View all Standards for California VAPA Standards (2001)

2.1 Development of Theatrical Skills - Participate in improvisational activities, demonstrating an understanding of text, subtext, and context.

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.

Join now for instant access

UNIT

Commedia Dell'Arte

by Karen Loftus

Students are introduced to, analyze, and explore the history, characters, and style of Commedia dell’arte. Commedia Dell’Arte is a theatre history unit mixed with improvisation, physicalization, and exploring specific characters.

In this unit, we’re going to focus on three main aspects:
(1) Causes and Effects of Commedia (History), (2) Stock Characters, (3) Commedia Performance Practices.

The unit culminates in a commedia performance. 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.

Join now for instant access

UNIT

Improvisation

by Karen Loftus

Students sharpen their listening and reaction skills through improv games, exercises, and scenes. They will learn 5 specific guidelines to apply to their improvisation: accept the offer, bring information to the scene, make active choices, make your partner look good, and don’t force the humour.

There are so many different ways to approach a unit on improvisation. Keep in mind that you will have students who are really excited about this unit and some students who dread it. It’s best to start with low risk games and exercises and then build up to higher risk ones. Low risk games in this situation mean partnered interactions that aren’t shared with the whole class. Teachers can also refer to the Pacing Guide for more details and ways to supplement with other DTA materials.

The unit culminates in a short improv performance. A rubric is included for the performance as long as journal prompts and exit slips.

Join now for instant access

UNIT

Drama One Final Project

by Karen Loftus

The final project will incorporate multiple areas that students have studied over the course of the year/semester: playwriting, acting, scenic design, and marketing. They’ll take what they’ve learned and create a 5-minute play with a monologue that they’ll perform. They’ll also describe the overall design of the show and create a ground plan and rendering for their design.

Finally, they’ll market their show by creating a poster and a press release. Please refer to the Pacing Guide for more details and ways to supplement with other DTA materials.

Join now for instant access

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.

Join now for instant access

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.

Join now for instant access

UNIT

Monologues

by Matt Webster

In the Monologue Unit, students will learn the building blocks of monologues while writing a simple monologue. This unit is divided into two parts.

In part one, the Monologue Writing Made Easy unit by Matt Banaszynski is reviewed or executed in full, depending on class needs.

In part two, students will dissect monologues as a vehicle for character and performance and will write more refined monologues based on existing fictional characters from fairytales or myths. Students will then rehearse and perform their monologues, as a final project for the unit.

Join now for instant access

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.

Join now for instant access

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.

Join now for instant access

UNIT

Improvisation in Musical Theatre

by Annie Dragoo

Understanding basic improvisation skills will help musical theatre performers understand that musical theatre is more than just singing and dancing. It’s about using all the tools (voice, body, and mind) an actor has at their disposal to create a character.

This unit focuses more on the improv aspect rather than the musical theatre aspects - in fact students need no prior musical theatre knowledge. Annie Dragoo, creator of the unit, uses this material as her first unit in her musical theatre class. It’s a great introduction and will get your students in the right frame of mind to approach musical theatre.

The lessons explore a variety of improv skills such as vocal responses, movement, character study, sensory awareness and culminate in an improv scene and unit essay.

Join now for instant access

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?

Join now for instant access

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.

Join now for instant access

UNIT

Unit One: Ensemble Building and Class Norms

by Lindsay Johnson

This unit has six lessons that you can use in the first week of your middle school program. What do you do in the first week? The most important elements are creating routines such as journal prompts, opening and closing circles, and giving strong feedback; creating an ensemble and ensemble-building games; and introducing a Weekly Ensemble Rubric.

Students will define and build ensemble as a group, learning specific ways they can SAY YES and BE SAFE in class. They will understand the daily grading system and the basic routines of class. Finally, students will learn to give strong feedback by connecting specific evidence from performance to the Rubric language.

Join now for instant access

UNIT

Unit Two: Improvisation Basics

by Lindsay Johnson

In this unit, students will learn, practice and apply three important rules of improv: accepting and building on offers, quick thinking, and strong offers. For each step, they will work with the Improvisation Rubric by both giving and receiving feedback. Students will also start to practice techniques to improve their vocal clarity. The unit culminates in a performance assessment in which students will play an improv game in front of an audience.

