Open Forum

creating a theatre program

  • 1.  creating a theatre program

    Posted 11-02-2020 00:21
    After years of non-existence my high school is finally deciding to create a Theatre program. I am being tasked with creating said program to present to the administration which is to include different classes, time frame for integrating the program over the next couple of years, etc.  I am starting literally from scratch. I would welcome suggestions on how to start other than just Beginning Acting. 


    David Greaney

  • 2.  RE: creating a theatre program

    Posted 11-03-2020 11:44
    We do the following for our program.  It has it's shortcoming but overall works well.
    Fundamentals of Theatre (Open elective) *Survey of theatre through lecture and project-based learning

    Acting 1 (Intro to Acting)
    Acting 2 (Techniques and Styles)
    Advanced Drama 1 (Playwriting and Directing)
    Advanced Drama 2 (Production and Creation) *Basically take all the skill from 9-11 and they have their own "company"

    Tech 1 (Intro to Tech Theatre and Design) *Lecture and projects
    Tech 2-4 (Practicum-style production work) *Designing and building class and department productions

    I would recommend separating Acting as a class and having Advance Drama as your production class where students have to audition to get in.  This will help you weed out the kids who just get thrown in because they can do tech or acting while your students who are dedicated to do productions can be in the advanced class.

    I would start with 1 of each intro level and 1 advanced and see if you can build the program from there.  Advanced could be audition only.

    This is all tied to what your school and district decides is okay for you to use but it's a place to start.

    Joel King
    Woodstock GA

  • 3.  RE: creating a theatre program

    Posted 11-03-2020 11:56
    Congratulations! Here are a few suggestions:

    Grade 9: Intro to Theatre
    Beginning improvisation, pantomime (I like to call it space work), a bit of Theatre history, Theatre vocabulary and etiquette adapting narrative into script format, beginning acting exercises, scene study, maybe reader's theatre, text analysis, children's theatre

    Grades 10/11: Intermediate Theatre
    Improvisation, scene study, character creation, acting in one-act plays, social justice theatre, plays from different cultures, play reports, Shakespeare, stage combat

    Grades 11/12: Advanced Theatre
    Advanced (possibly long form) improvisation, advanced acting exercises and scene study, writing the one-act play, directing, classical text (other than Shakespeare), individualized senior projects

    Best wishes!

  • 4.  RE: creating a theatre program

    Posted 11-03-2020 14:47
    Hi David! As an EdTA member, you also have access to our Mentor Match program. There are quite a few mentors available who have expertise in building theatre programs and they would love the chance to help. Take a look and feel free to get in touch if you have questions or would like a recommendation!

    Ginny Butsch
    Community Engagement Manager
    Educational Theatre Association
    Cincinnati OH

  • 5.  RE: creating a theatre program

    Posted 11-24-2020 22:48
    Hi David,

    Creating a theatre program is a fun and scary adventure! As much as I hated taking over a program with four production classes, I quickly realized how valuable it was in getting a wonderful cross section of the student body-including three season athletes-involved in our program.

    I would highly recommend a Children't Theatre class. I've team taught an entry level musical children's course for the last 27 years with my MD, and the class was in our program for at least 25 years before I came.

    We use it as a great skill builder and recruitment for our advanced audition only Musical Theatre course (2 shows per year, also team taught), and our CT class produces a wildly successful children's musical each April. All vocals, scene work, and choreography is learned during class. Only the three dress rehearsals and five shows are outside of class time.

    We send a 25 minute preview to each of our elementary schools, and a flier goes home with the over 4,000 k-6 kids in our district. A majority of the kids in our program talk about seeing those previews and shows as kids, and that is when they got interested in theatre.

    Over the years this class has become a very welcoming place for some of our more severe SPED kids, and we set up lots of big buddies to assist those students. It's been a great place for them to succeed.

    In the last 8 weeks after the show the class adapts fairy tales around a theme and 300 2nd graders walk to us during our two hour final. By that point in the year the seniors serve as directors for each segment, sophomores and juniors are the ADs, and the kids are very independent. They also research and pitch the children's show for the following year so we can announce it as part of our season at our June banquet. We usually have about a 60% return to the class each year. Some of our kids who are very active on campus love this class as they can still be in a show that requires little outside of class time.

    Feel free to reach out if you'd like some other recruiting and community outreach ideas.

    Krista Carson Elhai
    Educational Theatre Foundation National Board of Trustees
    CA Educational Theatre Association, Past President
    CA Thespians Director of Membership & New Teacher Outreach
    Theatre Chair Claremont HS
    An International Baccalaureate World School
    Claremont CA

  • 6.  RE: creating a theatre program

    Posted 11-25-2020 10:13
    As you plan, don't forget about all the beyond-curriculum items, from sharing space and competing for electives students, to handling concerns of parents and community about show (and casting) decisions, to fund raising and field trips...the list goes on.

    Real-World Theatre Education is written just for you, the theatre educator starting out to build a new, strong program. It includes an A-Z of templates to save you from reinventing the wheel, from sample curricula to control booth rules to a full audition packet, ready to download and customize.

    If you need it, Educational Stages also now offers both Teaching Tech You Never Learned and a Theatre Safety Guide.

    Congratulations on this wonderful challenge.

    Douglas "Chip" Rome
    Theatre Consultant
    Educational Stages
    Burke VA

  • 7.  RE: creating a theatre program

    Posted 11-25-2020 13:03
    You may want to consider offering acting classes only up front, since that's where the primary interest seems to be. Also they don't require anything in the way of tools, materials, equipment, money to buy them, space to work and store stuff, specialized technical knowledge, and considerations for work safety. All the tech stuff can come later as the program develops.

    Theatre is about stories, and many many stories can be told without any need for the ancillary stuff.

