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Theatre History

105 Lesson Plans to help you effectively plan your workshops and classes

19th Century Actors on Acting: Cushman, Booth, Jefferson

by Lindsay Price

This lesson plan looks at three 19th century actors: Charlotte Cushman, Edwin Booth, and Joseph Jefferson. All three were heralded as “stars” and were well known in their time. Students will learn some information about each, read letters in which they talk about acting, and reflect on what they’ve learned.

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Absurdism

by Wendy-Marie Martin

This lesson enters the last and final -ism for the unit, with a focus on five iconic absurdist playwrights: Beckett, Ionesco, Genet, Pinter, and Albee.

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Ancient Greek Theatre Vocabulary Research Activity

by Angel Borths

Students will be able to identify elements of Ancient Greek Theatre through a group research activity.

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Ancient Greek Theatre: Presentation Project

by Lindsay Price

This is the project section of the Ancient Greek Theatre unit. Divide students into groups, then give them an information sheet on their subject. Their job is to present the information in a theatrical manner to the class, create an activity that the class can do as a whole, and write a reflection/exit slip for the class to complete.
Within this unit students are given three to four class periods to work on their presentations. Instruct each group to divide up tasks evenly within their group, so that they can meet the deadline. You can certainly give them more time, or establish that students must spend time working on the project outside of class. Depending on the size of your class, it may take one or two classes to complete the presentations.

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Ancient Greek Theatre: It's All Greek to Me

by Lea Marshall

This hyperdoc unit is designed to have students independently discover Ancient Greek Theatre. The unit is broken down into nine sections with multiple activities and includes a culminating activity.

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Aristotle's 6 Elements of Drama

by Angel Borths

Students will be able to identify Aristotle’s 6 Elements of Drama and analyze their application to modern theatre and media.

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Bunraku, Discussion, and Reflection

by Drama Teacher Academy

In this lesson, students will be introduced to the elements of Bunraku and, if you choose, discuss the theatre of the unit and complete a unit reflection.

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Censorship in the 18th Century

by Drama Teacher Academy

In this lesson, students will explore the impact of censorship on an era of theatre and create a theatrical moment using a specific censorship prompt.

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Characters in the Comedy of Manners

by Lindsay Price

The Comedy of Manners is a style of comedy that uses satire to highlight the behaviours, actions, fashions, and “manners” of a segment of society. Students will explore characters in the comedy of manners and then create a comedy of manners character profile with one of the characters from The
Importance of Being Earnest.

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Chinese Opera

by Marsha Walner

Students explore Chinese opera and how some of what culture values can be seen in an exaggerated way on stage.

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Chinese Opera

by Drama Teacher Academy

In this lesson, students will be introduced to Chinese opera and apply their knowledge through a choice board of activities.

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Compare and Contrast: Theatre spaces

by Lindsay Price

Theatre spaces have changed throughout history, from the outdoor amphitheatres of Ancient Greece to the black box of modern times. In this lesson plan, students will identify what makes a theatre space in a specific era and then compare and contrast two different theatre spaces.

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Context Clues

by Karen Loftus

Students review context clues and apply it to the Prologue from Romeo and Juliet.

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Creating a Commedia Character

by Drama Teacher Academy

Students will work through a process to create a commedia character.

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Crime Scene Clues

by Karen Loftus

Students apply their knowledge of context clues to find meaning in the Tomb Scene from Romeo and Juliet.

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Culminating Activity

by Drama Teacher Academy

There is a lot in this unit, so perhaps you’ll just want to end with the quiz and reflection. However, if you want a performance activity to end the unit, consider this Greek monologue activity.

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Culminating Activity

by Drama Teacher Academy

Students will take everything they’ve learned and put together a mystery play cycle.

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Culminating Activity

by Drama Teacher Academy

Students will take everything they’ve learned and put together a commedia troupe, create a commedia character complete with lazzi, and present a scene based on one of the three main commedia themes.

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Culminating Activity

by Drama Teacher Academy

Decide how students will demonstrate their knowledge of the unit. A variety of activities are provided. You can choose to have all your students do the same activity, or allow students to choose how they demonstrate their knowledge. Rubrics are provided for each activity.