Join now for instant access

UNIT

Unit Three: Building Improvised Scenes

by Lindsay Johnson

Students will understand the basic building blocks of a scene: The Who (characters/ relationship), the Where (setting), and the What (conflict – objectives/tactics). They will learn how to use both verbal and nonverbal (pantomime) clues to communicate these scene details to an audience. They will continue to work on voice clarity, while also learning to open their body to an audience. The unit culminates in a performance assessment in which students work in pairs to improvise a scene.

Join now for instant access

UNIT

Creating Your Own Musical

by Laramie Dean

Instructor Laramie Dean uses this unit as the final project for his Drama 2 students. Drawing upon any of the skills students have developed throughout they create a product that could be used within a new piece of musical theatre.

Students start by analyzing three musicals, study guides included, and practice creating musical elements. They are then giving class time to prepare in groups as many elements as their can for a new musical using devised theatre techniques.

There are 24 lessons in this unit which culminates in a final assessed performance.

Join now for instant access

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.

Join now for instant access

UNIT

Unit Five: Intro to Script Writing

by Lindsay Johnson

In this unit, students learn how to write their own scripts using correct formatting. These scripts will be more detailed than the contentless scenes. Students will learn how to write dialogue that provide information about relationships, conflicting objectives, and setting.

They’ll also learn how to correctly add expression and movement directions into the script itself. The unit will end with a partner script writing assignment which is performed in front of the class.

Join now for instant access

UNIT

Unit Eight: Theatre of the Oppressed

by Lindsay Johnson

Students will have a chance to merge their understanding of scene elements with their improvisation skills in this final unit based on Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed. Theatre of the Oppressed is a style of theatre specifically created to highlight the injustices of power and oppression in society and to problem-solve ways to bring about change.

Starting with image theatre techniques to identify issues of power and oppression, students will then use forum theatre to create scenarios of oppression taken from their own lives and improvise realistic solutions.

The unit culminates in a performance in which students participate as both actors in a scene they create themselves and spect-actors in scenes created by their peers.

Join now for instant access

UNIT

Aristotle's Elements

by Lea Marshall

Aristotle was a huge fan of the theatre. He philosophically believed in it and argued with other great thinkers at the time about the necessity and good results of theatrical pursuits. This makes him a great topic for a drama classroom unit.

Aristotle identified six elements that needed to be in a play for it to be worthy: plot, thought, character, diction, spectacle, and sound. This unit by Lea Marshall focuses on and offers exercises for each of Aristotle’s elements - from using fairy tales to examine plot, to re-imagining movie trailers to explore music.

Join now for instant access

UNIT

Introduction to Musical Theatre: Movement

by Annie Dragoo

Musical theatre performers use their bodies to sing, to dance, and to act. We must think of our bodies as instruments and learn to use our instruments properly in order to be better musical theatre performers.

The overall objective with this unit, by Annie Dragoo, is for students to demonstrate an understanding of the use of good movement as it connects to musical theatre. Some of the activities include using action verbs, moving as animals and inanimate characters, nonverbal communication and situational movement. Students will then perform a scene that will allow them to put to practice all the movement techniques they have learned.

Join now for instant access

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.

Join now for instant access

UNIT

Improvisation

by Lindsay Price and Karen Loftus

Students sharpen their listening and reaction skills through improv games, exercises, and scenes. They will learn five specific guidelines to apply to their improvisation: accept the offer, bring information to the scene, make active choices, make your partner look good, and don’t force the humor.

Join now for instant access

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.

Join now for instant access

PD COURSE

Big Picture Blocking: Staging Your Play Outside-In

by Todd Espeland

Working in educational theatre I know how easy it is to get bogged down in actor coaching and away from the bigger picture storytelling when directing a show. I saw a need for a method of text analysis and physical staging tools that help the director stay focused on the bigger picture of telling the story of the play.

This class is in two parts: The first consists of the text analysis tools P.A.S.T.O and Major Dramatic Question. From these tools you will brainstorm keywords to define your vision of the story.

