Blake's theatre program offers many avenues for students to foster creativity, develop critical thinking, engage in self-expression, and collaborate. Theatre instructors practice inclusive casting and strive to use materials — scripts, props, music and design elements — that reflect a variety of lived experiences and perspectives.
Starting in pre-kindergarten, students take theatre classes as part of Blake's arts curriculum. In fifth grade, their work culminates in a fully staged musical capstone performance. In Middle School, sixth-grade students take theatre as part of a year-long arts rotation. Seventh and eighth grade students can elect theatre as one of two arts courses each year. Middle School students also have the opportunity to participate in after-school plays and musicals. Upper School students may pursue five different advanced-level theatre courses, and they have the opportunity to work as performers and technicians on annual after-school productions.
Stretching Imaginations: Grades Pre-K Through 5
Lower School students are introduced to the performing arts in pre-kindergarten, where verbal and nonverbal role-playing supports curricular instruction and basic communication skills. Through second grade, students stretch imaginations and act in playful theatre exercises and short stories, which encourage physical and vocal expressiveness. They explore pantomime before the focus shifts to include characterization, dialogue and story sequencing.
In third and fourth grade theatre classes, students play within improvisational structures and scripted material to hone acting skills and performance techniques. Students cast, rehearse and produce brief dramatic scenes, which prepare them for a full-length musical in grade five.
A Capstone Program: The Fifth-Grade Class Musical
Theatre curriculum includes three weeks of full-time rehearsal for a fully staged musical production — a collaboration between the theatre and music departments. The entire Lower School community attends the performance. In addition to individual character work, students participate in all areas of play production: makeup, costumes, sets, lighting, backstage assignments and musical accompaniment. In addition to preparing for the play, students continue to build skills in improvisation.
Exploring Acting, Writing & Performance: Grades 6 Through 8
Middle School students take theatre classes as part of their arts rotation in grade six. They receive nuanced instruction in various aspects of drama, including pantomime, improvisation, theatre history and beginning acting techniques. Students enhance skills in daily performances, as they dig deeper into developing characters and plots.
Seventh and eighth graders elect two arts classes from three areas: visual arts, wood studio and theatre. Eighth grade students may also apply for a course in integrated arts, which combines visual art, theatre, wood studio and music. Seventh and eighth graders who pursue theatre studies may elect classes in acting, playwriting and performance. In these semester-long classes, students develop skills through improvisation, scene study and playwriting.
Middle School students have the opportunity to work on two after-school productions each year: the fall play and spring musical. They may audition for a role in the cast or work on one of the many technical crews.
Advanced Theatre Studies: Grades 9 Through 12
Developing thespians begin with a semester-long improvisation and acting course that explores theatre through improvisational techniques, contemporary scene study, voice and movement training, stage combat and audition skills. Many students choose to enroll in advanced courses in acting, theatre production, musical theatre and playwriting. Each course culminates in a final performance at the end of the semester.
In addition to coursework, the Upper School offers opportunities for students to participate in after-school productions such as a fall play, spring musical, and student-directed play series. These annual productions provide meaningful venues for growth in acting, as well as the technical aspects of costume design, props, set construction, lighting and sound design and ticket management. Students work alongside theatre professionals throughout the productions.