View all Standards for California VAPA Standards (2019)

6.TH:Pr5.a Recognize how acting exercises and techniques can be applied to a drama/theatre work.

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.

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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.

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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

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.

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UNIT

Voice

by Anna Porter

The voice is a key element in performance and can be used in many ways. In this introductory voice unit with instructor Anna Porter, students will explore how to thoughtfully communicate character, story and emotion vocally.

Lesson one focuses on the articulators and the importance and of speaking clearly on stage. Lesson two introduces students to the use of vocal variety with pitch, tone, rate and volume. In lesson three, students develop a character with background as well as design a puppet. Lesson four brings together the elements of voice studied in this unit to create vocal characterization.

Through this four 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 puppet show performance.

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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

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

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

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

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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UNIT

Unit Four: Intro to Scripted Scenes

by Lindsay Johnson

Students will be introduced to the most basic of scripts: the contentless/open scene script. They will use their knowledge of character/relationships, setting, objective, and tactics to add content to a contentless scene. Students will also learn the basics of set design and blocking, and will begin
using voice expression to communicate clearer characters. The unit culminates in a performance assessment in which students will work in pairs to add content to and perform a contentless scene.

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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.

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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 Seven: Directed Scenes Take 2: A Variety of Scenes

by Lindsay Johnson

Students will have another opportunity to participate in student-directed scenes, only this time each director will be assigned a different script, and actors for each group will be chosen by the teacher based on individual strengths and challenges, rather than holding auditions.

Actors will take a deeper dive into character physicality and use of levels in staging this unit. Directors will continue to create a set design and block the scenes, adding props as well in this unit.

The unit culminates in actors presenting their directed scenes to the class.

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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.

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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

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.

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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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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

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

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.

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PD COURSE

Breath Control and Projection

by Elisabeth Oppelt

In this course, you will learn what breath control and projection are, how to breathe from your diaphragm and speak loudly without yelling, and how to teach these skills to your students. Led by teacher and singer Elisabeth Oppelt, this course will be helpful both in your teaching practices and in creating material to teach your students. This course also includes both formal and informal assessments for you to use in your classroom.

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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.

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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

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!

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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

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.

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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

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.

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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.

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PD COURSE

Exploring Viewpoints

by Erin Carr

Viewpoints is used to create dynamic moments of theatre by simply existing on the stage. However, Viewpoints is more than just an acting technique to understand your own physicality and more than a directing technique to create “ah-ha!” moments on stage. It is first and foremost the philosophy that to create an organic performance, you must see obstacle as opportunity, and that by simply standing in space, your creativity can spark.

This course by Erin Carr will help your students discover fresh impulses that motivate their performance in the moment. We will go through the Viewpoints technique, as created by Mary Overlie, and learn how to tap into kinesthetic awareness as individuals and as an ensemble. Through this style of play, students learn to release their thoughts on what they “should” do, and instead just respond organically to their surroundings and ensemble!

We’re going to break down each of the Viewpoints, there’s lots of visual demonstration, so you can see each Viewpoint in action, and I’m going to provide tips and side coaching examples.

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View all Standards for California VAPA Standards (2019)    Standards Master List