In the second part of the class you will focus on taking the information generated in the text analysis and crafting the ideas into vibrant physical pictures through an exercise called Starburst.

Join now for instant access

PD COURSE

Serious Play: Theatre Games and Warmups for Rehearsal and Ensemble Building

by Todd Espeland

In this class, Serious Play, the instructor will lead you through a series of games in risk, movement, focus, and voice. You will get access to a series of all inclusive games that you can string together to make one giant game that is great to use in rehearsal. You will learn how and when to use these games.

You'll get ideas on how to craft your own warm-up lesson plan; and, most importantly, you'll learn about about a pre-class warm-up that you can do on your own so that you can get yourself into that third stage of the creative brain, so that you can begin trying out interesting, creative, and risky choices for yourself in your classes and in rehearsals.

Join now for instant access

PD COURSE

Yes, And... How to Teach Improv

by Jennine Profeta

“Yes, and…” is the guiding principle behind all improv. This course will teach you how to teach improv, and more importantly how to give feedback to your students. The course looks at making strong offers and also using gibberish to ironically improv communication skills. You will also see how feelings can safely be used to add flavour and get laughs in our scenes.

Jennine Profeta, Second City performer and theatre educator, leads this course with a clear methodology for teaching and giving positive nurturing feedback. This course will give you all the tools and the insight you need to teach improv with confidence.

Join now for instant access

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.

Join now for instant access

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.

Join now for instant access

PD COURSE

Coaching Improv

by Jennine Profeta

Second City performer and theatre educator Jennine Profeta is back and ready to help you take your Improv classes to the next level. It’s all getting students to perform - and how to be a great improv coach who can keep them supported and grounded (and having fun!)

In this course, you’ll learn the golden rules of improv. You’ll learn a bunch of improv games (great for warm-ups, teaching tools, and even for competitions). You’ll learn Jennine’s tips and tricks for what to look for when coaching and how to troubleshoot common issues.

The course is designed to help you improv as an ensemble and give you the know-how to coach with confidence whether it’s in the classroom or on the stage!

Join now for instant access

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!

Join now for instant access

PD COURSE

The Process of Creativity in the Theatre Classroom

by Gai Jones

Gai Jones leads this course in establishing an environment of creative experimentation in the theatre classroom, in order to have a group of student actors who value the creative process.

Each lesson shares experiences to foster creativity without the stress of performance by student actors. For the creative process which honors out-of-the-box thinking, there is no assessment section included. There is no product or performance. The important thing is the student actor’s engagement. Their reflections and your observations are valued for positive learning.

This set of lessons includes Tips for the Theatre Educator, based on Gai's own Theatre practice. Scripts are also provided and contain text of what you can say to your students to facilitate their creative processes.

Join now for instant access

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!

Join now for instant access

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.

Join now for instant access

PD COURSE

Maximizing Your Ensemble: Shoestring 101

by Michael Calderone

This seven-part series is designed to transform that gaggle of actors cluttering your backstage from cumbersome extras into nothing less than the very center of your production.

Instructor Michael Calderone leads this course, through games and exercises geared to maximize your ensemble for your next production. These lessons are based on the ensemble technique that he's been using for the last 30 years, called the shoestring method.

The ensemble has a responsibility to work as one, and no role is more important than another. Without each actor playing their part, the other actors cannot tell the story to the best of their abilities. So join Michael in learning more about this exciting, practical and dramatic method.

Join now for instant access

PD COURSE

Director's Toolbox 2: Teaching Students to Direct

by James Van Leishout

Director’s Toolbox 2: Teaching Students to Direct, explores the tools of the actor, rehearsal, space, and design.
The tool of the actor will focus on creating a safe place to play, auditions, and how to communicate with actors.
Rehearsals will look at the whole process from the first meeting to opening night.
The tool of space will explore how to direct in different spaces and how to create focus through stage composition.
Discover how an understanding of the elements of design help student-directors communicate with designers. The final step is a return to self and the mastery of self evaluation.

Join now for instant access

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.

Join now for instant access

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