View all Standards for California VAPA Standards (2001)

2.1 Development of Theatrical Skills - Make acting choices, using script analysis, character research, reflection, and revision to create characters from classical, contemporary, realistic, and nonrealistic dramatic texts.

UNIT

Stage Movement

by Karen Loftus

In this unit, students are introduced to stage directions and how actors move on stage. They will explore what’s important for onstage action, the basics of stage directions, and how to keep open. By giving students something concrete to focus on, it allows them to overcome any stage fright. Teachers can refer to the Pacing Guide for more details and ways to supplement with other DTA materials.

This unit will culminate with students trying out what they’ve learned in a short scene. Each session comes with an journal prompt and an exit slip for assessment.

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UNIT

Ancient Greek Theatre

by Karen Loftus

This unit on Ancient Greek Theatre focuses on the function of the chorus, the choral ode, and the details of the theatre space. It touches on plays and playwrights of the era, culminating in a final project of a modern version of Medea that includes a choral ode.

A rubric is included for the project as long as journal prompts and exit slips. Please refer to the Pacing Guide for more details and ways to supplement with other DTA materials.

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UNIT

Script Analysis: The Actor's Perspective

by Karen Loftus

How does an actor analyze a script? Students start with character analysis (how do we learn about a character in a script? what are the facts/inferences about a character?) and then explore the ideas of “objective,” “obstacle,” “stakes,” and “tactics.”

The unit culminates with students applying learned script analysis techniques on an assigned scene. Please refer to the Pacing Guide for more details and ways to supplement with other DTA materials.

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UNIT

Elizabethan Theatre

by Karen Loftus

How do you introduce students to Shakespeare? This unit introduces the bard through life in Elizabethan England, the playwrights, players and playhouses. It also explores how to approach unfamiliar words and context clues in Shakespeare’s text.

As with any theatre history unit, you have to decide what’s most important to introduce to the students. For this unit, we’ll focus on three things in the three different categories. Please refer to the Pacing Guide for more details and ways to supplement with other DTA materials.

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UNIT

Musical Theatre

by Anna Porter

Musical Theatre has two components that separate it from straight plays: song and dance. This unit gives students the opportunity to try out both. In musical theatre, music signifies heightened emotion. We can’t express ourselves with just words, we need music (and through extension, song and dance) to take it further.

This unit includes three lesson plans:

1. Acting the Song - “Musical Tactics”
2. Acting the Song - “Textual Analysis”
3. Introduction to Dance

A solo performance assignment is also included, and the unit includes assessment tools - rubrics, reflections, and self-evaluations.

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UNIT

Theatre of the Absurd

by Lea Marshall

WARNING: This unit is ABSURD. However, instructor Lea Marshall decided to do something really ABSURD with the unit, which was make it a bit more predictable. First, the unit takes two lessons to go over the Historical and Philosophical background of Theatre of the Absurd. It starts with just a visual exercise to really bring students into the emotional bleakness of the landscape and then group work to look at some of the other foundational elements that will drive the Absurdist movement into the Theatres.

Next, students break down absurd scripts into some “recognizable” elements of language, plot structure, acting choices, and storyline. With each lesson that introduces an Absurdist Element, there is an opportunity for students to “play” with the element. Then, students explore the element through an Absurdist text. This will help familiarize the students with the 4 Absurdist scripts used in the unit. These bite sized forays into the scripts will help students to choose a script to fully immerse themselves in for the final project.

As a final project, students will choose one script to work with, and choose the format of their project (performance, costume or set design, or playwright).

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UNIT

Agatha Rex and Ancient Greek Theatre

by Angel Borths

Help…It’s all Greek to me! Join Angel Borths in this unit that uses a modern adaptation of the Ancient Greek play Antigone to introduce Middle School students to Ancient Greek Theatre.

Have your students read Percy Jackson and want to find out more about Ancient Greece? Then, this unit is for you. This unit is designed for middle and high school students and will take you through the basics of classical Greek theatre and pairs it with a modern adaptation of the story of Antigone called Agatha Rex by Lindsay Price. Students will learn vocabulary, design, and basic theory surrounding classical Greek theatre. Students will also enjoy the mask building component of this unit, as they learn to disappear into the character of a mask, like the first actors did on a Greek stage thousands of years ago.

The unit culminates in a scene performance with masks.

