Upper School Theater

Department:  Upper School

In his Biographia Literaria, Samuel Taylor Coleridge described an essential element of the artistic process using the Latin phrase "laxis effertur habenis," meaning "carried on with slackened reins." The idea is that the artist must both master the technical side of the art and learn to open emotionally, physically and intellectually to creative inspiration. The technical elements are the reins, and when they are in place, the artist must trust the work enough to be able to slacken those reins and let creativity do the driving. This is a crucial step in the creative process because, ironically, the final impediment to creative inspiration is often the technique or craft. In class we say, "You have to know your stuff, and then you have to be able to let go of your stuff." All Waterford theater classes have this philosophy at their core.

Theater: Acting I
Building on the foundation of body and voice work, we move into scripted scene work. This class explores Stanislavsky's fundamentals of acting, focusing on the objective and the tactic. The students learn to articulate the objective in active terms, while manifesting the objective with both verb and image tactics. Various exercises are used to help the students break through emotional and physical barriers, and perform in a state of vulnerability. Scenes are selected from contemporary American realism plays.

Theater: Acting II
In this class we will continue our intensive objective and tactic based technique, along with a focused emphasis on vulnerability, so that the technical can give way to the creative. We will study scenes from Extended Realism (Ibsen, Chekhov, Tennessee Williams, O'Neill), and then branch off into Epic and Absurdist Theater (Brecht, Beckett, Pinter), if time permits. Prerequisite: Acting I.

Theater: Acting III Shakespeare
In this advanced acting class we will study classical acting techniques, focusing on the theater of Shakespeare. Students will learn to apply the Objective-based acting technique to Shakespeare's plays. They will incorporate the vocal and physical work explored in the core classes. They will learn to scan verse, apply heroic builds and inflections, analyze Shakespeare's heightened language, and use rhythm and sound to enrich the creation of a character. Students will also study Shakespeare's life and plays.  Prerequisites: Voice I, Acting I, and Acting II.

Theater: Movement I
This is the first of the core theater classes. We begin exploring physical expression by using Jacques Lecoq's Neutral Mask technique. We use the Neutral Mask to find Neutral Position in the body--a position free of excess tension. We also use the Alexander Technique to help identify and let go of excess tension. We then move on to the Blank Mask, which has no expression and no place from which to speak. It takes away the actor's facial expressions and voice, forcing him or her to express with the body. We will use a variation on Michael Chekhov's Psychological Gesture to help the students learn to "think" with the body. From Neutral Position, the actor then learns to tell stories and enact scenes using the Blank Mask and essential expressive movement. As the actor learns to commit fully to physical expression, the desired emotions and characterizations appear on the Blank Mask.

Theater: Movement II
The second year begins with a return to body work. We will start with the Larval Mask to help the students transition from Neutral and Blank Masks to Character Mask. The Character Mask covers one half or three quarters of the face, allowing the actor to speak. The Character Mask comes with an expression, and the actor studies that expression and considers what kind of body and voice belong to the Character. We will use traditional Commedia dell'Arte masks, studying stock characters, scenarios, and lazzi. In this class we delve deeper in to the idea that vulnerability and emotion are connected to the body. We will study the clown as the most vulnerable of characters.

Theater: Voice I
In the second of the core classes we focus on the voice. The students will learn proper voice production techniques based on the ideas of Kristin Linklater. Connected to their Linklater work, they will continue to work with the Alexander Technique, to which they were introduced in Movement 1. They will also learn proper articulation via the Standard American Stage Dialect, and how to transcribe a monologue into that dialect using the International Phonetic Alphabet. They will learn to use inflections and heroic builds to get the most out of heightened language. The students will perform monologues using the wide range of vocal tools acquired in this class.

Theater: Voice II
In this class we will continue our use of the International Phonetic Alphabet to describe sounds used in stage dialects other than Standard American. We will learn Standard British (Received Pronunciation) and western Irish, since these two dialects are so common in the theater today. Students will perform scenes and/or monologues in these dialects.  Prerequisite: Voice I.

Theater: Dramatic Theory and Literature
In this class we begin with a discussion of the origins of drama. We read Plato's ideas on mimetic art from his "Republic," and his ideas on acting in his "Ion." We look at what Shakespeare wrote about theater and acting through the character of Hamlet. We discuss how theater fits into the tradition of the Liberal Arts, examining free expression, political hegemony and propaganda, and connection to ritual. We then shift to the great plays of the theatrical canon. We discuss acting styles, writing styles, and theatrical spaces, in the context of theater history. Each term may have a different theme (i.e. Ancient Greek Drama, Modern Drama, Irish Drama, Verse Drama, etc.).