Theater Program & Courses

The Besant Hill School Theater program is dedicated to educating students of all levels in the art of theater through classes in acting, directing, design, voice, dance, musical theater, production, and technical theater.

Oscar Wilde

I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.

Oscar Wilde

Education occurs not only in the classroom but also in production opportunities. Each year, Besant Hill invites professional artists for lectures and workshops, and to join the creative teams for the school’s main stage productions, sharing their knowledge of the art and business of theater and film. Students will work side by side with entertainment industry professionals, presenting plays for the school and the community.

Theater Courses

Performing Arts Foundation

Understanding the Arts & Exploring Interests

This survey style class is designed to give the student a broad range of cultural exposure, awareness and practical experience in the arts. Utilizing historical eras/periods as a base from which to learn and build, the student will recognize how the arts complement, mirror and influence cultural trends both past and present. Hands-on, practical application of the various disciplines will also allow the student to have a sense of the experiential side of the creative and performing arts and give them the opportunity to discover their particular likes and potential in all of the arts disciplines.

Areas of study include:

  • Instrumental/Vocal Music
  • Theater
  • Visual/Fine Art
  • Screen Writing/Film Making

This class may be augmented from time to time with speakers and/or presentations from professionals in any of the fields. Field trips to museums, concerts, plays and films will also occasionally be required as part of the curriculum. This course is required of all freshmen entering Besant Hill School.

Acting I

Learning Skills & Developing Technique

Our Acting I, or Beginning Acting, course explores the foundational skills, vocabulary, terminology, and understanding that makeup the actor’s technique. Students will be introduced to a variety of traditional and contemporary approaches to acting, as presented by various well-known acting teachers and their methods. This course is designed to strengthen the actor’s instruments of voice, body, and mind. Through the study and implementation of theater exercises, improvisations, rehearsals, and performances, students will explore the creative process experientially.

By the end of the course, students should have a technique to strengthen and grow these instruments to better serve them, both in the context of theatrical performance, in public speaking, and general presentation. Additionally, students who choose to further pursue acting, should be well prepared to enter an intermediate to advanced level acting course with confidence bred by familiarity with, as well as use and implementation of, common acting and stage vocabulary and processes.

Acting II

Expanding Technique & Building Repertoire

Our Acting II, or Advanced Acting, course will build upon and expand the technique learned in Beginning Acting. While Beginning Acting is devoted to basic acting – how to act and interact with others in contemporary plays – Advanced Acting will focus on how to act in any play, employing different styles of speech and characters than students may have previously been exposed to.

Classical texts will be examined by applying the same learned analysis that is common to all actors regardless of style or genre, through the lens of objectives, obstacles, and tactics. Thorough play analysis will be explored, and this course will emphasize students’ abilities to speak and think critically about dramatic experiences. Students will explore other roles in the theatrical industry as writers, directors, and designers. Students will understand audition environments and will begin to build their own repertoire.

Hosting The Ojai Playwrights Conference

Students of the Besant Hill School theater program are also eligible as interns for the prestigious Ojai Playwrights Conference (OPC), held each year here on campus in the school’s modern facility, the Zalk Theater. For over a decade Besant Hill has hosted the Ojai Playwrights Conference and illustrious playwrights such as as Terrence McNally, Jon Robin Baitz, Lee Blessing, Charlayne Woodard, Joe Loya, Danny Hoch, Peter Morris, Luis Alfaro, Stephen Belber, Keith Bunin, Julia Cho, and Chris Durang.

In addition to classroom and production learning, theater students participate in a number of excursions to professional theaters, including the Actors Gang, South Coast Repertory Theatre, A Noise Within, Pasadena Playhouse, Fountain Theater, and many other theaters in the region. Through relationships built with several companies, students have the opportunity to talk with the actors and directors following the shows, gaining first-hand insight into the business and craft of acting.

Photos from OPC’s Youth Workshop