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Professional Development Intensives


The Educational Theatre Association’s Professional Development Intensives (PDIs) programs consist of one- or two-day interactive, hands-on opportunities for theatre educators to develop their arsenal of professional skills on a specific topic. Topics range from directing a musical to curriculum development to stage lighting.

EdTA's PDI seminars also allows attendees to advance a graduate degree or earn credit required for continuing education.

The PDI program is typically run in conjunction with other Association events, such as the Thespian Festival or the National Conference. Attendees can minimize their time out of the classroom, maximize their budget for professional development, and allow for wider networking opportunities.

If you are interested in teaching a PDI at one of our events, please fill out a proposal.


Confirmed PDI's for Thespian Festival 2015 

Positive classroom management for theatre teachers, Leslie Van Leishout
Have you found yourself dreading a certain class or hoping a student is absent? Our classrooms are filled with students who have many behavior difficulties. Some students are on the autism spectrum. Some have OCD or ODD, some ADD or ADHD. Some have never been empowered to manage their behavior or perhaps their behaviors are finely tuned accommodations for their lives at home. Some may be to trying to charm peers or adults or avoid certain tasks. Whatever the cause, these students are driving you crazy, disrupting the learning of others, and making every day a chore. This workshop uses research-based methods to establish the expectations in your classroom, recognize each student’s positive behavior, avoid conflict, and cultivate lifelong behavior management for students.

Leslie Van Leishout has more than thirty years of experience working with organizations such as the Vancouver Film School and the Washington Shakespeare Festival. Currently, she works in the North Thurston Public Schools in Washington state as the positive behavior intervention specialist. Previously, Leslie worked as the theatre education coordinator and director of Cougar Theater at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Leslie taught high school theatre for more than twenty years. In that time, she served as the co-Chapter Director and a writer for arts standards and assessments in Washington state. Leslie was a member of the writing team for the National Coalition for CORE Arts Standards. She has been inducted into the EdTA Hall of Fame.

Developing authentic emotional response in young actors, Michael Daehn
Most acting teachers and directors have a fairly good ear for dialogue and music, as well as an eye for effective staging. Yet some can never quite tell the whole story to the audience because they’re less successful in helping their performers seize the heart of the production emotionally. This course will use a variety of exercises and techniques assembled across several acting philosophies and a lifetime of experiences working with young actors to explore emotional truth on stage. We will focus on systemic, safe approaches to guide student actors through the emotional demands of playing three-dimensional characters in classroom, rehearsal, and performance.

Michael Daehn is an associate professor of theatre education and directing at Ball State University and serves on the advisory board for the Indiana Thespians. He is a regular contributor to Dramatics and Teaching Theatre. His recent articles include “Scare me: A guide to building haunted houses,” “Taking and giving notes,” and an interview with Sutton Foster. He has directed more than 150 productions in his career on the high school, college, community theatre, and professional levels, including an award-winning Off Broadway production of The Landlord and three Thespian Playworks productions.

Moving lights and LED programming, Dana Taylor
The course will focus on the use of moving lights and LEDs within the context of theatrical productions. Participants will gain hands-on experience in basic programming concepts for moving lights, discuss the integration of LEDs with conventional fixtures, and explore new ways to think about lighting design.

Dana W. Taylor has served as director of vocal music at Mt. Vernon Senior High School for twenty-six years. He holds a bachelor of music education degree and a master’s in choral conducting from Indiana University. Dana is a member of the American Choral Directors Association, United States Institute for Theatre Technology, PLASA, and the Educational Theatre Association. He contributes articles to Projection Lights, Staging News, Dramatics, and Teaching Theatre. He is the technical theatre editor of Dramatics. Additionally, he serves as an individual member representative for PLASA NA, an entertainment technology trade organization. In 2006, Dana was named technical theatre educator of the year by Stage Directions magazine. He received the 2011 Founder’s Award from EdTA for significant contributions to theatre education in the United States, and in 2014, he received the distinguished achievement award in education from the USITT.


Confirm PDI's for the 2015 EdTA National Conference

Thursday, October 1
9:00am - 3:00pm

A guidebook for the high school director, Bruce Miller
This PDI will provide teachers with a useful approach to mounting a high school production that focuses on what student actors should be doing on stage. The day’s work will focus on directing essentials such as script analysis and synthesis, blocking, character development, and telling the story through action. We will discuss how to examine and craft plays, scenes, beats, and moments. Teachers will explore ways to communicate with their students clearly and effectively in the spirit of collaboration.

Improv: It’s not just for comedy anymore, Missy Whitis
Many think of improv as unscripted comedy, but it can apply to any form of spontaneous theatre. Improv teaches creativity, innovation, communication, teamwork, and leadership. This six hour intensive on improv has five sections:

  1. Pedagogy (a.k.a. Jokers belong with Batman)—We will discuss why and how to teach improv.
  2. Storytelling and playtime: Bringing order to chaos—We will explore classroom methods that demonstrate how to incorporate improv all year long as we strengthen theatre games using motivation and collaborative and connective learning.
  3. The boy band way—We will discuss different types of improvisers and how to find each student’s unique gift.
  4. It’s not about being funny—We will tackle exercises to spark immediate engagement from students.
  5. Bringing it all together—We will discuss how teaching the rules of improv and continued application will change your critical assessment and conception of how your students “do” improv. Your students will thank you for raising the bar!

Sunday, October 4
9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Character creation through mask and mime, James Van Leishout
Mask and mime can free the actor from an over-reliance on dialogue and the face. This freedom allows the body to participate more fully in the character creation process. Together, we will explore the blank mask, stock outside/in masks, the inner mask, and discover how mime is created through isolation, props, and attention to detail in everyday activities.

Directing tablework: Unlocking the door to dynamic performance, Amy Feinberg
How can a director best communicate with actors to shape performances within a unified version? In this intensive, we will explore the actor/director relationship and how to craft connection, specificity, and meaning to unlock the door to an organic process that begins with the script, works with impulses to guide blocking, and ultimately results in grounded, active, and driven performances. This session puts the techniques of Meisner and Stanislavsky to work on the director’s side of the table, while encouraging buy-in and ownership of the crafting from actors.

Design storm crash course: Creative ways to teach design, Jo Strom Lane
Ready! Set! Design! In this course, we will read a micro-play, hear a mini-lecture about “–isms” and other inspirations, and then divide into design storm teams. In teams, participants will choose an “-ism” from ones provided, develop a designer’s concept statement based on a director’s concept and their selected “-ism," select a color palette from ones provided, and create actual designs for every area of technical theatre using drawings or found images. Teams will share their designs and discuss how the concepts can be expanded to a full unit of study or a whole course. All content is aligned with national standards and participants will receive access to a theatre design and technology curriculum map detailing alignment.

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