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Culminating Activity

by Drama Teacher Academy

Decide how students will demonstrate their knowledge of the unit. A variety of activities are provided. You can choose to have all your students do the same activity, or allow students to choose how they demonstrate their knowledge. Rubrics are provided for each activity.

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Culminating Activity

by Drama Teacher Academy

Decide how students will demonstrate their knowledge of the unit. A variety of activities are provided. You can choose to have all your students do the same activity, or allow students to choose how they demonstrate their knowledge. Rubrics are provided for each activity.

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Culminating Activity

by Drama Teacher Academy

Decide how students will demonstrate their knowledge of the unit. A variety of activities are provided. You can choose to have all your students do the same activity, or allow students to choose how they demonstrate their knowledge. Rubrics are provided for each activity.

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Culminating Activity

by Drama Teacher Academy

Decide how students will demonstrate their knowledge of the unit. A variety of activities are provided. You can choose to have all your students do the same activity, or allow students to choose how they demonstrate their knowledge. Rubrics are provided for each activity.

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Culminating Assignment

by Lindsay Price

In this culminating assignment, students will apply what they have learned throughout this unit to a modern devised scene.

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Culminating Project

by Wendy-Marie Martin

This project combines creativity with analytical thought as students connect ideas and concepts with their imagination in order to create a theme park that embodies all five of the “isms” we’ve covered: symbolism, Dadaism, surrealism, expressionism, and absurdism.

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Dadaism

by Wendy-Marie Martin

This lesson introduces the characteristics of Dadaism, through Ubu Roi, Dadaism manifestos, Voltaire, and Dada art. Students will learn how to write a Dada poem of their own.

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Does the “Where” Affect Performance?

by Lindsay Price

The Greek Theatre is the ancestor of the modern theatre. It is the birth of the actor stepping away from a chorus of unison speakers, as well as the catalyst that triggered the practice of building theatres. We can look at the production of theatre in that time and see similarities to how we present theatre today. But where do we start? And how do we make theatre history more than the collection of data?
In this lesson plan, students will explore the connection between the past and present by asking the question, “Does the “where” affect performance?” Students will compare and contrast the modern stage with the Ancient Greek Amphitheatre.

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Elizabethan Playwrights and Plays

by Drama Teacher Academy

In this lesson, students will be introduced to Elizabethan playwrights and their plays: Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson, and William Shakespeare.

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Emergency Lesson Plan: Elements of Greek Tragedy

by Lindsay Price

In this ELP, students will study a handout on Ancient Greek Tragedy, take a short quiz and write a reflection.

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Emergency Lesson Plan: Introduction to Molière

by Lindsay Price

In this ELP, students will read an article and complete quick-fire questions. If you’re in the middle of studying Shakespeare, there’s a compare-and-contrast question that you can use as the class work, or students can complete and grade a quiz.

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Expanding the Unit

by Karen Loftus

Three suggestions for adding on to this unit are included, as well as a unit reflection for your students.

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Expressionism

by Wendy-Marie Martin

This lesson investigates expressionist theatre and compare to the other movements discussed thus far. Using O'Neill's The Hairy Ape, students will conduct deep analysis on a scene.

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Final Preparations

by Marsha Walner

Final preparations for the performance during this class, including making and incorporating props or costumes and polishing the scenes.

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France and Neoclassism

by Drama Teacher Academy

In this lesson, students will do a research project on the sociopolitical and cultural background of France. They will then learn about neoclassicism as well as the plays and playwrights of the era. Students will create a neoclassicism scene and then “break the rules” by rewriting it in the style of Molière.

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Historical and Cultural Contexts

by Wendy-Marie Martin

This lesson looks at the historical and cultural context of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

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Introduction

by Karen Loftus

Students discuss myths, explore group movement and combine movement with choral speaking in a choral ode.

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Introduction

by Lindsay Price

The Comedy of Manners is a style of comedy that uses satire to highlight the behaviours, actions, fashions, and “manners” of a segment of society. In this lesson students discuss the nature of comedies that make fun of a group of people and the definition of satire. They are taken through a slide deck that introduces the background and style elements of the comedy of manners. Students also complete a Viewing Quiz.

