Marin School of the Arts’ Theatre Department is designed for students who wish to engage in an accelerated learning program to develop technique, craft and creativity in the Theatre Arts and Musical theatre. Based on the MFA in Professional Theatre at NYU, the work of Jacques LeCoq and Sandford Meisner’s teachings, the curriculum emphasizes focus, intention, Standard American Speech, spontaneity and a full-bodied approach to acting and performing. It also covers aspects of technical theatre and design.
The mission of MSA’s Theatre Program is to create an ensemble of truthful, focused, versatile, actors, directors, designers and technicians, who are willing to take risks.
Course of Study: Theatre and Musical Theatre
Using Shakespeare, the classics, modern literature, and original works, we strive to form a company of players, who realize the whole is more than the sum of the parts. While creating an ensemble of actors who embrace the journey provided by the text, students learn to make a two-dimensional script come to life in three-dimensions.
MSA’s Theatre Department offers two possible courses of study — Theatre Arts and Musical Theatre. Both of these classes are double elective periods. Although they vary in their emphasis, both studio classes strongly overlap in their curriculum, covering the same core of techniques and literature. Both classes feature guest artists providing dance, movement for the theatre, voice and technical theatre. Both classes comprise one department offering the same opportunities, responsibilities, and privileges to all participating students.
Entering Freshmen take one period of theatre encompassing the same curriculum, at a more appropriate pace. Freshmen also take one period of MSA Dance Foundations (which encompasses movement for the stage and also meets a PE requirement for graduation.)
Students interested in this program should be committed to excellence. To be successful, they need to be disciplined both in and out of class. They need to do the work required. They should be available for mandatory after-school rehearsals for mainstage productions. Sometimes these occur daily, including Saturdays. (This is seasonal and a schedule will be published at the beginning of the year, once the MSA calendar has been determined. It is possible to do at least one NHS sport/cheer season with full participation in a mainstage production as long as the seasons do not overlap. It is also possible to be in more than one mainstage production annually. We just have to know have to know ahead of time to allow us to plan a season.)
All MSA Theatre students comprise one large acting ensemble, one department, one talent pool. Every student within the department is eligible to audition for any of MSA Theatre’s events. Although all students have the possibility to be in every production, no student is ever guaranteed a role. Besides two MSA mainstage productions a year, students have the possibility to perform in state and area competitions, one acts, revues, the MSA Showcase, and MSA soirées. All theatre students get multiple chances to play leading roles within the studio class setting.
In our ensemble program, we do not think in terms of leading roles. The old adage is true: “There are no small parts . . .” This may be the wrong program for a student whose primary focus is to play leading roles in mainstage productions. Our program is full of possibilities, however, with so many talented young actors, MSA students cannot be assured of leading roles, regardless of seniority. Nor will every student be guaranteed a role in a production.
To create a good working ensemble, the artistic staff casts the actor they consider “right” for the part. So many elements go in to making a strong, believable ensemble—including talent, availability, experience, attitude, demeanor, age, height, work ethic, and chemistry.
Roles are awarded for what is best for the group—not the individual. Again, we would like to emphasize that within our studio classes, everyone can attempt the roles of their choice. We realize that students who wish to go on with theatre studies at a conservatory or BFA program need to create a resume that will help to insure future success. Our creative team offers counseling and helps aspiring students to plan and develop tools and the credits needed to achieve this goal.
Before a cast list is published, all students and parents are required to sign a contract stating that they fully understand the time and other requirements needed for the show. The commitment to each show includes full attendance/participation in all technical and dress rehearsals the two weeks prior to its opening.
While encouraging the participation of as many students as possible, we strive to find challenging and rewarding literature. Consequently, continued parental involvement is necessary to support the expanded vision and maintain the excellence of MSA’s Theatre Department. The number of active parents involved in our production needs and coordination directly affects the scope of our activities. This number helps to qualify the size of the cast of our mainstage productions as well as the number of other projects/events we can offer. Shows are chosen to give a majority of students the possibility to grow and flourish. Again, roles are determined by who is right for the character. We also consider who has the time, commitment and dedication to perform well. If one puts him/herself before the ensemble, they may experience disappointment.