This course begins to explore the questions: Why do we act? What is the importance of storytelling? And why are we so drawn to and compelled by this storytelling form? Students begin their exploration through a look back at notable chapters in theater history, including the Greeks, the Japanese Noh tradition, and the Shakespearean stage. In the second half of the course, students put these historical lessons into practice as they develop their own staging of Thornton Wilder’s great American play: Our Town. In the final weeks of the course, students write, direct and perform in their own one-act plays.
This course is designed to engage both first-time and experienced actors. Highly active in nature, the course utilizes the Blackbox Theater as a studio classroom where theater games and exercises are heavily relied upon to build both skills and relationships. The focal point of the course is an extended exploration of a scene study with a partner. Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie serves as our central text for scene study, which focuses on skills related to text analysis, character building and working with a partner. Acting journals offer students an opportunity to reflect on their progress in writing.
While Acting 1 is grounded in the Russian/American tradition—an approach which puts a high premium on realism and which is often described as cerebral—Acting 2 emphasizes a more physical approach to acting. Grounded in techniques including European Clown, “the search for truth” in Acting 2 is often pursued through a more hyper-realistic tone. Course objectives continue to be pursued through scene studies. Analyzing a text, developing character and working well with one’s partners remain core objectives, while working within an active relationship with an audience is given increased focus and attention.
Serious students of acting have the potential to satisfy their arts diploma requirements by continuing their studies through the masters level with Acting 3: Performance Theater. This course provides the premier curricular acting experience for students at the high school. Its purpose is to allow students with exceptional experience or talent to work within a select ensemble preparing a text for public performance. The class rehearses a challenging dramatic text selected specifically for the ensemble assembled.
Shakespeare’s plays were written as functional theater documents—tools used to enable performance. His language, likewise, was written to be spoken and heard rather than read. In this course, close readings, scene study performances, monologue work and writing inform our study of the plays. As a writing intensive course, we build upon writing skills that students have garnered in previous English courses, but this course also challenges students to actively engage the plays through the intimate process of memorization, rehearsal, and performance, enabling a depth of exploration that cannot be gained from the classroom or the stage alone.
This year’s spring play represents a first for the Ensworth Theatre program. Due to Ensworth’s artist-in-residence program, we were able to recruit Playwright-in-Residence, Laurie Brooks, to come onboard and create a new, original play with the input and help of our students. Laurie Brooks is an award-winning playwright who is known for her innovative After-Play forum designs that are changing the way audiences engage with the post-performance experience.