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Introduction to Antigone and Agatha Rex

by Angel Borths

Students will be able to summarize the plot of a story from Ancient Greek Theatre using a description of a classical Greek tragedy.

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Introduction to Elizabethan Theatre

by Drama Teacher Academy

In this lesson, students will be introduced to Elizabethan theatre from the thrust stage to the acting companies. They will also compare and contrast (in discussion and through scenes) the proscenium space with the thrust theatre space, and play with the Elizabethan language in an improv.

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Introduction to Medieval Theatre

by Ruth Richards

Students will explore Medieval Theatre by role playing what it would be like to perform at the time. Students form trade guilds, create a medieval market scene, and then work on a morality scenario. Lesson plan comes with a written assignment to be completed after the practical assignment.

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Italian Renaissance Theatre

by Drama Teacher Academy

In this lesson, students will be introduced to three lasting influences of Italian Renaissance theatre: the proscenium theatre, pastoral plays, and opera. Students will create a modern pastoral scene and do a scene sing through.

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Kabuki

by Drama Teacher Academy

In this lesson, students will be introduced to Kabuki, the staging, the plays, the acting style, makeup, and the all-important climatic pose—the mie. They will apply their knowledge by creating their own mie and walking like a Kabuki actor. Finally, they’ll create a mini modern-Kabuki scene.

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Kabuki Theatre from Japan

by Marsha Walner

Students explore Kabuki from Japan and use the Mie technique to display character in this for-the-masses spectacle form of theatre.

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Lazzi

by Drama Teacher Academy

Students will add to their commedia character by exploring Lazzi, practiced and predetermined comic bits.

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Manners and Codes in the Comedy of Manners

by Lindsay Price

The comedy of manners is a style of comedy that uses satire to highlight the behaviours, actions, fashions, and “manners” of a segment of society. Students will explore the element of manners and codes of behaviour in a modern context, and then look at how the element is applied to a scene from The Importance of Being Earnest.

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Mask Making & Skene Backdrop Activity

by Angel Borths

Students will be able to design and build a Greek Theatre mask in the traditional style for a character in Agatha Rex. Students will be able to design and build a skene backdrop.

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Medieval Drama - Morality Plays

by Lindsay Price

Lessons to cover two class periods. Students learn the elements of a Medieval Morality Play and then create their own morality play with a modern context. Includes a modern version of "Everyman" and three assessment rubrics.

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Medieval Drama - The Mystery Play

by Lindsay Price

Lessons cover two class periods.

Students learn the elements of a Medieval Mystery Play cycle and then create their own Mystery cycle within a modern context. Includes handouts, assignment sheets, and rubrics.

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Medieval Theatre

by Drama Teacher Academy

In this lesson, students are introduced to the origins of Medieval theatre, create a feast of fools’ moment, and put together their own version of The Second Shepherd’s Play.

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Noh Drama

by Drama Teacher Academy

In this lesson, students will be introduced to Noh drama, the design, the character types, and plays. They will explore walking and gesturing like a Noh actor and apply their knowledge by creating a scene of opposites.

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Noh Theatre from Japan

by Marsha Walner

Exploring Noh from Japan and how masks and movement techniques communicate character in a unique style of storytelling.

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Origins of Ancient Greek Theatre

by Drama Teacher Academy

In this lesson, students will be introduced to Ancient Greek theatre festivals and then apply what they’ve learned by creating their own City Dionysia Festival.

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Part 1: Ancient Egypt

by Drama Teacher Academy

There isn’t a lot of information about the theatre of Ancient Egypt, but there’s certainly enough to know they performed stories. We will look at the theatre of Ancient Egypt, discuss if the elements did in fact represent theatre as we know it, and, using learned elements, perform an Ancient Egypt myth.

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Part 2: Sanskrit Drama

by Drama Teacher Academy

We will look at Sanskrit drama over two class periods, starting with a background introduction and then exploring elements of the sanskrit drama how-to manual, the Nāṭya Śāstra, and applying knowledge through scene work.

