Drama classes explore skills beyond acting

Looking past curriculum, there are more lessons to be learned.


Anna Henning

Improvisation performances included a lot of imagination from actors, as they did not have any set or props.

As students began to fix their eyes on the end of the semester, Integrated Drama held a variety show November 29 and Introduction to Acting had an improvisation performance November 30. Showing off growth since their bigger productions in October, the students showcased more areas of performing they have learned throughout the semester. Theater classes are semester-long courses, and will be wrapping up soon. However, students have learned skills that go beyond the Black Box, and each individual has experienced personal growth in their own way.

Anna Henning
Olivia Wang, Niccolo Ottolenghi, and Ellie Robertson look for ants trying to pick up pennies in their skit.

Intro to Acting focuses on in-depth theater skills for beginning actors, and looks into many key aspects of theater from directing to acting to public speaking. Team-building activities strengthened relationships throughout the semester, and because of this the class has become very supportive and encouraging of each other. Things like individual monologues, two one-act performances, and an improvisation unit has made everyone more comfortable with characterization skills, as well as public speaking.

Many students expressed an interest in learning more about improv techniques, and therefore student teacher Devyn Ward was happy to share her experience in the field. They learned a key concept called “yes and,” focusing on accepting what others come up with and building from that. In their improv showcase, students took word suggestions from the audience for inspiration, using words such as “pencil” or “suitcase.” They used the skills they practiced to come up with short skits on the spot involving these topics.

With about thirty students in the class, everyone struggled to stay focused initially. At the beginning of the year, students were so excited about the class they would lose their concentration on what they were supposed to be working on. As the semester progressed, they learned the balance of when to be excited about things and when to focus, gaining valuable skills such as productivity and collaboration. Through creating productions, students have bonded and formed unique relationships. According to Ward, “Everyone in the class has become very close, after doing the performance. That’s what theater does, it makes everyone closer.” Through this strong support system and encouraging atmosphere, many students were able to step out of their shells. Students who were not comfortable with speaking in front of others initially have gained confidence and communication skills they can use outside of theater. Others who were already comfortable with public speaking and had previous acting experience found ways to go deeper as an actor, learning more about the purpose behind every line.

Liam H. Flake
Trey reads a script he wrote himself.

Although focusing on different things, Integrated Drama had the same takeaways from the class as Intro to Acting. They began the semester with a lot of team-building activities and games, getting everyone comfortable with one another and unifying the class. After that, they went over basic theater principles such as how to create a play, how to read a play, and communication skills while acting. Developing Harry Potter themed plays gave students an opportunity to use their creativity, learn to work as a group, and show off everything they had learned previously.

Following those performances, people were split into small groups once more to look at individual talents and special skills, giving students opportunities to show off whatever they wanted to share with the world. Every group did something different. One group followed Just Dance choreography from “Dynamite” by Taio Cruz, one group recreated a scene from the movie Elf, and another created a mini variety show complete with a host and performers. As well as the group acts, students could do an individual act if they wanted to. There were smiles all around as each student enjoyed their performance and had a lot of pride in what they were doing.

Besides learning about theater and performance, Integrated Drama teaches students about collaboration, cooperation, and working as a team to achieve a big goal. Student helpers were able to learn more about leadership from the class, from teaching games to others or making overall decisions based off individual opinions. Groups learned about taking each idea and coming up with one cohesive concept that everyone could agree on. Additionally, student helpers built connections with other students that were unexpected, and they enjoyed the opportunity to make new friends. Ward was most proud of the relationships that were developed within the class over the semester. She said, “Integrated Drama has been really cool to be able to show that there are groups of people like our special education students shouldn’t be solidified to their one area. We can all interact as one thing and one school, and show that we can all build relationships together.” Everyone experienced growth in their confidence as they became more and more comfortable with others. “Some students at the beginning had a really hard time even communicating, talking to people, or getting close to people. Some students didn’t even want to talk out loud in front of other people and are totally comfortable with it now. It might be because of the environment we built, but it’s really cool to see them comfortable with talking in front of other people,” Ms. Ward explained.

Theater skills are in general important to every person, no matter who you are.”

— Devyn Ward

Although these are two different theater classes, with different goals and different units, all the students who took these classes learned the same life lessons. “Theater skills are in general important to every person, no matter who you are. It’s really important to be able to collaborate with other people. It’s really important to be able to take not only your ideas, but everyone else’s ideas and put them together. It’s also important to be able to speak in front of other people, because at every point in your life you need to do those things.” Although this upcoming week is Ms.Ward’s last week of teaching acting at Fossil, she would “suggest theater to anyone ever.” She is proud of all the progress students have made in her classes, and hopes that others take these classes in the future. They build unique connections, and teach lessons on teamwork skills and leadership principles. Beyond just acting, each student found new confidence from these drama classes and will take what they learned with them for years to come.