Fine Arts Programs in High Schools
The four strands of the Theatre TEKS are the basis of high school theatre curricula and instruction. Theatre courses in grades 9-12 allow students to develop and apply knowledge of theatrical elements, principles, conventions, and skills. Students participate in the areas of acting, directing, and design in order to:
- Refine sensory awareness in dramatic presentations
- Perform in small and large groups
- Understand cultural heritages and traditions and the influences of theatre, film, television, and technology on media and society
- Reflect on and evaluate personal, peer, and professional work.
The theatre courses listed in the TEKS include:
- Theatre I
- Theatre II-IV
- Technical Theatre I-IV
- Theatre Production I-IV.
Theatre I classes build on the foundations established in preceding grades. Theatre I is a survey course and the prerequisite for all subsequent theatre studies. Theatre I curricula form a solid base for future theatre education and encompass:
- Theatrical vocabulary, elements, conventions, and basic concepts
- Experiences that develop a broad knowledge base and technical skills
- Historical and cultural backgrounds of various works and genres
- Strategies for evaluating theatre experiences.
Subsequent courses expand on the Theatre I experience and refine specific techniques and skills. Due to the rigor of each course, the scope of the four strands, and increased expectations for student achievement, all theatre courses, excluding production courses, should be awarded one credit upon demonstration of achieving the TEKS for two full semesters. Theatre Production may be awarded .5 or 1 credit.
Upper-level theatre classes (Levels III and IV) enable students to work on individual projects and goals. If enrollment is limited, mixed-level classes may be offered with approval of the theatre teacher. For example, a teacher who is conscious of individualizing activities, strategies, and techniques to accommodate the different skill levels of students may teach Technical Theatre III and IV at the same time.
The overall class size of performance courses is an important consideration in scheduling high school theatre classes. The rigor of the Theatre TEKS and the need for intense individual and small group instruction may necessitate a lower pupil-teacher ratio. Theatre classes, such as production, will likely require a great deal of out-of-class time. Consequently, this course may be scheduled to meet during a lengthened class period or outside of regular school hours. Block scheduling with longer class periods is highly conducive to theatre production classes.
Other considerations for scheduling and class size include:
- Space limitations
- Safety of participants
- Age and maturity of students
- Instructional activities included in the curriculum
- Amount of student-to-student interactions.
A variety of facilities, equipment, and materials are appropriate for quality high school theatre programs, including:
- Standard classroom—a classroom with moveable desks or tables and chairs that can provide space for instruction and rehearsals
- Flexible theatre space (i.e., a theatre room, a black box theatre)—a large room with a high ceiling for rehearsals, laboratory scenes, and small-scale productions. This setting provides intimacy between performers and the audience, limited scenery needs, and flexibility in arranging platforms and lighting. Alternative flexible theatre spaces allow students to build different theatres by restructuring the room into various configurations. A small performance space can also challenge and enrich theatre education and enable the staging of little-known plays that attract smaller audiences. Students can generally use the same support facilities, such as a scene shop, costume shop, storage, makeup and dressing rooms, for both the traditional theatre and the flexible space.
- Complete theatre facility—theatre seating for 500, which is preferable to a multipurpose auditorium that seats 1,000 or more. The most common configuration is the proscenium stage, though other configurations include the thrust, arena, and open stages. The traditional proscenium theatre provides space for shows with large casts and large audiences. Complex scenic and lighting equipment allow for instruction in the TEKS of technical theatre. Careful attention and maintenance can provide a safe learning environment. Flexible theatrical lighting and sound equipment, a box office and lobby, scenery and properties shop, costume shop, makeup and dressing rooms, and secure storage areas are essential parts of the facility. Numerous large storage areas protect the theatre department’s scenery, properties, costumes, makeup, lighting and sound equipment, tools, and raw materials. Secure storage space reduces the possibility that supplies will be lost or damaged.
These three types of facilities and an instructor’s office with a telephone accommodate classroom instruction, experimental laboratory work, and full-scale theatrical productions related to the Theatre TEKS.