High School
Departments & Courses, In Brief

High School Courses


The Dalton Theatre Department’s mission is to build a collaborative and creative community of theatre artists through classes, productions, and independent projects.  Theater classes engage and challenge students in every aspect of theatre -- acting, directing, stagecraft, design, and writing -- and help them further develop these skills as they progress through the program.  Projects and assignments are designed to nurture collaborative relationships among young theatre artists and help them develop habits of observation, self-study, and a lively theatrical imagination.  The curriculum is oriented to  empower students to create original theater pieces in a variety of different styles.  Both faculty and student-directed productions present to the community a broad range of dramatic literature with students engaged in all technical and artistic aspects of each show.

The Theatre Department offers students with wide ranges of ability, experience, and areas of interest opportunities to study acting, directing, stagecraft, playwriting, and design.  All students are welcome to participate in the program regardless of prior experience; no one is graded on talent but on effort, interest, and consistency of commitment. Students  study the fundamentals of naturalistic acting technique and are also introduced to a wide variety of creative theater and movement skills and styles. The faculty also promote the development and exploration of student-written material as the basis for many of the texts used in class.

Most theatre courses are open to all students without prerequisite. 
The Department produces a faculty-directed main-stage production each fall and winter, followed by senior projects every spring. All high school students are eligible for participation in these productions and roles are determined by open auditions at the discretion of the director. Sets are built by the Stagecraft classes as part of their class curriculum. Students are also encouraged to participate in the productions in the roles of stage manager, production stage manager, assistant designer, assistant director, and board ops. We encourage interested students to actively assist our set, costume, sound, and lighting designers. 

Those wishing to explore design and technical theatre have two unique practical opportunities: 1. Stagecraft Class, where the focus is on building the sets for the plays while working with hand and power tools, engineering special effects, and learning scenic painting, basic rigging, and carpentry skills.  2. Moving Image Workshop, which fully involves students in developing the design and technical skills needed to make a short film.

To be certain that every student experiences the interdependence between actors performing and those supporting them technically, all students registered for theatre courses are required to work “Crew Calls" that are arranged by the technical staff for lighting, set building, painting, and other projects in support of departmental productions. There are many opportunities to fulfill this requirement throughout the year, after school, in the evenings, and on weekends.

Attendance is closely monitored and, since most coursework takes place in class, regular, energetic participation is essential. Students who are frequently absent for any reason, excused or otherwise, cannot expect to do as well as those who are in regular attendance.

The Dalton Theatre department offers students who demonstrate a strong commitment to the program an opportunity to produce a Senior Project. No major is offered in theatre, but a senior project is regarded as the capstone to a Dalton theatre career. Senior Projects may be proposed in directing, design, acting, and playwriting and are performed every year in May.
  • Acting Studio

    A lively introduction to a variety of acting and performance experiences. First semester is primarily devoted to exploring short and long-form improvisation. Second semester students will employ their freshly honed improv skills as they focus on more traditional approaches to acting, centering around scene and character work. Our main focus, as always, is on collaboration, theatrical exploration, developing rehearsal skills, and making each other laugh.

    Full Year Course, 1.0 credit
  • Performance Workshop

    The goal of the class is for the students to expand their theatrical horizons, working on projects where they get to direct, write, design and act in a variety of performance styles. In addition to the original work we will devise in class, we will have workshops in: Acting for the camera; auditioning; theater games; writing and directing a short film; creating and performing a devised socially/politically conscious theater piece.  
    Prerequisite: Acting Studio
    Full Year Course, 1.0 credit

    Requires Preapproval
  • Senior Performance

    An advanced studio for those who've taken two years of theater classes or by invitation of the department. Students will work in class on rehearsing short plays (original or existing) and/or solo performance pieces to be performed at TheaterFest. This class is mandatory for those students intending to do a senior project.
    Full Year Course, 0.5 credits

    Requires Preapproval
  • Stage Combat and Physical Comedy

    Theater has a long tradition of telling stories strictly through movement. This class will consist of several distinct units that fully rely on physical vocabulary as the mode of theatrical expression. Each class begins with a serious physical warm-up.
    • Stage fighting, including punches (throwing and receiving), throws, hair-pulls, head kicks, eye-gauges. The unit culminates in what is often referred to as a “brawl.”
    • Stage combat. Fundamentals of sword  and quarterstaff fighting.
    • Physical comedy.  People find it funny when other people fall down. We’ll learn techniques of clowning so we can do it on purpose for boffo laughs. We’ll utilize mats to practice simple pratfalls, comic tumbles, and walking into large boards.
    • Theater Games. Besides being intensely active and immensely fun, these games play an important part in every actor’s training, getting the actor out of their head and into their bodies. 
    Open to all grades - Fulfills PE or Art Requirement
    Fall Semester or Spring Semester Course, 0.25 credits
    Full Year Course, 0.5 credits, meets two times per week
  • Stagecraft and Production

    This is a practical course in which students study the art and craft of stage production: lighting, scene painting, stage management, prop and scenic construction, and sewing. Students undertake assignments in which they, as members of the Dalton Theater and Dance community, work in teams to hone their skills by building the sets and running actual productions in the Martin Theater and in B-06.

