stylistic mash-up, Zap and to prepare for their student-directed senior showcase. Finally the seniors chose their own partners and material to prepare for their final exam scene studies. Along the way, we worked through techniques and styles from A Practical Handbook for the Actor and Acting With Style.