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UNIT

Shakespeare Performance

by Anna Porter

In this unit by Anna Porter, students are introduced to the works of Shakespeare and explore how to bring a character to life in a monologue performance. Students are also introduced to the tools to help them unlock meaning in Shakespeare’s text. Through this eleven lesson series, students will participate in class discussions, activities and performance. Assessment tools include informal assessment, submission of textual analysis work and a final performance.

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UNIT

Unlocking Shakespeare's Text

by Anna Porter

Shakespeare’s text holds valuable tools that students can use to unlock and understand meaning. In this unit by Anna Porter, students explore how to use the tools of research, context, textual analysis, imagery and punctuation to help them unlock meaning in Shakespeare’s text. This unit is created for an Intermediate to Advanced drama class with a basic background in plot structure and acting technique.

Through this five lesson series, students will use journals, participate in class discussions, activities and performance to explore the tools used to unlock a text. Assessment tools include informal assessment as well as a final group presentation and performance.

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UNIT

Pantomime

by Anna Porter

In this unit, students explore how to communicate with their body by exploring elements of physicality and Pantomime. Lesson one helps students explore body awareness as well as the use of the senses and details in pantomime performance. In lesson two, students explore body language and how it is used to communicate by examining the art of flirting. Lesson three helps students create a distinct physical characterization. Lesson four introduces students to the quality of Pantomime – Consistency. In lesson five, students explore the quality of exaggeration in pantomime. In the final lesson, students prepare a pantomime story for performance.

Through this six lesson series, students will use journals, participate in class discussions and practice the elements taught by performing for their peers and as a class. Assessment tools include both informal assessment as well as a final Pantomime performance.

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UNIT

Character Analysis

by Matt Webster

The Drama Two Curriculum has been developed to expand and deepen the students’ skills as actors. In this unit, students will use open scenes to generate characters and scenarios. They will then explore the ideas of “objective,” “tactics,” and “status.” The unit culminates with students applying learned character analysis techniques to classroom generated open scenes.

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UNIT

Performing Shakespeare

by Matt Webster

In this unit, students are introduced to a series of lesson plans that explore non-traditional approaches to performing the works of William Shakespeare. By the end of the unit students will be exposed to a unique set of tools they can utilize as the foundations for analyzing, staging and performing a scene from Shakespeare’s canon. Students will then rehearse and perform a two-person Shakespearean scene.

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UNIT

Staging

by Josh Hatt

This is a mini-unit on staging. Along with the driving question for the unit, students will explore about how staging affects the performance. Students will draw a plot design (ground plan) to emphasize the need to plan where scenic elements will be placed. They will also practice taking cues from the script, in order to create staging.

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UNIT

Tools of Scene Work

by Anna Porter

Students are introduced to scene work performance through a simple, contentless scene unit. In this unit, performers will use exercises like “Show and Tell” to learn how to fill in the gaps of a story by creating scenarios and detailed characters with backgrounds.

Students will further fill in the gaps by exploring environmental and physical conflict as well as stage business. The lesson “Thou Shalts of Staging” will guide students through basic staging and performance technique.

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UNIT

Commedia dell'Arte

by Todd Espeland

Commedia dell’arte is a 16th century masked acting form. It is the basis of all comedy, including all tv sitcoms. This form is characterized by masked types and archetypical characters and a specific way of playing comedy. To that end, this unit is divided into two parts.

Part One focuses on the foundations of commedia - playing comedy. These principles will be important to learn when it comes to developing commedia characters, specifically the physicality of the characters. Part Two will cover lazzi.

Note: there are links to video demos in many of the lessons of this unit.

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UNIT

Production Classroom Units Overview

by Karen Loftus

The overview lays out the all of the parts of The Production Classroom Units - which is divided into three parts.

In Part One, you’ll take your students through a series of pre-production units designed to help students gain as much comprehension as possible about putting on a successful production.

Part Two offers articles on each step in the process, samples and forms, a suggested pacing, role definitions and task checklists, an outline for a typical class, as well as performance duties. This section also outlines the assessment piece for The Production Classroom – the production binder.

Part Three provides a Post-Performance Reflection. Unpack the experience with students, reflect back on what went right and what could be changed for next time. A written Reflection is included as well as a Rubric for student production binders.

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UNIT

Part One - Pre-Production

by Karen Loftus

In Part One of The Production Classroom, you’ll take your students through a series of pre-production units designed to help students gain as much comprehension as possible about putting on a successful production.

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UNIT

Part Two - Rehearsal and Performance

by Karen Loftus

Part Two offers articles on each step in the process, samples and forms, a suggested pacing, role definitions and task checklists, an outline for a typical class, as well as performance duties. This section also outlines the assessment piece for The Production Classroom – the production binder.

