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Lesson plans for technical theater?

Discussion in 'Education and Career Development' started by Sayen, Jul 21, 2011.

  1. Sayen

    Sayen Active Member

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    Anyone feel like sharing some of their lesson ideas? I'll have three LARGE classes of tech students this year, high school level. In the past we barely had enough labor to keep up with projects, and so lessons were few and far between. Now that my labor pool has grown we actually have time for...teaching...oddly enough...and I'm trying to bring some new ideas in. Most of my students understand the basics, and can handle events without any problems.

    My biggest concerns are a class of 25 intermediate in the shop, and a class of 32 beginners. The numbers are not my choice, with funding for schools the way it is I'm lucky to have three classes, with only 12 in my advanced class. I'm sporadically using the Parker and Wolfe book. I do have some of the Practical Theater DVDs, but those will only take the students so far if I don't get them hands on.

    I'll post some of my ideas later, but I didn't want to taint anyone's thoughts. Those of you in high school too, what are your teachers doing that you like?
     
  2. josh88

    josh88 Remarkably Tired. Fight Leukemia

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    if I get a chance today I'll post some of the stuff I've been looking at. I'd love to see things as well. I'm teaching tech for the first time in a class setting. up till now I have just taught temporary students working in our shop for lab hours. so I'm having to develop my classes from the start.
     
  3. 1troubledouble1

    1troubledouble1 Member

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    Something that my director started doing this past year was having students make their own concepts, designs, and models for the show that we were about to start working on, based off of their own interpretation. She would only tell us the basic concepts that she had, but told us that we could essentially do what we wanted. We read through the script, had to find pictures of concepts that we would like to use in our "production", create several different costume, hair, and make up designs, find music or sound effects that would play during the show, and created our own scale models of the set. The project probably took us about two weeks, and at the end, we had to present our concepts to the class.
     
  4. squirt

    squirt Member

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    Unfortunately I don't have any suggestions, but am looking for the same thing. I am about to start teaching Technical Theatre for the first time (both for me and the school!) I have so many ideas, but don't know what direction to go, or how to begin. If I find something, I'll send it your way!
     
  5. tolienbosheit

    tolienbosheit Member

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    This is coming from a undergraduate level senior - fyi...but one who is looking to teach eventually ;-) I'll break my ideas up into a couple sections...bear with me please. These thoughts are a general outline...if you would like to talk more specifics, I'd love to hash a plan out with you...It's something I need to start thinking about in more specificity (mostly for fun right now...but it can't hurt either).

    I'll start with some good textbooks you can use for reference (or encourage more advanced students to pick up for themselves). Note: If you can get the 4th edition of Gillette, the only difference is it doesn't cover intelligent lighting very well...none of the new lights are in there. As for the Dorn/Shanda - they're just releasing a new edition, but you should be able to find the previous edition.
    Stagecraft Fundamentals by Rita Kogler Carver
    Designing with Light by Michael J. Gillette
    Drafting for the Theatre by Dennis Dorn and Mark Shanda

    Honestly, the best thing I could think of for teaching High School level students is the basics - and teach them well. However - if you ever feel that safety may be jeopardized about any student operating a piece of equipment or doing a project DO NOT LET THEM. If your district demands all students have the same opportunities...talk to them the best you can and if that doesn't work I would likely just cut student's from operating that, if possible...or provide concerns in documented writing - just don't let yourself get blamed for a safety concern you attempted to prevent and were not allowed to by policy. Back on topic,


    Beginners: I would give them a broad base.
    Theory-wise: Spend some time introducing them to the various aspects of technical theatre - from management to designers to technicians: What jobs are there, what does each job actually consist of, safety and proper usage of tools and equipment, and that sort of thing. A good lighting lesson at this point is basic color theory (trying to sort M&M's under different stage lights is great for this!)
    Practical application: I would focus on basic carpentry techniques and some lighting - how to hang and focus a light, how to cut gel and drop it in a light, and plugging a light in (you'd be surprised how many incoming freshman I've worked with can't figure out stage-pin or twist-lock connectors...). Giving your students a strong foundation here will allow them to excel when they start to reach the next levels. Also - throughout any of the levels, I would give out drafting assignments. It's applicable in every facet of theatre.​



    Intermediate: Continue to develop the base, begin to focus on student's interests.

