Underclassmen theatre students learn theatre through a variety of assignments, in a variety of locations.
This fall, eight freshmen and one sophomore are exploring theatre in a class taught by Director of Student Life and Malvern Theatre Society Director Dr. James Fry.
Director of the Arts Ms. Jackie White described the semester-long course, which counts for a half-credit towards the upper school’s one credit arts requirement. “It has everything to do with theatre, from building, to acting, to makeup, to costumes,” White said.
Dr. Fry shared the basics of the Theatre class. “It’s a little bit of everything like improvisation, to learning basic acting techniques, to history of theatre, and understanding the work behind the scenes,” he said.
No previous theatre experience is required as a prerequisite, and the class is open to students in all four years of upper school. The students are assigned homework in the course, and they are asked to complete different forms of work.
“Sometimes it’s a written assignment, sometimes it’s preparing a scene to be acted in class,” Fry said. “It’s a class where most of it is performance based, and a lot of the homework is reading a scene and preparing to be acted out for a midterm, final, or class.”
Two students in the class, Matt Moules and Vikram Chodapaneedi, said the homework was limited, but when they have it, it is usually studying scripts.
“There’s not much homework,” Chodapaneedi said. “We had a quiz on the parts of the stage.”
The class takes place in different locations around Malvern’s campus. “We’re all over the place. We were scheduled to be in the middle school music room, but we moved to the conference room next to the elevator in Duffy,” Fry said. “If there’s a performance piece, we go to the stage and we do time in the theatre.”
Taking the class doesn’t confirm the student a spot in extracurricular fall or spring Malvern Theatre Society Productions, but being a Malvern Prep student does.
“If you’re a Malvern Prep guy, and your schedule allows you, you will be cast in the play regardless of your experience level,” Fry said. “Some guys in the class are in the play and some guys aren’t in the play.”
According to Dr. Fry, the class has been in the curriculum for six years, but it hasn’t been taught every year.
Fry had the idea of the class and began it during his teaching tenure at Archbishop Prendergast High School in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania. He would like to see the course run consistently at Malvern Prep.
“It would be nice to break the course up into more specialized areas, like a theatre tech class where it focuses just on behind the scenes and stage crew,” Fry said. “It will be a gateway class to test everything and figure you what you like and the student can make a choice of what side they would like to focus more on.”
Dr. Fry enjoys teaching the class at Malvern and seeing his students in a different environment. “My favorite part about the class is watching the students grow as an actor, watching their confidence levels increase, and watching them be a kid again,” he said.
Moules enjoys being a part of the class.“My favorite part about theatre class is reading the script in the theatre,” Moules said.
Chodapaneedi also likes being a part of the class. “I enjoy how relaxed it is and how we have a lot of time and opportunities to finish our work,” he said.
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