Explore the incorporation of the dramatic arts across our divisions, from Early Childhood through Upper School.
Upper School Drama
Drama in the Upper School is a fun and sophisticated exploration of all aspects of theater-making. Both embedded in the curriculum and available to students as a co-curricular activity, our Upper School Drama Program features an active schedule of annual productions and opportunities for students to train in the many disciplines of theatre arts.
Students can study dramatic literature, playwriting, acting, directing, technical theater, physical theater, and film.
The Upper School Drama Department produces three mainstage shows each year: a drama, a comedy, and a musical. Open to all students, our mainstage productions celebrate the deep and rich canon of American, European, and Asian theater. Fully staged and produced plays and musicals give students the opportunity to take the stage and bring great texts to life. Recent productions have included Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia, Lao She’s Teahouse, Peter Gill’s Versailles, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel and Oklahoma, Marc Camoletti’s Boeing Boeing, and Neil Simon’s Rumors. A cultural touchstone, Upper School productions are an important component to the experience of the wider GFS community.
9th Grade Musical
In the 9th grade, students can elect to spend their second semester engaged in a special musical theater project. A collaboration between the Music and Drama departments, and embedded in the curriculum, the 9th Grade musical is a chance for rising upper school students to try their hand at all things theatre.
With opportunities in technical theater, costuming, and performance, students come together to create something amazing. Always celebratory and always fun, the 9th grade musical is a place to find and lift your voice!
Each spring we produce a 4-5 day festival of student-written, student-directed, and student-chosen works. The pieces presented in Poley Fest are as diverse as the students who perform them. Often a celebration of coursework, Poley Fest showcases the many talents of our students as actors, directors, writers, and designers.
Technical Theater students learn basic stagecraft and support all productions across all three divisions. Students develop practical skills in construction, spacial-reasoning, design, and engineering. “Learning by doing,” all Tech Theater classes give students hands-on experience as they take projects from concept to fruition while using professional equipment following industry standards and safety regulations.
Annual productions in the Upper School make use of all three of our performance venues across campus, giving students the opportunity to work in, design, and build for different types of theater spaces. Our robust performance schedule gives Tech Students plenty of opportunities to develop their skills as light and sound board operators, running crew, stage managers, and more.
For students interested in going even further, there are small group and independent study opportunities for higher level skill-building in lighting, sound, and set design.
We make good use of our relationships with several regional professional theatre companies. Our students have worked as interns at these theaters. Several times throughout the year, our students attend performances and special cast discussions at area theaters. We often host special guests and workshops, and several of our classes are taught by local professionals in the field.
Studies in Theatre
Beginning in the 9th grade, students can elect theatre as part of their regular courseload. Classes include studies in Acting Methodology, Improvisation, Reader’s Theater, Technical Theater, Film, and more. Read more for further information on all of our class offerings. And for students seeking to deepen their inquiry of specific topics, there are many small group and independent study opportunities. In recent years, students have engaged in Directed Independent Studies (under the mentorship of GFS Theatre Faculty) of everything from Comedy Writing & Performance to Lighting & Set Design.
Middle School Drama
The focus of the Theatre Arts Program in the Middle School is to balance introductory skill development with community and character building. The program engages middle school students in new forms of creative expression while at the same time developing and reinforcing positive relationships among their peer group. It’s physical. It’s communal. And it’s fun!
Theatre Movement Arts
Theatre Movement Arts is offered as an alternative to Middle School sports. Combining collaborative, ensemble-based theater making with skills-based classes in various movement-based disciplines, Theatre Movement Arts is an opportunity for students in 6th through 8th grade to engage physically with various forms of creative, self-expression. Each session includes Actor-Ensemble Training and two different, movement-based specialty classes. Specialty classes may include anything from African Dance to Stage Combat, Latin Dance to Circus Arts.
In 7th and 8th grade, students have the option to elect Drama or Dance during their EXPO periods.
These trimester-long sessions focus on the preparation and production of a short one-act play and choreographed student showcase. Students work closely with theater and dance faculty on every aspect of the production, including props, lighting and costumes. The nature of the plays produced vary based on student participation and interest. Students electing dance will study various dance forms and present as part of a culminating student showcase celebration.
8th Grade Musical
A special collaboration between the Music and Drama departments, the 8th grade musical is an opportunity for the entire grade to come together and celebrate one another in music, dance, and scene. All 8th grade students participate in at least one aspect of the production including set design and construction, stage management, lighting and sound, costume design, and of course, performance.
Theatre ‘in the Classroom’
Theatre also gets integrated into classroom teaching throughout the Middle School years. An exciting new Playwriting initiative partners Drama faculty and other core (often English) teachers, bringing, bringing the delight and power of theater into the teaching of curricular texts.
It is not uncommon to see the staging of scenes, the recitation of poems, or the dramatic reading of prose in a Middle School classroom—bringing the great texts to life in body and voice.
Middle School Mix: Arts Block
Performing arts and arts appreciation classes are also woven into the curriculum for students not involved in music ensembles.
Sixth and seventh grade students get to try their hand at both theatre and dance with trimester-long, introductory classes in each. We get students thinking about these dynamic forms of expression by getting them on their feet and trying for themselves. In the eighth grade, students participate in ‘Informances,’ a public speaking and communications class (with a playful theater and improv slant!).
Lower School Drama
There are multiple opportunities to participate in drama in the Lower School in all of our classes from kindergarten through fifth grade.
All of the plays and musicals are the result of the talent and effort of our classroom teachers and Lower School music faculty. The focus of our Lower School drama program is on drama as a learning experience. Our goal is to provide all of our students with opportunities to develop their self confidence and creativity.
Early Childhood Program Drama
Our youngest learners participate in an annual Spring Performance. This is a short program that typically involves song and dramatic performance, frequently reflecting the Quaker tenets being studied that year.
Throughout the year, ECP students have regular Movement sessions, taught by a pediatric physical therapist. These weekly sessions are tailored to the physical development of each class.
The children are exposed to a variety of physical activities, such as yoga, parachute play, and obstacle courses. They experience the joy of moving and strengthen fundamental motor skills, gaining greater awareness and control of their bodies.
Movement helps develop a positive attitude and appreciation for a lifetime of participation in regular physical activity.