By Divya Putty
Most of us would associate theater with acting, drama and plays. However, when discussing the new International Baccalaureate (IB) theater and dance class at Granada Hills Charter High School, those responses do not exactly match the focus of the class. This year, the IB theater and dance classes are taught together and, including the study of dancing and acting, they are also focusing on global performance and movement and dance theorists.
English teacher Rachael Phipps, who has studied and taught acting, speech and dance, teaches the newly designed class. Her approach to the class is not only to expose students to theorists and help them understand international performance, but also to allow students to experience the performance themselves in order to build “international-mindedness.”
To start off the year, the students participated in pantomime activities where they were required to convey emotion to the audience nonverbally.
“They wrote down five material items of deep significance to them. They had to walk into a room and discover a chest. They had to open the chest and discover the five items they wrote down and nonverbally convey to the audience what the item is through a series of pantomime gestures and emotions to demonstrate how they felt about the item,” Phipps said.
Along with participating in these activities, the introduction to the class also includes discussions about set design, make up, costuming, and lighting. In terms of dance, the class will discuss forms such as contemporary, modern, hip-hop, and variance cultural dances.
The year has been divided into four parts, each of which is dedicated to one IB assessment. The first of the four units covered in class is Global Theater. Students will select and study a theatre tradition from another part of the world. Once they gain a broad knowledge of various types of theater, they will move on to the second unit, a director’s notebook. After reading a play, students will create a notebook that reveals their ideas of how they would personally direct the play, putting them in the director’s shoes. After thinking like a director, they will perform as actors.
The third unit is a solo performance. Students will study a theorist and perform the elements of the individual’s theory to demonstrate what they understood from it. Having performed in a solo work, students will be well-equipped to collaborate with each other in their final unit, for which they will create, stage, and perform an original 15-20 minute theater piece together. Some pieces will be submitted for the students to compete collegiately with their original theater piece.
“They will turn their final assessment into college level reader’s theater and take that to the national reader’s theater competition. Once students have completed their IB assessment, they will tweak their original pieces to fit the guidelines of the American Reader’s Theater Association,” Phipps said.
Apart from the competition, Phipps has a new curriculum for this class which was modified in 2014.
“The foundational principles of the class are the same as previous years, but a new revised curriculum was implemented last year that breaks down the year into four parts instead of three. This class blends an academic study of international theatre and theory and performance art application,” Phipps said.