Theater & Drama

The Academy’s Fine Arts program develops the creative potential in each student, a process which is both intellectual and experiential. A rich, varied experience in the arts is essential to educating the whole child, and the Fine Arts Department offers courses in the visual arts, music, dance, and theater.

[Click on a grade below to read the description]

List of 11 items.

  • Early Childhood (PK-K)

    Young children are provided opportunities to appear on stage as early as Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten, when they wear their Halloween costumes to school and participate in the traditional school-wide Halloween parade. Each child, using a microphone, names the character he or she represents, thus beginning the experience of "acting" for an audience. In the Lower School, every grade provides similar, increasingly sophisticated opportunities to appear on stage and practice speaking before an audience.
  • Grade 1

    Students participate in weekly assemblies and grade level thematic productions generated by themes and curriculum. Grade 1 children participate in "The Circus," a show of music and songs about animals and life in the circus.
  • Grade 2

    Grade 2 students begin to feel more comfortable performing for a large audience after their performances in "Hooray for the USA," a show that honors the colors and music of the USA. Students participate in weekly assemblies and other grade-level productions generated by themes and curriculum. Morning meetings and oral reports provide many opportunities for developing confidence around sharing information in front of groups.
  • Grades 3-4

    Children participate in weekly assemblies and grade-level productions generated by themes and curriculum. Grade 3 students create a show around the 50 states as part of the Social Studies curriculum.
  • Grade 5

    By the time children are in Grade 5, they have been on stage dozens of times. Goals in Grade 5 include self-confidence, the ability to speak memorized and ad lib lines, and comfort in front of an audience. Children continue to participate in weekly assemblies. All Grade 5 students participate in the fully-staged Grade 5 music and dance production in the spring.
  • Grade 6

    Drama classes are offered as part of the Fine Arts elective cycle; each class develops skits and small plays to which parents, teachers, and students are invited. Typical plays include scenes from Shakespeare comedies (A Midsummer Night’s Dream or Twelfth Night). Students also engage in role plays and write original scripts for small group performances.

    World Drama
    Students learn the fundamental skills of acting in an ensemble environment, including: how to read a script, stage movement, character interaction, and making specific choices on stage. This work culminates in the performance of a one-act play in class.

    Music & Dance
    Students will explore rhythms, steps, and composition techniques in tap dancing and music classes. Working with dance and music teachers, they will create, write, rehearse, and perform their own stomp percussion piece that combines elements of both tap dance and instrumental percussion.

    Instrument Skill Builder
    This class is for students who have started learning their instruments within the last year and want to join Band or Orchestra class.  The class is strongly recommended for students who are new to our school, or they may audition to opt out. Students receive additional practice and coaching in a small group setting to support playing the full ensemble pieces. First term only. Maximum of 8 students can enroll.
  • Grades 7-8

    Grade 7 and 8 students who perform in the Middle School musical elect the drama class during the first trimester, which provides the vehicle for preparing the play. Grade 8 students learn about theater as an art form through an introduction to dramatic literature, the job of the actor, and theater history. Preparation for the Middle School play forms the center of the first trimester drama course.

    Musical (Fall Trimester only)
    Students will learn, rehearse, and produce the Middle School Musical which will be performed at the end of the trimester. The show will consist of acting, singing and dancing, and will utilize everyone in the class. Auditions will be scheduled before the end of the school year, and the show will be announced upon arrival in September. Participation in this course includes some required attendance outside of school hours, including two Saturday rehearsals, four after school rehearsals, and two evening performances. There is no maximum class size. Students will be required to provide for themselves appropriate attire, including footwear, for moving on stage.

    Technical Theatre (Fall Trimester only)
    In this collaborative lab course, students will learn the principles of producing the sets, props, costumes, and lighting for a theatrical production. Important skills include: construction, reading a script for technical needs, stage lighting, how to acquire and construct props and costumes, and how to operate as a backstage crew. This will culminate in the students producing the technical needs for the Middle School musical and serving as the crew during the rehearsals and performances.

