Urban's Theater Arts Department introduces students to the discipline and the creative processes of the theater and performance. We stress ensemble work in our classes and productions, creating a trusting environment that allows students to free their imaginations and develop self-confidence and spontaneity. Our classes accommodate students with no performing experience, as well as those interested in pursuing theater and performance professionally.

The production classes mount major productions at the end of the fall and winter terms, and the spring term ends with Urban’s One Acts, a series of short plays written, produced and directed by Urban Seniors. Urban is also known as one of the only - if not the only - high school with a circus arts course.


Urban Advanced Studies (UAS) classes in the Performing Arts Department are designed to challenge students to deepen their practice in a given discipline. The primary expectation of advanced visual and performing artists is serious involvement with their creative pursuit in a disciplined manner, with a commitment to exploring the practice with curiosity, conviction and technical mastery.

Advanced work in theater involves continuing the development of a strong and flexible technique, as well as higher expectations for the skills and values necessary to create theater, including the ability to analyze, communicate and articulate more complicated and /or nuanced work, and to utilize organizational skills. Students can take on more rigorous challenges in directing and communication through production classes by being a student director, dramaturge or production manager. Another opportunity for an advanced project is writing and directing a one act play or theater production that is developed through the year and directed by the student for a festival of one act plays in the spring. Students are encouraged to explore personal and true expression through writing, to develop ideas and translate them for the stage with the skills and tools of the theater, to physically explore communication through movement and blocking, and to critique performance projects to better understand the opportunities and challenges of theater.


The goal of the Performing Arts Department is to introduce students to the discipline and the creative process of the performing arts. We stress ensemble work in our classes and productions, creating a trusting environment that allows students to free their imaginations and develop self-confidence and spontaneity. Our classes accommodate students with no performing experience, as well as those interested in pursuing performing arts professionally.


Acting 1 students are introduced to the basic skills needed by the actor, including: concentration, observation, improvisation, vocal and physical control, sense memory and scene analysis. Emphasis is placed on developing a flexible acting technique and becoming performance-ready. Each student participates in scene study projects that include character development, play analysis, beat work, memorization and performance. Students complete a written evaluation of all scene study projects and a final exam on the acting techniques presented in the text, The Practical Handbook for the Actor. This class serves as the prerequisite for all Level 2 acting and production classes. (1/2 credit)

UAS Acting 2 follows the basic groundwork established in Acting I. This class takes the next step in developing a strong and flexible acting technique. Through the continuation of the Practical Aesthetics technique introduced in the Acting l class using the textbooks, The Practical Handbook for Actors and The Monologue Audition, actors will continue to experiment with dramatic action in a variety of applications including: scripted scene study, improvisation, original scene study, monologue and audition work. Special attention will be given to the audition process, and each student will prepare and rehearse two audition pieces. In addition, directing techniques will be introduced. A selection of playwrights and their work will be studied as presented by the scene study projects. Prerequisite: Acting 1 or instructor approval. (1/2 credit)

Circus Techniques teaches students to communicate with their bodies and broaden their physical vocabulary by developing skills in a variety of traditional circus arts. Basic acrobatic, juggling and trapeze skills teach students timing, spatial orientation and coordination. Forward rolls, headstands and handstands form the core of the acrobatic practice, and students then build creatively on that foundation. We look at the history of circus and how circus arts are integrated into contemporary performance. Work in circus arts requires both discipline and imagination and provides a strong foundation for anyone interested in pushing limits, expanding creativity and exploring spontaneity. The course culminates in a circus performance that is developed entirely in class time for the school community and public. No previous experience required. (1/2 credit)

Peer Education Theater Ensemble
emphasizes the skills and knowledge needed by both the actor and the peer educator. Students practice these skills through improvisation, journal entries, creative writing assignments and class exercises while working to bring these skills to performance level. Students engage in the difficult task of creating a script developed though collaboration, based on their written work and scene improvisations, to be presented in performance. Each cast member contributes to the creation, rehearsal, design and performance of the script and therefore to the audience's awareness of the issues confronting teenagers today. Prerequisite: Acting 1, Acting 2 or instructor approval. (1/2credit)

Theater Production (Fall) is a full-scale ensemble production in collaboration with the music program at Urban. We spend approximately 10 weeks in rehearsal, culminating in five performances for the school and public in the Gumption Theater. Production work may involve guest artists in dance, choreography, design and instrumental and/or vocal accompaniment. Students interested in acting, directing or dramaturgy should sign up for this class. Students may not participate in an Urban fall sport while taking this class because of afternoon rehearsals. Prerequisite: Intro to Urban Singers, Acting 1, Acting 2 or instructor approval. (1/2 credit)