Theater Arts 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.

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.


Throughout this course, students will learn the foundational skills, vocabulary, terminology, and understanding to approach the performance of theatrical pieces as actors. Through the study and implementation of theatre exercises, improvisations, rehearsals, and performances, students will learn experientially. They will gain a rudimentary ability to identify, define, appreciate, and incorporate the tools and methods an actor uses in the approach, creation, and performance of a character. Students will learn to analyze and assess performances for believability, commitment, truth, arc, goals, obstacles, and tactics. They will develop a working knowledge of, and the ability to articulate, what makes one performance more successful than another. Students will examine human behavior and relationships in order to transfer believability to the stage. They will be taught how to approach text and analyze a scene. Students will develop a working relationship with their vocal and physical instruments as well. 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, and in public speaking and presentation in general. The broadest goal of Acting One is to impart an appreciation for the performing arts as a unique and necessary element of existence and expression, by which we cultivate human empathy, connection, comprehension, and compassion. Additionally, students who choose to should be well prepared to enter an intermediate level acting course with confidence bred by familiarity with, as well as use and implementation of, common acting and stage vocabulary and processes.

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