    Full Year Course, 1.0 credit
  • Production Design Studio

    Production designers work collaboratively and creatively to solve many complex problems, changing the way a student can see, hear, and experience modern concerts, shows, and events. Participants in this course will decide on one of the projects below and work on it over the year.  Students will participate in all aspects of production but can specialize in light, sound, costumes, and props design as well as digital and analog documentation of the projects. The class  will also develop business and marketing plans. The class can include a performance aspect if students are interested and also incorporate talent from the broader Dalton community. Students will explore non-traditional storytelling and advanced fabrication to transform interactive puzzles into performative experiences.

    Participants will pick from one of these options in 2020-2021 or something similar of their own choosing:
    • Children's theater company: Devising and producing one or more shows aimed at the younger Dalton community. This is an opportunity to explore smaller, ad-hoc theater production. This show might incorporate interactive production components, new technologies, and music, video, or movement components. 
    • Escape rooms: Creating from initial concept to tactile reality a simple, custom structure that may or may not be easily escaped. 
    • A Haunted House - An immersive environment somewhere in school where it is perhaps least expected.
    Full Year Course, 1.0 credit
  • Advanced Acting and Directing

    Building on the groundwork laid down during the first two years of acting/performance classes, Advanced Acting and Directing provides Juniors with a more detailed and wide-ranging exploration of acting and improvisation techniques. Engaging with these areas in greater depth will provide practical opportunities for students to create characters from a variety of approaches, enhance their (physical and vocal) acting instrument, and explore how directing and design are integral to the theatrical event. Scenes and short plays will be rehearsed and performed in class along with a panoply of stupendous improv exercises. We’ll no doubt also create some kind of collective theater piece.  
    Requires Preapproval
  • IS: Theater

    Independent studies are opportunities for 10th, 11th, and 12th grade students to pursue ideas and passions not covered by current course work.  

    Students must complete this form to apply for preapproval.

    Requires Preapproval
    Graded Pass/Fail
    Fall or Spring Semester Course, 0.25 credits
  • Moving Image Workshop

    This class will be a year-long exploration of many aspects of film making including visual storytelling, production design, cinematography, editing, sound design, scoring and post production effects. We will create work in a variety of film genres including narrative, experimental, documentary, animated or stop-action as well as investigating the potential crossover between podcast and websites.  

    Students will form film-making cohorts with rotating responsibilities so each member of the cohort will have the opportunity to be a director, designer, cinematographer or producer.

    We will be working with a variety of types of cameras and lighting setups. Editing and post- production effects will happen with Premiere Pro. Production designs will be realized in the scene shop. Moving Image Workshop is cross-listed with the Art and Theater Departments and is team-taught by the Technical Director and Resident Designer. In addition to Dalton talent, we will also have a stellar cast of outside professional artists who will provide in-depth instruction in their particular disciplines. 
    Full Year Course, 1.0 credit 
  • Moving Image Workshop 2

    This course builds upon skills acquired in Moving Image Workshop 1 with an emphasis on a slower and more considered process. Students will watch historically, culturally or technically significant films to broaden their understanding of what is possible through visual storytelling. By the end of the first semester each student will have a visually researched, fully storyboarded, shot-listed script. The culminating event of the first semester will be a public table read of scripts. The culminating event of the second semester will be a festival of 15 min films in conjunction with showing the film work of the Moving Image Workshop 1 class.
    Full Year Course, 1.0 credit
    Requires Preapproval
  • Senior Performance

    This year-long, deep dive into acting, directing, and design will prepare the students to produce and direct a short play as part of a culminating evening of Senior Projects. Visiting theater artists and designers and other members of the Theater Department will provide practical insights into the directing process including script analysis, costume and set design process, and rehearsal techniques. The class will together create a fully-realized devised theater piece to engage in the process of bringing a work of theater from (brilliant) concept to first performance. 

    Requires Preapproval


  • Photo of Rory Boyd
    Rory Boyd
    MS Greek Festival Director
    University of Cambridge - B.A.
    University College London - M.A.
    The Boston Conservatory - M.F.A.
  • José-Maria Aguila
    Stage Combat Teacher
    NYU - BFA
    NYU Tisch - M.A.
  • Photo of Ernie Johns
    Ernie Johns
    Technical Director
    Virginia Commonwealth University - B.F.A.
    Brooklyn College - M.F.A.
  • Sarah Mars
    Production Manager
    Ithaca College - B.F.A.
  • Al Rosenberg
    Costume Shop Manager & Wardrobe Supervisor
    Fordham University - B.A.
  • Photo of Robert Sloan
    Robert Sloan
    Middle and High School Theatre Teacher and Theatre Department Chair
    Brown University - B.A.
  • Photo of Isabel Thornton
    Isabel Thornton
    Theater Teacher
    Brown University - B.A.
    University of Cambridge - M.Phil.
  • Photo of Margaret Zeder
    Margaret Zeder
    Middle and High School Theatre Arts and Design Teacher
    Scripps College - B.A.
    Holbourne Centre for Performing Arts, London
    N.Y.U. Tisch School of the Arts - M.F.A.
(Grades K-3) 53 East 91st Street
New York, NY 10128
General: (212) 423-5200 | Admissions: (212) 423-5463
General: info@dalton.org | Admissions: fpadmissions@dalton.org

(Gr. 4 Dalton East & PE Center) 200 East 87th Street
New York, NY 10128
General: (212) 423-5200 | Admissions: (212) 423-5262
General: info@dalton.org | Admissions: admissionsmshs@dalton.org

(Grade 5-12) 108 East 89th Street
New York, NY 10128
General: (212) 423-5200 | Admissions: (212) 423-5262
General: info@dalton.org | Admissions: admissionsmshs@dalton.org