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1.  Improv and Tech Theatre Classes

Posted Jul 04, 2014 10:24 PM
Hello everyone! I've recently taken charge of a very prolific program which produced 6 shows last year but never had theatre classes (just one production class). After a year of Intro and Advanced theatre classes, I'm now growing into having an Improv, Tech Theatre, Intro and Advanced theatre classes (latter two are performance-oriented). My request is if anyone has sample syllabi, lesson plans, units, anything really which they'd be willing to share for the Improv and Tech theatre classes. I'm a beginner to teaching tech myself, so I'll be just a little ahead of the curve, and I'm open to using the class to help design/build necessary items for productions, but I'd like to get some teaching in there too. For the Improv class, I have MANY activity books, recommended by folks here and elsewhere, but again I'd love to see how someone might structure a class devoted to it - I'm probably going to add a devised theatre component as well, so each term the class creates its own play at the end. ALL suggestions are more than welcome. Thank you! ------------------------------------------- Nathan Emmons Theatre Director Nipomo CA -------------------------------------------

2.  RE: Improv and Tech Theatre Classes

Posted Jul 08, 2014 11:13 AM
Hi Nathan! An improv class sounds like a fun idea that your students would love, I think it would be helpful to know more about the time you have available for it. Would it be offered for a full year or just a semester? How long would each class last?

Something I've been recently intrigued by is long form improv. Once you've covered the basics and your students are feeling more comfortable with their performances, that might be a new topic to explore in the class. There's a good book that can help you learn more about it and how to teach it to your students, you can check it out here:

Long Form Improv by Ben Hauck

I feel like tech theatre could be a lifelong class, there are so many ways to expand and build on lessons. I'm not even a techie, but there are some basics that really stuck out in my mind from classes I've taken. I've always been more of a hands-on learner and these taught me so many skills I am able to use in "real life."

-Theatre Safety
-Tech theatre vocabulary
-Different tech theatre jobs/positions (if there are some in your community, bring them in for an interview!)
-Tours of different kinds of backstage areas (other local schools or community theatres, larger venues if you've got them-great opportunity to network and build relationships)
-Introduction and demonstration of various tools
-Trip to a local hardware store like Lowe's or Home Depot to learn where to find products, what to look and ask for, types of services they provide, get an idea of the cost involved, how to properly transport items (especially larger ones)
-Tech theatre math review (could even work with the math department at your school), to revisit some skills they may not have used in awhile (like adding and subtracting fractions)

Hope that helps get you started!
Ginny Butsch
Community Manager
Educational Theatre Association
Alexandria KY

3.  RE: Improv and Tech Theatre Classes

Posted Jul 09, 2014 12:37 PM
I taught an Improv class for years having been education director for Seattle Theatresports, it was a passion of mine.  And having studied with Keith Johnstone the founder of Theatresports.  I would start with a curriculum that others and I developed at Seattle Theatresports to teach actors who wanted to do improv - to move from regular acting to improv.  It was based in grounding first, being able to pantomime clearly, to being spontaneous, to being able to build a good story and then into specific improv skills such as accepting offers,making good offers, use of good characterization techniques.  And all along teaching specific improv games used in performance.  I can share more with you if you are interested. 

Lynda Belt
Theatre Specialist
Arts Are The Answer
Puyallup WA

4.  RE: Improv and Tech Theatre Classes

Posted Jul 10, 2014 9:43 AM
I have used a book Improv for Actors by Dan Diggles for my improv classes.  His book covers many of the principles of improv (making offers, accepting offers) that Lynda has mentioned in her post; plus, he has the book set up by lessons to do each day.  I literally followed his plans day by day the first year I taught improv.  I have used his lessons for 7th through high school, adding theatre games/activities that meet my students' needs to supplement the activities he includes. He also explains how to connect the skills learned in improv to acting with a script.  I would be a great text to get you started.

As for tech theatre, I think you first need to determine your philosophy for the tech class:  do you see it as a class that helps learn skills needed to prep the next show? or do you see it as a class where students learn the fundamentals of each tech area so they can apply their skills to any show?  I came out of a college that used tech classes as "labor." When I started teaching, my tech skills were limited to what I had learned for each show I had worked. For example, I knew how to paint wallpaper with a feather duster, but didn't know how to paint bricks.  So, when I started teaching my HS tech class, I decided to hold tech work days on Saturdays where students in the tech class were required to work 3 hours AND to teach the students as much as I could about each technical area so that they could work on any show we did.  We did a set painting unit where each student was assigned a section of a flat where they first learned a variety of painting techniques, then did a final painting section that assessed the basic skills of painting.  Every student learned to program the board, hang and focus a light, choose the appropriate gel colors for a show, create a light plot, and then demonstrated those skills. The advantages of having knowledgeable students far outweighs the disadvantage of giving up a few Saturdays for tech work. Students are trained and, after a quick review, can train others on work days. If we can do some work for the current show during class time, we certainly do it, but the primary philosophy, in my opinion, should be to prepare the students to work on any show.

Lynnae Lathrop
MS Speech and Drama teacher
Waukee Comm. School District
Waukee IA

5.  RE: Improv and Tech Theatre Classes

Posted Jul 11, 2014 5:27 PM
Dear Lynda, I am in a similar situation as Nathan and I would definitely love to hear more from you! It sounds like you are definitely a specialist! Thank you! ------------------------------------------- Sonja Brown, Theatre Teacher Phoenix High School -------------------------------------------

6.  RE: Improv and Tech Theatre Classes

Posted Jul 10, 2014 11:47 AM
Over 30 years ago I signed up for an Acting class in high school.  I didn't know it at the time but our Theatre teacher used only Improv in his entry level class.  He had been trained in Spolin and it just made sense to him as the vehicle to teach solid acting technique.  I loved it!  When I became a teacher, I too embraced Improv as my primary instructional method.  Every time I had a challenge in the classroom I would call my teacher and he would take me back to an element of improv to fix the problem - including classroom management!

I have read all the great books (and some not so great books) on the subject and now teach my classes with a blended approach, things I like that work for me from multiple sources.
My most recent love is Stephen Book's Book on Acting. Fantastic approach to using improv to develop technique and bridge into scripted work.  He has videos on his website that are very insightful.  This has really helped me develop my more advanced classes. 

Linda, I would love it if you would share more about the curriculum you developed?  I am always looking for a little inspiration to start a new year!

Amy Learn
Ballwin MO

7.  RE: Improv and Tech Theatre Classes

Posted Jul 10, 2014 1:53 PM
I have devised a series of lessons which I used with 8th graders.  I am sure some of them would be suitable for HS.  My favorite component is a Design Webquest, which the students work through to understand Costume and Ste design processes.  They finish the project with a .ppt that demonstrates costumes and set elements for our upcoming production.  I think they have a better understanding of the creative side, researching, and supporting a production.  Many of their ideas also end up on stage, which they LOVE!  

Feel free to contact me directly: christa.danner@...

Christa Danner
Shawnee KS

8.  class

Posted Aug 06, 2014 6:36 AM
I, too, would love more info on the curriculum you developed for Improv! Thank you for sharing! ------------------------------------------- Connie Sandoz Theatre Director Henderson NV -------------------------------------------

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