Open Forum

Middle School Musical Theater Class

  • 1.  Middle School Musical Theater Class

    Posted 11-30-2018 13:20

    I am transitioning this year from an extra-curricular middle school musical, to an actual class during the school day that is dedicated to musical theater and that has the expectation of a full performance at the end of the semester. I'd love to hear how others have structured such a class. Right now, I'm planning a basic intro (a "this is musical theater" kind of thing), a unit on theater terminology, a unit on auditioning (which is followed by the actual auditions), rehearsal (including info on proper rehearsal behavior), an overview of tech elements (as they are introduced in rehearsal) and then the performance. The class meets three or four times a week (for 50 minutes) and as of now, there are 32 in the class (gulp!).


    Susan Speidel
    Chairman of the Performing Arts Department
    Morristown-Beard School
    Springfield NJ

  • 2.  RE: Middle School Musical Theater Class

    Posted 12-03-2018 14:16
    Wow! 32 kids is a lot, which speaks very well of your program and your ability to get the middle schoolers excited about the opportunity--Congratulations!

    I haven't taught middle school in recent years, but did used to team-teach a class with a music teacher where we created original musicals with our 7th and 8th graders (this was at an all-boys school).

    A lot will depend on your kids, but I always found it helpful to introduce a fun tech project early in the process that required little supervision and much repetition. One year the kids literally folded "1,000 paper cranes" for that show, another year they sewed individual leaves onto a tree drop, one time they made a giant chicken wire topiary stuffed with thousands of bits of newspaper, etc. There's just something about doing things on a large scale over a long time that can lead to some pretty cool design work that the kids feel very invested in. Having multiple activities, I could divide the class into thirds, and have around 10 working on the tech project, 10 memorizing lines/quizzing each other (or working with the choral director), and the rest working with me. We'd change stations after 25 minutes to keep everybody moving.

    The other thing that helped me was to have a "Concept of the Week." These were various aspects of physicality, vocal work, partnering, Musical Theatre style, etc. We'd start the day with a game or exercise to introduce or play around with the concept (which I'd tweak as the week went on) and at the end of the class period would often do "show and tells" where kids who had been working on a scene or a song & dance would show it to the rest of the class and we'd talk about how the concept of the week was employed in the work for the show.

    My key was always to keep kids circulating around, to weave the core concepts into the work of rehearsals, and to make sure that no one was just sitting around doing nothing. All this is aided if you have other adults in the room at least some of the time.

    I'll be interested to hear how your class works out--and to hear from anyone else who has taught a middle school musical performance class.

    Best of Luck,

    Meg O'Connor
    (theatre artist on the loose)