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UNIT

Part Two - Documents

by Karen Loftus

This section provides samples and worksheets for actor forms, costume department, general binder, lighting and sound, marketing samples, scenic and prop samples, and stage management and production manager samples and forms.

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UNIT

Part Three - Reflection and Assessment

by Karen Loftus

Part Three provides a Post-Performance Reflection. Unpack the experience with students, reflect back on what went right and what could be changed for next time. A written Reflection is included as well as a Rubric for student production binders.

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UNIT

Theatrical Arguments: Pursuing Objectives, Communication, and Conflict

by Rachel Atkins

In this middle school unit by Rachel Atkins, students will explore how to strengthen a theatrical argument through objectives, communication, and conflict: What characters do, what they say, and how they say it when they make an argument or try to achieve an objective. To do this, students will use tableaux, dialogue, and improv. There are presentations and post-lesson writing assignments that you can use for assessment.

How do characters, actors and writers use a variety of actions to achieve an objective or support an argument? How do they enhance their communication by word choice and emotion? How do they develop and strengthen their own arguments by understanding other points of view?

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UNIT

The Actor in Transition: From Presentational to Three-Dimensional

by John Minigan

The objective of this unit by John Minigan is to move students from a traditional presentational model of performance to a three-dimensional model. You’re going to achieve this by having students
- Develop tactics to achieve character goals, despite obstacles
- Connect physical choices to scene structure and relationships
- Clarify tactics and story rather than forcing emotion
- And focus on the scene partner rather than the self

This unit was created to use with grade nine students as a transition from middle school to high school acting approaches. It would also be appropriate for a beginning-of-the-year unit for a program that includes Drama 1. But any class that is at the beginning of their acting process will find value.

Each lesson comes with an engagement Rubric to assess how students participated in the activities and discussions.

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UNIT

Creating a Musical: Project

by Annie Dragoo

Want a fun project that has your students collaborating and creating? In this unit by Annie Dragoo, students in groups will write and perform an original musical by adding modern songs to a traditional fairy tale story.

The six lessons take students from writing their script, to choreography and planned movement, to rehearsing, performing and evaluation.

The Rubric will focus on student performance. That means vocal delivery, emotional delivery, blocking/choreography, energy, focus, and characters.

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UNIT

Unit Six: Directed Scenes Take 1: Same Scene, Different Visions

by Lindsay Johnson

Students will now start applying the skills they’ve learned thus far in the context of existing, fleshed-out scripts.

They will also have opportunities to shift from actor to director and hone such skills as collaboration, self-confidence, and problem-solving which can be used in many other areas of their lives.

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UNIT

Our Town Unit

by Lindsay Price

This is a read, discuss, and apply literature unit. Students will study the play Our Town by Thornton Wilder.

Our Town is often referred to as “nostalgic.” It’s seen as an antiquated look at a moment in time. But this play is called Our Town, not My Town. What’s happening in Grover’s Corners happened in the past, the distant past, in our present, and even in the future. The themes of the play—the ordinary versus universality, the concept of time, the cycle of life, the ignorance of humanity to the eternal—these are just as relevant in the twenty-first century as they were when the play was written.

The purpose of the unit is not to have students recall knowledge about the play. Students will be able to identify, articulate, and dramatize text themes and concepts and compare/contrast these concepts to their own experiences.

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UNIT

Theatre of the Absurd

by Lea Marshall

We included this unit in our Distance Learning Curriculum because if any group of students would understand how the world turned upside down and then apply it to theatre, it would be the students dealing with a global pandemic.

First, we take two lessons to go over the historical and philosophical background of Theatre of the Absurd. We start with a visual exercise to bring students into the emotional bleakness of the landscape and then group work to look at some of the other foundational elements that will drive the absurdist movement into the theatres. Next, we break down absurd scripts into some “recognizable” elements of language, plot structure, acting choices, and storyline. In each lesson that introduces an absurdist element, there is an opportunity for students to “play” with the element.

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UNIT

Scene Work: Part 2, Student Self Staging

by Lindsay Price

In Part 2 of Scene Work, students take everything they learned in Part 1 and apply it to the staging of a scene.
Students work independently to block, build character, experiment and rehearse a scene. You can continue the scene work process from Part 1, or if your students have a grounding with scene work basics, perhaps they just do Part 2 of this unit.