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Part 3: Indigenous Storytelling

by Drama Teacher Academy

This Indigenous Storytelling unit is brought to you in a different format than a traditional lesson plan. It uses a learning circle format. It was developed by Allison Green, a member of the Algonquin Band of Mattawa, Ontario.

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Parts of the Ancient Greek Stage

by Angel Borths

Students will be able to identify the parts of an Ancient Greek Stage and explain the function of each element.

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Performance

by Marsha Walner

Final performances will occur on this day, with audience members offering observation-based feedback.

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Performance & Reflection

by Angel Borths

Students will be able to perform an adaptation of a classical greek play, using theatrical masks as a group.

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Playhouses

by Karen Loftus

Students are introduced to three of the most important playhouses in the Elizabethan Era, as well as the areas of the Globe Theatre.

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Plays and Playwrights

by Drama Teacher Academy

In this lesson, students will be introduced to the plays and playwrights of Ancient Greek theatre. They will create their own hero’s downfall, take on a choral reading, examine Aristotle’s elements of drama, and read a monologue from Antigone.

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Playwrights & Players

by Karen Loftus

This session introduces students to the Elizabethan Era, and its’ key playwrights and players.

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Post-Reading Reflection & Mask Activity

by Angel Borths

Students will be able to design and build a Greek Theatre mask in the traditional style for a character in Agatha Rex.

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Presentation & Reflection

by Lindsay Price

In this lesson, students present their topics, lead the class through an activity, and provide a reflection. They also self-evaluate the process.

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Restoration Comedy: Comedy of Manners

by Drama Teacher Academy

In this lesson, students will be introduced to Restoration comedy, specifically Comedy of Manners. Students will create scenes that “mock” a society group as comedy of manners does, explore wordplay, examine lines from comedy of manners plays, and reflect how the comedy of manners acts as a mirror to the audience.

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Roman Theatre and Unit Wrap-up

by Drama Teacher Academy

In this lesson, we will move on to the Roman theatre, which mainly shows how Greek theatre was adapted by the Romans.

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Romantic Theatre

by Drama Teacher Academy

In this lesson, students will be introduced to the elements of Romantic theatre, examine what makes a “well-made” play, apply Goethe’s three questions of art criticism, practice a couple of Delsarte’s emotional gestures, and use those gestures to create their own modern melodrama.

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Romanticism

by Drama Teacher Academy

In this lesson, students will be introduced to the characteristics of Romanticism in literature, painting, and music. For each category, students will analyze samples and discuss how these pieces illustrate the characteristics of Romanticism. Finally, students will create a theatrical moment that applies the characteristics of Romanticism.

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Sanskrit Theatre from India

by Marsha Walner

Students explore Sanskrit theatre from India and how rituals and intentional actions give strength and unity to the creative process.

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Scene Building and Polish

by Marsha Walner

Groups will polish their piece, ensuring everyone is clear on their responsibilities as well as requesting any production elements necessary.

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Scene Development

by Marsha Walner

Students will form small groups and delve into one style. They will use that style to retell a common folktale or story, conceptualizing how their story will unfold on stage.

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Scene Rehearsal

by Angel Borths

Students will be able to stage and rehearse an adaptation of a classical greek play, using theatrical masks as a group.

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Set the Stage for Chinese Opera

by Drama Teacher Academy

In this lesson, students will be introduced to the sociopolitical and cultural background to set the stage for Chinese opera. Students will then complete a research project and present on a specific Chinese topic. It’s important, especially with a type of theatre that may be unknown to students, to first research the background.

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Set the Stage for Commedia Dell'Arte

by Drama Teacher Academy

In this lesson, students will be introduced to the commedia dell’arte form and start their exploration of stock characters.

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Set the Stage for Elizabethan Theatre

by Drama Teacher Academy

In this lesson, students will be introduced to Elizabethan England. They will complete a research project on the sociopolitical and cultural background of the era to set the stage for Shakespeare and other playwrights of Elizabethan England.

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Set the Stage for Greek Theatre Origins

by Drama Teacher Academy

In this lesson, students will be introduced to the Ancient Greek era. They will demonstrate their mythical knowledge through a mythology-specific game of Jeopardy! Finally, students will complete a research project on the sociopolitical and cultural background of the era.

