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Theatre Arts

Through a varied and solid curricular and co-curricular production program, the Theatre Arts Department expands the concept of “classroom” to include the performance and production arenas. Academic study is wedded to practical theatre activities in order to create a unique, hands-on study of the theatre. Learning opportunities may include dramaturgical research and writing, field trips, special workshops, physical and vocal performance work, and backstage design/ technical opportunities.  Under the eclectic umbrella of Theatre Arts, large numbers of students and staff are regularly involved in performance and in fine and practical arts study.

There are four aspects of the Shaker Heights High School Theatre program:
- The Ensemble Acting approach to development and training of student performers;
- The writing development program, which finds its regular voice through the annual production of the new playwrights series New Stages;
- The active shared involvement of students, alumni, faculty, community and professional artists through a Guest Artist Program;
- A technical and production management program with course work in basic stagecraft, film studies and individually shaped programs for students in theatre production and company management. 

Course Selection

Listed here are course offerings available to students through the department along with a suggested course sequence. Junior Ensemble and Stagecraft serve as a foundation for the more advanced classes. Film As Art and Dramatic Literature and Writing may be taken as English or as Fine Arts credits. However, these courses do not replace basic English requirements.

Course of study goals for each course listed include the theatre's primary responsibility to develop skills in expressive as well as responsive communication. Other inherent goals include skill development and mastering tools for making effective, civic-minded, ethical decisions affecting the whole group, as well as skills with creative thinking and problem solving and opportunities to explore a range of theatre-related careers. All courses encourage students to develop a sense of mutual humanity in our global, multi-cultural society.
Please Note: The courses and grade levels below represent typical programming pathways. Shaker Heights High School's counseling staff can help direct students and their families to the courses that best fit a student's academic needs.    


Junior Ensemble

Grade 9
Full Year – 1 Unit

This course is especially designed as the starting point for most ninth graders interested in exploring the Shaker Theatre program. Junior Ensemble prepares students for further study in acting, dancing, singing, playwriting and theatre management as well as the upper-level performance ensembles. Students focus on the basics of becoming a theatre artist, such as a daily physical warm-up, journals, personal growth, reflection, confidence and communication skills. Students should be able to work independently and take responsibility for creating a safe and supportive atmosphere. Students will participate in at least two evening performances (Fall and Spring) for credit in the class. These may require limited after school rehearsals prior to the date of the performance.

Senior Acting Ensemble

Grades 10/11/12
Full Year – 1 Unit

This class presents acting from a philosophical point of view, as well as a practical one. It includes lecture and discussion sessions as well as written assignments, but the majority of the time will be spent on development of monologues and duet scenes. Attention is given to program application, written résumés, head shots, portfolios, audition process, script analysis, physical and vocal techniques. Students develop a complete audition package, with an eye toward college and professional work.

The class provides a workshop format for student performers to create group awareness, trust, rhythm and instinct. Members of this class will create original group performances through movement, scene work and exploration of world theatre traditions. Students will participate in at least two evening performances (Fall and Spring) for credit in the class. These may require limited after school rehearsals prior to the date of the performance.

Recommended: Any other Department Course

Film as Art

Grades 11/12
Semester I or II – ½ Unit

This course will explore films and, in some instances, television as visual text so that students may gain a better critical understanding of what they see. Students will study the history of filmmaking, its methods and techniques, and be required to participate in class discussion, work in small groups, create and deliver presentations, demonstrate proficiency using industry standard film vocabulary, and write in-depth analyses. Projects include the creation of storyboards, film trailers and 10-minute screenplays. The course includes Guest Artists working in the film industry and a visit to the Cleveland International Film Festival. (This course may be taken for English or Theatre Arts credit.)

Recommended: 10 Language and Literature

Dramatic Literature & Writing

Grades 10/11/12
Full Year – 1 Unit

Students learn the step-by-step process of putting together a script by reading plays and screenplays, and by writing various kinds of scenes themselves. Final projects for the course will be the creation of one-act plays of ten to thirty minutes in length. This class is heavily involved in the annual New Stages Festival.

Recommended: Any other Department Course

Theatre Management

Grades 10/11/12
Full Year – 1 Unit

Theatre Management is a hands-on course in small-business management, specifically “show business.” Through practical application and study, students gain knowledge and mastery of procedures and skills essential to organizing, managing, and supporting theatre companies in rehearsal and performance situations. Students work on computer publications, graphic design, promotional displays, photo and film editing, press releases, fundraising, database management, stage management, company management and more. Student work is used in producing the performances in the co-curricular Theatre Arts Department season. 

Recommended: Any other Theatre Dept. class. Permission of Department Head if interested in serving as an Ensemble Company Manager.

Stagecraft & Design

Grades 9/10/11/12
Full Year – 1 Unit

Students in the course will participate in lectures, demonstrations, hands-on experience, and practical workshops on the use and function of a stage facility. The course covers Theatre History, the design, construction, and use of scenic elements, scenic painting, stage lighting, sound and costumes. Students will explore the design process, beginning with research and ending in practice implementation. Students will learn the craft of the Technical Theatre Arts. Projects will vary, but may include the development of scenic models, sound editing and prop and costume design.