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PD COURSE

Introduction to Teaching Mask

by Allison Williams

In Introduction to Teaching Mask, Allison Williams gives you a toolkit of mask and movement exercises to teach students to make big, confident physical choices, to work in their bodies, and play different characters - masked and unmasked.

Access to masks is required, but previous experience with masks is not.

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PD COURSE

From Audition to Curtain Call: Directing Youth Theatre

by Steven Stack

Directing youth theatre can be one of the most thrilling, rewarding, and exhausting jobs there is – because it’s not just about staging a play. It’s about creating an environment that fosters hard work, dedication, trust, and the willingness to take chances, to “play without fear.”

As a writer/teacher/director of youth theatre for over 15 years, I have developed tools and strategies that enable my students and me to focus on the process of creating theatre while fostering an environment that leads to creative freedom and a cohesive groups that doesn't act as individual “stars,” but as a community of one.

In this course, I will share with you these tips and strategies, along with the ways to implement them in your theatre environment.

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PD COURSE

Friendly Shakespeare

by Todd Espeland

Friendly Shakespeare teaches a simple and effective method of script analysis for Shakespeare. It uses punctuation and keywords in the text to help students understand the characters' needs, make specific acting choices, and get them on their feet immediately.

This is not dry, sitting in a classroom discussion. It’s physicalizing the text, focusing on the character’s needs and tactics (something every drama student should know full well) and bringing Shakespeare to life.

At the end of the class you will be able to demystify Shakespeare's text and understand how to help your actors make clear, active and emotionally connected choices in Shakespeare's plays.

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PD COURSE

Strong Ensemble = Strong Play

by Craig Mason

This mini-course will give you a toolkit to bring your shows to the next level by having an engaged, active, ensemble.

The ensemble is a critical part of a large cast show. But you can't leave them to fend for themselves. They need structure. They need exercises and activities.

In Strong Ensemble = Strong Play, you'll be given ensemble-building exercises. You'll also discover specific activities that will help your ensemble become three-dimensional characters who have something to do and something to play in every moment they are on stage.

We'll look at case studies that take the exercises learned in the course and apply them to specific shows.

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PD COURSE

Working With Monologues For Rehearsal And Development

by Gai Jones

In "Working With Monologues For Rehearsal And Development" you will develop ten sessions of study on monologues. The study contains the definition and history of the monologue; monologue vocabulary; analysis of a practice monologue, staging a short monologue; working with musical theatre lyrics as a monologue; writing short autobiographical monologues.

At the end of this course, you will have a curriculum which can be used as introduction to monologue work. You'll outline a curriculum for your classroom and tie the learning benchmarks to the new National Theatre V&PA standards, as well as to Ontario and BC curriculum expectations.

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PD COURSE

Laban: Advanced Characterization

by Todd Espeland

Learn about the Laban system to teach your students to physically and vocally discover character. This is an advanced course, which means that the course goes deep into exploring character and exploring character work through the work of Rudolph Laban.

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PD COURSE

Commedia I: Playing Comedy

by Todd Espeland

Commedia dell’arte is a 16th Century masked acting form. It’s the basis of all comedy and it’s a form that many teachers want to include in their curriculum.

Instructor Todd Espeland has designed two courses that work hand-in-hand with teaching this fantastic physical form.

In Commedia I: Playing Comedy - Todd teaches the principles of comedy through four key elements: status, appetite, swing, and intention/invention. This course provides an excellent foundation upon which to explore Commedia to its fullest. Includes bonus videos, handouts, reflections, and exit slip question ideas for each lesson.

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PD COURSE

Creating the Ensemble-Based Classroom

by Gai Jones

Gai Jones will help you establish an ensemble-based environment from the first day of class or rehearsal.

Learn how to set up your ensemble-based classroom from day one, get students to set classroom norms, and find the balance between creative activity and structure. You’ll learn how to give your students creative freedom through structure and classroom management. The cornerstone of this course are the detailed ensemble experiences from large group to small group and even individual experiences.

This course culminates in a devising model that you can use with your students, and takes you through process, product, performance and an evaluation.

You too can create the ensemble-based classroom.

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PD COURSE

The Production Classroom

by Karen Loftus

In The Production Classroom, instructor Karen Loftus will show you how to explore ways that you can produce shows during your regular class time. The course gives you a series of exercises and reflections that help you determine everything, from the type of show you may want to do, to the way you can divide up your class and responsibilities, to specific assignments that will keep your students engaged and focused.