    Theory-wise: Continue to develop the basics. You can start to give some more advanced projects - groups can figure out how to best construct a set piece (always with some oversight from you or an advanced student "leading" the crew). Promising students should start to get more opportunities learning about lights/sound/fly system/carpentry (depending on their interests). ​

    Practical application: As always, continue to stress the basics. Small groups can easily follow directions and drawings at this point, so can be allowed to build pieces of scenery without being watched like a hawk (though oversight is still necessary). Exceptional students can begin more advance work with lights/sound/carpentry and maybe run the fly system. These same students are also good candidates for running lights and sound too.​



    Advanced: Special Interests

    Theory-wise: Student's at this level should have a developed understanding of where their interests lie in technical theatre and should be encouraged to learn more about them. ​

    Practical application: As always, continue to stress the basics. Offer design opportunities to students who are capable. Allow them to lead construction projects and implantation of designs. This level is much more like an independent study in my mind.​


    Also, you might think of contacting some people on the USITT Education commission...they might have a direction to point you in too. The commissioners are listed at the bottom.


    ...just my two cents.

    ~Aaron
     
  6. Tex

    Tex Active Member

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    Productions dictate the order in which I present concepts to students. Tech theatre, out of necessity is part lecture, but mostly practicum.
    You didn't mention if your tech program has a prerequisite or not. If the kids haven't already had a theatre class, obviously you're going to have to go back to the very beginning and teach types of stages, parts of the stage and stage directions. You'll also want to cover basic history such as the origins of theatre and why we do it. Theatre safety is also a must at the beginning of school. I usually cover these concepts during the first three weeks of school along with basic carpentry tools and fasteners. By the end of week three or four, we've done a quiz or two on safety, stages, history and tools and each kid has demonstrated safe use of a hammer, drill/driver, circular saw and jig saw. At this point, we usually start a unit on stock scenery and start building the musical. I usually devote three days a week to construction and two days to classroom instruction. By week 10 or 12 we've covered construction of stock units, simple scale drawings and painting techniques plus built a considerable portion of the set.
    At this point I usually start on lighting. I cover safety, basic lighting theory, types of instruments, hanging, focusing, relamping and control. I spend about 4 to 6 weeks and by the beginning of December, we have a completed set and light plot and are ready to open the musical. We have a two day, intensive strike lesson and go on break.
    At the beginning of the spring semester, we start a unit on sound. I spend about a week teaching the basics of mics, simple sound console operation and design theory. I have installed Audacity in one of the computer labs and we do a couple of weeks of recording and editing. We create the first sound cue in Don Nigro's Cinderella Waltz and the kids love it. They also do a group project where they turn their choice of song into a 1 minute clip. We use this at the end of the year.
    Next, I do a costume and makeup unit. We design and build costumes out of recycled materials that the kids bring from home. This takes two weeks or so to complete and present. We then do a "blood, guts and gore" makeup unit that's usually the high point of the year for most students. Check with administration before letting kids wear their makeup to their next class!
    It's getting close to contest time at this point so I put a scene design assignment here. It allows students to work independently during the times when I'm gone to clinics or contests. Depending on how detailed I want to get, this can last from two to four weeks. I usually require a ground plan, color renderings and a scale white model. If I want to cut it a bit shorter, I lose the white model.
    Toward the end of the year, I cover moving lights and LED's. We learn to patch, program and control, then the kids use the one minute music clip they created and program a moving light show. I always have to remind myself that it's about the process, not the product here. Most of the shows are going to be pretty bad, but that's ok. When they're done, they all have an appreciation of how intricate and difficult it is to do a rock and roll light show.
    This is a very broad overview. Bigger classes usually means less practicum simply because it's more difficult to safely supervise a larger group. I beg every year to lock my tech classes at 20. They usually keep them under 30. :p I also throw in healthy doses of team building games and activities throughout the year. For some kids, Tech I is the beginning of a life-long love of theatre. For most, it's a fine arts credit and my goal is to make them good audience members. For all, I like to keep it fun and make sure they always have something active to do. They get enough sitting and lecturing in their other 6 classes. I want them to look forward to Tech theatre as a fun break from that.
    Sorry for the wall of text. PM me if you have any questions.
     
  7. Sayen

    Sayen Active Member

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    Awesome, thanks!

    My classes have finally grown to the point where we aren't held hostage by production demands, so I can actually, you know, teach stuff. No more starting a lesson, being interrupted by theater demands, and finishing three weeks later. My general program of study begins with safety and theater history, followed by an introduction into whatever technical area I think the beginning class will need first. There is not prereq for the class, so I squeeze some history around things as well.

    I'm mostly trying to develop more enrichment activities, things that allow students to do hands on practice, but that's going to be a real challenge this year with 30+ in one class. That's too many...but I don't want to drop students yet, as that has an effect on future classes. We'll see how the year goes.