    George F. Ledo
    Set designer

  • 8.  RE: creating a theatre program

    Posted 11-27-2020 01:40
    David, I think the first thing you should do is look at the California standards for Theatre.  It took me a while to find them, and it looks like new ones were finalized in March 2020.  (I'm going to guess there was no fanfare due to the pandemic upturning all the educational tables at that time.)  You can find them here:  It looks like there are three specific course levels for high school: Proficient, Accomplished, and Advanced.  That seems to imply that students have taken Theatre courses from Pre-K through 8th grade, which seems unlikely.

    I taught in two states with Theatre Standards and Objectives.  I started by imagining enjoyable units that could allow us to tick off multiple standards.  Here in North Carolina, where I taught the last 19 years of my career, I couldn't imagine a way to accomplish the objectives without tying the courses except Theatre I to a production.

    A one-teacher Theatre program needs to have a happy teacher, so don't be afraid to spend more time on the things that really light your fires.  Find guest artists and professional development opportunities to build on your skills and make your program richer as you build it.  No two Theatre programs are the same, and that is just fine.

    I never wanted to head a Theatre program that sent all its graduates on to major in Theatre in college.  I believe in life skills, both soft and practical, that educational Theatre involvement teaches, so I designed classes to be more than just Acting or Technical.  Some students came in thinking they had to be in the spotlight, only to find that stage management was perfect, or playwriting, or costume design, or construction.

    How easily students can access your classes should play a part as well.  With block scheduling, four classes a day for a single semester, I had to have multiple ways for students to continue taking Theatre courses.  I combined Play Production, Theatre III, and Theatre IV in one class period to work on the spring mainstage, for instance.  Musical Theatre, a vocal music course, met with us on alternate years, giving us teachers as Director and Musical Director for the show.  Theatre II produced a touring children's show during 1st period in the fall, but students who had taken multiple classes would take that course when they could fit it in for that particular experience.  As I said, there is no one way to structure a program.

    Here are the course descriptions I used.  We had to start with Standard.  I kept that designation for the Tech classes because they were not required to do work outside of class.  Students were able to do more independent technical and design work in Play Production, Theatre III, and Theatre IV, along with acting, playwriting, and time required outside of class.

    Best wishes!

    Theatre Arts (Beginning) I
    Students employ improvisation, voice and diction, storytelling, acting practice in scenes and monologues, theatre history, play reading, and an introduction to script writing and technical theatre to gain foundational knowledge of theatre arts.
    CREDIT: 1   TYPE: Standard   GRADE: 9-12

    Theatre Arts (Proficient) II Honors - Fall
    Through multiple acting assignments, including a play for children, students refine acting and design techniques. Students participate in a playwriting unit culminating in a two-person scene and utilize play reading to build on the historical timeline begun in Theatre I and informal research to support current productions.
    CREDIT: 1   TYPE: Honors   GRADE: 10-12
    PREREQUISITE: 531521 - Theatre Arts (Beginning) I

    Theatre Arts Spcl (Proficient) Play Productions Honors
    Students continue their study of theatre arts through the production of a play or musical for public performance. Students explore acting technique through the audition, rehearsal, and performance process. They accomplish technical work relating to the specific production, including scenery, costumes, lighting, and sound. Students complete informal research inquiries relating to the production and careers in theatre, as well as continue play reading. They participate in a playwriting unit culminating in a two-person scene. Rehearsal time outside of class is required near performance time.
    CREDIT: 1   TYPE: Honors   GRADE: 9-12
    PREREQUISITE: 531521 - Theatre Arts (Beginning) I

    Theatre Arts (Proficient) III Honors - Spring
    Students continue to refine acting techniques through preparation of audition monologues, and public performances, including a play or musical. Informal research and play reading allow students to build on their knowledge of playwrights, directors, and designers. Students actively participate in various aspects of technical theatre, as well as a playwriting unit culminating in a three-person scene. Rehearsal time outside of class is required near performance time.
    CREDIT: 1   TYPE: Honors   GRADE: 10-12
    PREREQUISITE: Successful completion of Theatre I and one additional Theatre Arts class

    Theatre Arts (Advanced) IV Honors - Spring
    Students utilize advanced acting techniques in preparation for a formal production and college or professional auditions. Students actively explore the roles of director, designer, dramaturg, and producer through work on a play or musical for public performance. They build on historical timelines by play reading. They participate in a playwriting unit culminating in a complete work. Rehearsal time outside of class is required near performance time.
    CREDIT: 1   TYPE: Honors   GRADE: 11-12
    PREREQUISITE: Successful completion of three (3) Theatre Arts classes, including Theatre Arts III Honors.

    Theatre Arts Spcl (Intermediate) Tech Theatre
    Students explore various areas of technical theatre through a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on learning. No previous experience in technical theatre is required. Students gain practical experience in set and prop design and construction; lighting design, rigging and board operation; costume design and construction; stage management; and directing. Students utilize play reading and informal research to support their design work. One in-class performance project is required.
    CREDIT: 1   TYPE: Standard   GRADE: 9-12
    PREREQUISITE: 531521 - Theatre Arts (Beginning) I

    Theatre Arts Spcl (Intermediate) Tech Practicum
    This course is for self-motivated students with some technical theatre experience. Students are responsible for design and operation of lights and sound for most productions and performances in the AHS Arts Theatre. Student technicians also complete research-based independent projects that further their knowledge and expertise in various areas of theatrical dramaturgy, design, and production. They complete one project involving acting. Time outside of school hours is required periodically.
    CREDIT: 1   TYPE: Standard   GRADE: 10-12
    PREREQUISITE: Successful completion of Theatre I and Theatre II, OR Theatre I and Technical Theatre

    CJ Breland
    Retired Theatre Arts Educator
    Asheville NC