The Production Classroom is the ultimate in project-based learning. Students learn to work collaboratively while setting goals and working towards a successful finished project. The course includes exercises and strategies to use with students to help assure their success in the production. Multiple examples and anecdotes help you to envision what the production classroom could look like in your room, performance space or theatre.

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PD COURSE

21st Century Skills Through Devising

by Allison Williams

Allison Williams leads the course: 21st Century Skills Through Devising. This course covers what devising is, why to do it, how to do it, and how your students can master the 21st Century Skills of collaborations and cooperation, critical thinking, creative thinking through devising.

High school is a great place to try devising with your students. But it’s not something you want to throw at your students without any preparation. Framework is important and this course takes you through a number of exercises you can take into the classroom tomorrow to help build a place of physical safety, a place where students work at making a lot of choices instead of waiting for the perfect choice, and a place where students feel comfortable making creative choices. The material also reviews the process of putting together a show from the idea/research stage to editing, to giving feedback.

Your students have what it takes to create their own material, collaborate with each other, and have a unique theatrical experience!

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PD COURSE

Teaching Musical Theatre in the Drama Classroom

by Colin Oliver

Colin Oliver leads this introduction to teaching Musical Theatre in the Drama Classroom.

In this course, you will learn how to build musical theatre into your dramatic courses of study. “Why might you want to that? Singing is scary! You want me to teach my students how to do it? I don’t even know how to do it.” This course approaches musical theatre preparation performance much as we would approach preparing a monologue in drama. If you use script analysis in monologue preparation in your class, you can teach musical theatre.

By the end of this course, you’ll have a great, full-body physical warm-up, a student-driven research assignment, character development exercises, a little bit of musical theory, and a performance assignment complete with assessment.

So, join us for teaching Musical Theatre in the Drama Classroom. It’s as easy as Do-Re-Mi!

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PD COURSE

Beyond the Basics: Rehearsal Strategies to Grow Your Actors

by Julie Hartley

The focus of the teacher-director should be not only on the quality of the show, but on the value of the experience offered to student actors. This course takes you on this journey through practical rehearsal strategies that apply an ensemble approach.

This course starts with those all important first rehearsals, explores warm ups, and looks at character development. We examine specific types of plays, like classical texts and comedy, and concludes with strategies to solve common rehearsal problems.

Go beyond the basics!

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PD COURSE

The Empathetic Classroom

by Steven Stack

Why should you take a class on empathy? And why is theatre the perfect vehicle for empathy?

Empathy, the more sought-after and inclusive cousin of sympathy, is the experiencing of someone else’s experience in the world. What it would be like if you were wearing their clothes, their life?

Teaching students to understand the clothes that they’re putting on, the characters and their lives teaches students not how to act but how to be. It allows the students to feel what someone else feels and experiences, which can and should translate to their fellow actors and peers away from the stage. It will lead to a stronger class connection, stronger performances and stronger students who will seek out understanding instead of isolation and fear.

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PD COURSE

Practical Approaches to Shakespeare in the Drama Classroom

by Julie Hartley

Shakespeare is one of the greatest resources a drama teacher can have: scenes packed with action; opportunities to explore comedy and physical theatre; rich themes and characters to act as springboards for devised theatre; the chance to work with our language at its finest and – most importantly – ideas that relate directly to the experiences and preoccupations of students.

Yet Shakespeare isn’t easy. The language can seem dense, and finding a way in can be tough – especially for drama teachers who have not themselves studied Shakespeare. That’s the goal of this course – to help teachers find a way in.

This course presents teachers with as many ways in to the exploration of Shakespeare as possible. Action scenes, themes, characters, different theatre styles, and devised theatre projects. Students will be armed with the tools they need to begin individually exploring monologues, or working together on scenes.

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PD COURSE

Hands-On Theatre History: Creating a Modern Day Morality Play

by Wendy-Marie Martin

Who says theatre history has to be boring? Hands-On Theatre History: Creating a Modern Day Morality play is an interactive course by Wendy-Marie Martin, combining hands-on activities with research and analysis techniques leading to a full performance of the popular medieval morality play, Everyman.

This course gives students an overview of the medieval period and the various medieval play forms and teaches students the key points of storytelling and adaptation.

It includes dynamic individual and group exercises leading students from the first steps of the adaptation process through a final, full-class performance of Everyman—and proves, once and for all, that theatre history can be fun and exciting to learn.

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View all Standards for California VAPA Standards (2001)    Standards Master List