    Things we do outside of lecture:

    I like using classic art in design. I buy old calendars at the end of the year, and use the pictures as design concepts for the students to generate sets, costumes, props, and lighting. Lighting is particularly interesting since with classic paintings there are often realistic angles and colors to imitate.

    When we have stage time we've built mock sets, in groups, each group connecting two flats at about 45 degrees. This lets us work on bracing, corners and different masking techniques, and scenic painting.

    I've been bribing local schools bands to come in and play, so the students can EQ the system. With the advanced students I disable something in the system to teach them to troubleshoot.

    One year we build James Bond style props out of left over materials in the shop. Things like hiding a cap pistol inside a deodorant, or some such. Along with left over materials I brought in professional props supplies.

    With old Styrofoam squares from home depot the students were assigned different textures on campus to imitate, carving or melting with the right tools. When we have time I add a painting component, getting them to match a flat piece of material to the texture on the styro.

    When we have a decent light rig up, say the week after a play, I send students to program a light show using a song of my choosing.

    We design along with every play, and I try to incorporate their designs into what is actually produced. And there's always the fall back of read a script and analyze it, then design to it. I like to put students into a design team, playing different designers, to get them to work together on a concept.

    With students in my program for three or four years however...I'd like to build on this list. I'll post more of what we do when I have time.
     
  8. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    Two strategies I liked to use:
    1) To be brutally honest, I used the beginning class to sort out the people I wanted to keep from those I hoped would go away (or step up their game and become a useful asset to the team). To do this I focused on a lot of terminology, theory, design work, and regular quizzes in the beginning. If they were willing to do the work and stick it out they would find their hard work rewarded in later semesters. Now of course there was hands on work, but I tried to really grill them when they first came in so they got the idea that while working on crew is fun, it takes a lot of hard work to get the job done.

    2) Use a mentor system. Advanced students were always teamed up with a collection of beginning students depending on the task they needed to accomplish. The advanced students solidify their knowledge by teaching and the beginners learn more from other students. I shuffle the beginners around until they have a taste of everything. When you get a sense of who is doing well in specific areas then you help them focus by pairing them more regularly with the same advanced student in their strength. Ask the beginners what they are liking and help them grow in the areas they are enjoying.
     
  9. Sayen

    Sayen Active Member

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    Thanks,

    I'm actually starting #2 this year, along with letting the advanced students (3 and 4 years) choose an area of study like they will in college. They will be partnering with the beginning students to run events. If nothing else, it's the only way to move through the number of students I have now. I prefer rounded technicians, but I figure by year 3 or 4 they know most of our systems.
     
  10. Tex

    Tex Active Member

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    Love the James Bond prop idea. I'm stealing that!
    Gaff, I would love to weed out the do nothings. The problem is they have to get a fine arts credit somewhere and it's either going to be theatre or art (the music people will never take them). If they drop this year, they'll probably be back next year. I toyed with the idea of spreading my advanced students over the three Tech I sections, but we just get so much done during that hour of advanced tech that I just can't let it go. I usually have one or two advanced kids as aides during the Tech I periods and that works to help supervise beginners as they work.
    I'm working to grow the after school tech group. It would be nice if most of the production work could be done outside of class, but with it being just me and an assistant who means well but..., I don't see that happening soon.
    I am pretty stoked that we added an additional section of Tech I and two sections of Theatre I this year. That's about 30 percent growth from last year. I'm hoping that we can add an "advanced" Theatre I section that is audition only next year.
    This is getting me pumped. I can't wait for school to start. I'm bored!
     
  11. DrPinto

    DrPinto Active Member

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    There's a very good set of FREE stage lighting lesson plans on the StageLightingStore.com website. They have downloadable PDFs that contain ideas for lessons, demonstrations, and even tests. Check it out:

    Free Lesson Plans
     
  12. Drew Campbell

    Drew Campbell New Member

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    Hi Sayen, Not to blow my own horn but I spent a lot of time working on those issues when I taught high school and college and I eventually decided that none of the existing books were quite appropriate. I wrote "Technical Theater for Nontechnical People" in 1998 to address the issue and the book just went into the third edition. It might be helpful to you.

    One assignment that worked well for me was to ask my high school kids to design a set that was based on their own bedroom. This allowed me to teach them how to remove a "fourth wall" from their room and open it up to create proper sight-lines while teaching them how to draw a floor plan and a section. Then we did a prop list. Finally, I would have them build posterboard models of the room to see it in 3D. It really helped them to see how a design starts with a character (them) and a story (theirs).

    I have since moved on to working in the pro theater for Universal Studios and I will confess that I sometimes wish that some of our executives had gone through proper training in high school! So, you're doing a great thing!
     

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