High School
Departments & Courses, In Brief

High School Courses


The mission of the Dalton Theatre Department is to build a collaborative and creative community of theatre artists through our classes, productions, and independent projects. We are proud offer curriculum that introduces students to every aspect of theatre—acting, performance, directing, stagecraft, design, and writing--and helps develop these skills further as students progress through the program. We look to nurture collaborative relationships among young theatre artists and help them develop habits of observation, self-study and a love of theatre. We encourage the development of a lively theatrical imagination with the goal of empowering our students to create original theater pieces in a variety of different styles. With our productions we look to present to the Dalton community a broad range of dramatic literature and performance styles. We also try as best we can to provide as many opportunities as possible for students to participate.

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. We study the fundamentals of naturalistic acting technique and also introduce our students to wide variety of creative theater and movement skills. We 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 op.

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. Production Design Studio, where students work on a year-long project developing all the production and design requirements to bring that project to successful fruition.

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 entirely 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.  

    Requires Preapproval
    Prerequisite: 1 year of Acting Studio
    Full Year Course, 1.0 credit
  • 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.

    Requires Preapproval
    Full Year Course, 0.5 credits
  • 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.
    • Mime.  An exploration of the precision movement and counter-movement required to support the illusion of mime. Students can only pass this unit if they can find their way out of their box.
    • 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.
    • Bunraku. Three operators, one puppet. There is also no better way to work in perfect harmony, listening and sensing each other’s every movement, than operating a Bunraku puppet to tell a story.
    • 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.
    Full Year Course, 0.5 credits, meets two times per week
    Open to all grades - Fulfills PE or Art Requirement
  • 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 we see, hear, and experience modern concerts, shows, and events. Participants in this course will decide on 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. We will also develop business and marketing plans. The class can include a performance aspect if students are interested and/or we may incorporate talent from the broader Dalton community.

    Participants will pick from one of these options in 2019-2020:
    • Childrens’ 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 one or a series of escape rooms, haunted houses, or interactive mazes. This will be an opportunity to create simple, custom structures, developing consistent conceptual design, or using existing spaces in new ways. We could explore non-traditional storytelling, modes to integrate interactive puzzles into performative experiences or advanced fabrication for up-close design.
    This course will meet two times a week. One meeting will occur during the school day (day to be determined) and one either Tuesday or Thursday after school from 3:30 to 5:30PM.

    The after school meeting time will conflict with after school sports. In addition to the class meeting times we will schedule labs (work times) around the projects needs.

    Full Year course, 1.0 credits
  • Design For Stage

    Design students work on a broad range of studio projects in drama, musical theater and/or dance and performance. Designers in this course assist on faculty-directed productions in the Martin Theater for the fall and winter as Associate Designers and are welcomed to be part in the collaboration and production process. As final projects for the semester, designers are invited to collaborate with Directing Students and DTW choreographers on a production.
    No experience necessary, though some knowledge of drawing is useful. Architecture, Drawing, Assemblage, Dance and Stagecraft students from last year are encouraged to enroll.
    Full Year Enrollment, 1.0 credit 


  • Photo of Robert Sloan
    Robert Sloan
    Middle and High School Theatre Teacher and Theatre Department Chair
    (212) 423-5212
    Brown University - B.A.
  • Photo of Ernie Johns
    Ernie Johns
    Technical Director
    Virginia Commonwealth University - B.F.A.
    Brooklyn College - M.F.A.
  • Photo of Margaret Zeder
    Margaret Zeder
    Middle and High School Theatre Arts and Design Teacher
    (212) 423-5532
    Scripps College - B.A.
    Holbourne Centre for Performing Arts, London
    N.Y.U. Tisch School of the Arts - M.F.A.
212.423.5200 | info@dalton.org
(K-3) 53 East 91st Street, New York, NY 10128
(4-12) 108 East 89th Street, New York, NY 10128