“Playing with a purpose” characterizes our program. We believe that play is essential to the pursuit of creative expression. We have fun! The program gives equal emphasis to naturalistic and physical approaches to theater, exposing students to American and international theater forms and artists.
The curricular program is made up of four levels of classes, which offer breadth and depth. The curricular program is open to all. There are no auditions—entry is not based on talent or experience but rather on a desire to learn. In the first year of theater, students are given a strong foundation in acting as well as an expansive overview of theater history. By their fourth year, students have become a company of actors with a deep connection to each other and a sophisticated, shared vocabulary. The spring production, usually an original piece, is created for and by the group.
The co-curricular program consists of two main stage theater productions per year, which are open to all Marin Academy students, regardless of their experience or whether or not they are enrolled in a theater class. The co-curricular productions offer a varied and atypical repertoire of plays, including works by classic and contemporary playwrights, and original plays composed and adapted by the directors. With both a traditional proscenium arch stage and a black box theater, our two performance spaces allow students to have two very different theater experiences.
In addition to main stage and theater company productions, there are many opportunities for student-generated work: through student-directed one-act play festivals, independent studies, senior projects, and improv club. Students can also choose to work side-by-side with theater professionals in the areas of design, technical theater, and directing on all three productions.
Theater I: Improvisation
As a course for all students entering the Theater Program at Marin Academy, Theater I: Improvisation is designed to introduce and develop the basic tools of acting, including the imagination, physical and vocal expression, and the capacity to listen, respond and interpret authentically. Based on Keith Johnstone’s approach to theater and creativity, the theater games and improvisation techniques emphasize spontaneity, status, narrative skills, character analysis, and mask work. Through this process students will learn to make bold and specific aesthetic choices and will develop a vocabulary which will serve as a strong foundation for their future work in theater at MA. Students will broaden and deepen their knowledge of technical theater practices through backstage work on MA’s performing arts productions. Required field trips further expand the students’ appreciation of various theatrical forms.
Theater II: Text (Prerequisite: Theater I: Improvisation)
This course expands, deepens, and builds on the basic acting skills developed in the Theater I: Improvisation course. Alternating between group and individual work, students will learn the fundamentals of script interpretation and the complex process of bringing work from the page to the stage. Careful reading and analysis of plays from different periods, as well as selections in theater history and performance theory open up the vast variety of forms and methods available in the medium of theater. The first semester is focused on early western theater forms including: ancient Greek theater, Shakespearean verse, expressionism and naturalism. The second semester explores non-naturalistic and modern theatrical forms including: masks and commedia dell’ arte, the plays of Samuel Beckett, and contemporary avant-garde theater. Scenes from each play are rehearsed and performed in class as students are exposed to and gain experience in a variety of acting techniques and styles of theater. Rehearsal outside of class is expected. Students learn basic practices of technical theater through back-stage work on MA’s performing arts productions. Required field trips further expand the students’ appreciation of and exposure to various theatrical forms.
Theater III/IV: Company (Prerequisite: Theater I; Theater II, and consultation with the instructors.)
This course is organized as a theater company with company members training, rehearsing, and performing together and collaborating in the design of the “season.” This is an advanced course for the serious student of theater. Under the guidance of the theater director(s), company members will train in a variety of theatrical styles or approaches to theater—such as commedia dell’ arte and mask styles—then rehearse and perform in each style. Company members may also act as directors, designers, and technicians in support of the company’s work. Students will present their work at performances at the end of both semesters. The MA spring theater production will serve as the Theater Company’s “living classroom.” The spring production will feature as its core the Theater Company ensemble and the class will include additional meetings during after-school rehearsal times. Required field trips further enhance our learning. Students wishing to continue on to a fourth year of theater study may re-enroll in Theater Company in their Senior year. 31 The group will change every year, and the course of study will change according to the composition of each different company.
Theater: Independent Study