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Set the Stage for Japanese Theatre

by Drama Teacher Academy

In this lesson, students will be introduced to the sociopolitical and cultural background to set the stage for Japanese theatre. Students will then do research and present on a specific topic. It’s important, especially with a type of theatre that may be unknown to students, to first research the background.

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Set the Stage for Medieval Theatre

by Drama Teacher Academy

In this lesson, students will be introduced to the socioeconomic background to set the stage for Medieval theatre. As a response to what they’ve learned, students will create original theatrical moments and read a modern version of one of The Canterbury Tales stories.

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Set the Stage for Restoration Comedy

by Drama Teacher Academy

In this lesson, students will be introduced to late 17th century England. They will complete a research project on the sociopolitical and cultural background of the era to set the stage for Restoration comedy.

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Set the Stage for Romanticism

by Drama Teacher Academy

In this lesson, students will be introduced to the 19th century and the Romantic period. They will complete a research project on the sociopolitical and cultural background of the era to set the stage for Romanticism.

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Skene Sketching & Vocabulary Activity

by Angel Borths

Students will be able to use their knowledge of Greek theatre to predict matching definitions and terms.

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Spanish Golden Age

by Drama Teacher Academy

In this lesson, students will do a research project on the sociopolitical and cultural background of Spain and learn about the plays and playwrights of this era. They will also explore a monologue from the play Life Is a Dream.

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Storytelling in Ancient Greece

by Lindsay Price

Greek Theatre is the ancestor of the Modern Theatre. It is the birth of the actor stepping away from a chorus of unison speakers. The building of theatres. We can look at the production of theatre in that time and see similarities to how we present theatre today. But where do we start? And how do we make theatre history more than just the collection of data?
In this lesson plan, students will explore the connection between the way they tell stories in the 21st century and the way that the Ancient Greeks told stories. Students will also explore Ancient Greek vases and Homer’s The Iliad.

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Strange Language

by Karen Loftus

Students learn how to use context clues to approach the unfamiliar words they will find in Shakepeare’s language.

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Surrealism

by Wendy-Marie Martin

This lesson looks at Breton's Manifesto of Surrealism, Atraud's Theatre of Cruelty, and the game of Exquisite Corpse. Students will create their own short surrealist play.

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Symbolism

by Wendy-Marie Martin

This lesson focuses on symbolism by investigating The Manifesto of Symbolism by Jean Moreas to help inspire students to write their own short manifestos.

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The 18th Century

by Drama Teacher Academy

In this lesson, students will be introduced to the turmoil of the 18th century. Theatre was extremely curtailed by censorship in this era. They will complete a research project on the sociopolitical and cultural background of the era to set the stage for a lesson on censorship in the 18th century.

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The 21st Century Story

by Lindsay Price

Theatre is about communication. A story is presented to an audience. Storytelling was one of the earliest forms of entertainment that we continue to use today. Even though the method for delivering the story has changed, the form itself has stayed the same for thousands of years.

In this lesson, students will create their version of the 21st century story. What stories do we tell today? How do we tell them? Who do we tell them to?

You can use this lesson as an intro to studying modern theatre, especially for students who don’t have a theatre background. You can also use this lesson as an intro for Ancient Greek Theatre. Start by examining stories in a modern context, then shift to the Ancient Greek era.

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The Ancient Greek People

by Lindsay Price

The Ancient Greek Theatre is the birth of the modern theatre. We can look at the production of theatre in that time and see similarities to how we present theatre today. But where do we start? And how do we make theatre history more than the collection of data?

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The Ancient Greeks

by Lindsay Price

The Ancient Greek Theatre is the birth of the modern theatre. We can look at the production of theatre in that time and see similarities to how we present theatre today. But where do we start? And how do we make theatre history more than the collection of data? It’s hard for students to conceptualize an era that happened so long ago as populated with real people. This lesson plan encourages discussion, application, and reflection on the Ancient Greeks.

Be sure to check out the Ancient Greek Theatre handout as an accompaniment to this lesson. A powerpoint link is also included that is ready to use in your classroom!