    Stage Makeup & Special FX - Fall & Spring Trimester
    Introduction to the art of theatrical make-up design and application. Techniques for producing character, old age, fantasy and special effects makeup. Through demonstration and discussion of various design and application styles, students will create original designs based on the needs of productions. “From page to stage” is our philosophy and in this spirit, we will create elderly characters, swap your gender, create terrifying zombies and much more!
    *Requirements for course: Prerequisite of World Drama OR Classical Stage Performance, access to printer, personal device for internet usage, “work clothes” that can get messy, and a $60 makeup kit that will be purchased specifically for each skin tone (please note, this makeup kit is more than enough material to sustain you through senior school.)
     
    Classical Stage Performance
    In this course, students further develop the skills learned in Grade 6 World Drama, with increased focus on use of language and characterization. Students will explore expressive physicality, character qualities, line interpretation, subtext, and playing intention. Students will use the structure of a condensed play by William Shakespeare to develop these skills while also exploring the history of the playwright and his work. The class will perform for the Middle School student body.

    Comedy in Action
    Comedy in Action combines an in-depth exploration of clown and physical comedy with movement training, puppetry techniques and slapstick, focusing on playing with objects, furniture, walls and doors, and engaging with the physical space. We like to think of it as “clown parkour.”  Clown and prop play are at the core of imaginative acting and foundation for successful performers.

    Story Drama
    Starting with inspiration from a beloved children’s book, parables and historical tales, each week we venture on a brand new dramatic adventure of our own making. Students work with classmates to create new characters, dramatic situations, and opportunities for creative and heroic problem solving. The emphasis of this course is to build a strong collaborative company where all talents are explored and utilized. This could be in the form of a musical instrument, an imaginative painting ability or even somersaults. Along the way, we encounter costumes and props that engage the senses. The result being: students learn the collaborative process of storytelling and the vital role dramatic arts plays in our society.

    Hip-Hop
    Students will learn and choreograph dance styles from old-school to current hip-hop, as they also study the influence of jazz dance on this popular form.

    Ballroom
    Students will learn and practice various ballroom styles including waltz, tango, salsa and swing. These formal and social dances will benefit students as they transition into the Senior School dance curriculum, as well as any outside event where they can showcase their dance prowess.
     
  • Grade 9

    Acting I is the introductory/pre-requisite for all other theater courses, providing an overview of theater as an art form with emphasis in three areas: dramatic literature, the job of the actor, and theater history and criticism. Students read a variety of plays and study various perspectives and genres of theater, while learning to be critics of the world of the play. As actors, students are introduced to the methods of Stanislavski and move onto Meisner and Uta Hagen. In the study of the physicality of the performer, students work in neutral mask and are introduced to the physical exercises of the Viewpoints method.
  • Grade 10

    Grade 10 students may elect Acting II, an intermediate course designed for the serious actor. It focuses on the process of character development using the world of the play and textual analysis. It also intensifies the need for both physical and emotional character development. Students may also elect Public Speaking, a class intended to give a broad introduction to the art of public speaking and on methods of effective delivery to various types of audiences.
  • Grade 11

    Grade 11 students elect either Performance Workshop, an advanced course emphasizing performance training through projects at different levels of difficulty and staging, or Technical Theater. In the workshop, actors are required to perform on a weekly basis and participate in competitions, plays, rehearsals, and performances. Technical Theater is a course designed for serious design students who wish to continue in their study and practice of technical theater. Students are introduced to design concept for scenic and lighting for both musical and non-musical plays.
  • Grade 12

    Grade 12 theater students focus on performance in the major musicals and full stage productions of the Senior School. They may also elect Film Studies, a course on the history and impact of motion pictures from their inception to their evolution as a central part of modern life, and Improvisation, a course that improves the skills of students at improvisational performance.

List of 2 members.

  • Matthew Griffin 

    Artistic Director
    Midwestern State University - B.F.A.
    Douglas Education Center - A.A.
  • Nathan Bell 

    Technical Director
    Chatham University - M.A.T.
    University of Pittsburgh - B.A.

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Sewickley Academy is a nationally recognized Pittsburgh private school enrolling students in Pre-K through Grade 12 on a single campus.