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The Ancient Greeks - Handout

by Lindsay Price

This handout is designed as an accompaniment to The Ancient Greeks lesson plan. The two-page handout includes visuals and a description of who the ancient greeks were, including democracy/slavery, the role of women, war/culture, competition, and the Gods.

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The Birthplace of the Renaissance

by Drama Teacher Academy

In this lesson, students will be introduced to Renaissance theatre. They will complete a research project on the sociopolitical and cultural background for the birthplace of the Renaissance: Italy.

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The Festival of Dionysus

by Lindsay Price

In this lesson, students trace the journey from ancient storytelling to modern day theatre thousands of years later. One of the main reason theatre evolved like it did was because of performance opportunities during City Dionysus festivals in tribute to Dionysus. The performance framework moved from one person telling a story to a group, to a choral group performing, to one person stepping out in front of the chorus as an actor and so on. It’s interesting for students to see that the more you perform a form, the more that form evolves.

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The Globe Theatre

by Lindsay Price

Students will read The Globe Theatre Handout. Based on the given information, students will re-create the experience of going to The Globe and complete a compare and contrast assignment.

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The Theatre

by Karen Loftus

Students are introduced to aspects of Ancient Greek Theatre and the performing space. The session culminates in students creating their own choral ode in groups.

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The Theatre Space

by Karen Loftus

Students label parts of an Ancient Greek Amphitheatre and apply their knowledge in an exercise.

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Theatre Conventions

by Drama Teacher Academy

In this lesson, students will be introduced to the conventions of Ancient Greek theatre and then complete a compare and contrast activity.

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Tragedy, Satyr, and Comedy

by Lindsay Price

The Greek Theatre is the birth of the modern theatre. It is the birth of the actor stepping away from a chorus of unison speakers, as well as the catalyst that triggered the building of theatres. We can look at the production of theatre in that time and see similarities to how we present theatre today. But where do we start? And how do we make theatre history more than the collection of data?
In this lesson plan, students will explore the connection between “what” of Ancient Greek Theatre: tragedy, satyr, and comedy.

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Unit Project

by Karen Loftus

The final project for this unit will be a modern version of Medea. Students are exposed to the plot and characters, then create their own version to perform which includes a choral ode. A unit reflection and rubric are included.

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Verbal Comedy in the Comedy of Manners

by Lindsay Price

The comedy of manners is a style of comedy that uses satire to highlight the behaviours, actions, fashions, and “manners” of a segment of society. Students will explore aspects of verbal comedy in a modern context and then look at how the element is applied to a scene from The Importance of
Being Earnest.

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Vocabulary Quiz

by Angel Borths

Students will be able to complete a formal assessment of their knowledge of Ancient Greek Theatre.

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Western Theatre

by Marsha Walner

Students will define Western theatre based on what we know about our culture and its storytelling traditions.

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What Else Can You Do with Ancient Greek Theatre?

by Lindsay Price

Ten ideas for further class work and activities for Ancient Greek Theatre.

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Where Did Drama Begin?

by Ruth Richards

Students will explore the origins of drama through ritual and chant. After discussing modern versions, students will create a ritualistic chant using choral speaking, and synchronized movements.

Lesson Plan comes with an evaluation sheet and a rubric.

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Who is Thespis?

by Lindsay Price

Thespis is often stated as being the first actor because he stepped away from the chorus. But who is he? What do we know as fact and what has been assumed as his origin story? What happens when unreliable evidence is recorded as historical fact? Does it matter?

In this lesson, students will draw their own conclusions about the validity of Thespis as a reliable figure in theatre history. They will also write a monologue from the perspective of a character who shares their viewpoint.

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Who is Thespis? Project Version

by Lindsay Price

Thespis is often stated as being the first actor because he stepped away from the chorus. But who is he? What do we know as fact and what has been assumed as his origin story? What happens when unreliable evidence is recorded as historical fact? Does it matter?

In this lesson, students will research, present and draw their own conclusions about the validity of Thespis as a reliable figure in theatre history. They will then write and present a scene that showcases their viewpoint.

*This lesson requires internet accessibility (for students to research for the project) either during class time or afterward as assigned homework.

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