Walnut Hill School for the Arts


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The Theater Department at Walnut Hill offers a comprehensive program designed to engage passionate, dedicated, and curious young artists. Our approach is Stanislavsky-based and actor-centric. This intensive training of the mind, body, and voice develops an actor who communicates an honest, compelling story through the use of text, movement, and song. In addition to offering unparalleled actor training, the program fosters an appreciation of design and production through coursework and practical application. Faculty members cultivate a supportive culture and inspire students to engage in their craft with a seriousness of purpose. Through studio work, performance opportunities, and one-on-one coaching, student artists develop the professional skills and attitudes needed to excel in college or university conservatory training.

Courses in Theater


This course introduces students to various acting techniques and the elements of theater. Basic concepts are presented through the use of exercises and improvisation. Students develop the skills and freedom necessary to react spontaneously and honestly moment to moment.


This course combines the study of basic acting technique and analytical skills using improvisation and mask work. Scripted material is introduced for study and interpretation. (May be repeated for credit.)


This course focuses on developing the fundamental skills used in rehearsing and performing modern realistic plays. Through an exploration of various acting techniques, students acquire the tools and skills necessary for honest characterization. (May be repeated for credit.)


Intended for advanced acting students, this course combines scene work and improvisation with creative movement and voice. Rigorous work in textual analysis and character development are the primary focus. Practical techniques in the selection, preparation, and performance of audition pieces are also covered.

Prerequisites: Theater III and permission of the instructor.


Musical Theater I:

This course introduces students to the American musical theater repertoire concentrating on ensemble and solo singing, with an emphasis on vocal technique, diction, and musicality. Movement and musical theater dance styles are also introduced. Students are required to arrange for outside vocal coaching. Limited class size.

Prerequisite: Entry is by audition only.

Musical Theater II:

This course is designed to train students in the skills of the actor/singer. A combination of acting, voice, and movement exercises is used to help students explore and develop their total instrument. Students work on individual musical theater pieces, with instruction focusing on imaging, phrasing, articulation, and audition technique. Students are required to arrange for outside vocal coaching. Limited class size.

Prerequisite: Entry is by audition only.

Musical Theater III:

This course continues the training begun in Musical Theater I and II. Students explore and analyze a variety of different musical theater styles and focus primarily on scenes, duets, choreography, and song work. Students are required to arrange for outside vocal coaching. Limited class size.

Prerequisite: Entry is by audition only. Note: Costs of private vocal coaching and accompaniment for college audition preparation beyond that provided in class are additional.


Movement I:

This course focuses on developing awareness and control over the actor’s body. Laban efforts, strengthening, and flexibility are established in order to begin the student’s sense of mind/body connection. Jazz technique is introduced, as well as dance combinations in the realm of Musical Theater.

Prerequisite: Entry is by audition only.

Movement II:

This course builds off of skills acquired in Movement I and extends into more focus with Jazz technique. Turning, extension work, and jumps are heavily integrated into class, and combinations are introduced more often. Project work begins with actors being responsible for small portions of choreography, as well as retention and execution of combinations.

Prerequisite: Entry is by audition only.

Movement III:

This course is intended for actors who are serious about developing their dance skills, vocabulary, and assimilation of material into their bodies. New techniques and partnering are introduced, and a higher level of execution is expected. Combinations are done extremely often, and students are expected to synthesize the movement as their own. Project work of re-creation and adaptation of neutral movement is required.

Prerequisite: Entry is by audition only.

Movement IV:

This course focuses on a high level of Jazz technique and audition work. Mock auditions and callbacks are held, along with ascertaining the skills needed to successfully audition in the future. More advanced partner work is done, the pace of class is significantly higher than that of previous Movement classes, and it is expected that students have a strong foundation of technique, a thorough skill set, and a strong mind/body connection.

Prerequisite: Entry is by audition only.


This course examines the role of the director in today’s theater through the analysis of various directing styles and techniques. Students concentrate on play selection, concept determination and development, auditions, scene staging, and the collaborative process of working with actors and designers. Outside production work is required.

Prerequisites: Theater III and permission of the instructor.


Design and Production I:

This course is an introduction to the elements and technology of theatrical production. Topics include scenery construction, lighting, rigging, sound, scene shop safety, stage management, and the collaborative process. Students also perform duties on Keiter Center productions. Lab fee.

Design and Production II:

This course introduces students to the basic elements of concept and design. Concentration is on communication of ideas through rendering, drafting, and model making. This course also introduces students to the basic skills of lighting design and costume design. Areas explored include color theory, lighting, fabrics, and application to theater and dance. The class also explores the collaborative process between the designer, the director, and the entire artistic team. Lab fee.

Prerequisite: Design and Production I.


This course continues the work introduced in Design and Production with additional focus on design theory and practicality. Students work on and present projects consisting of complete designs and working drawings of scenery, costumes, and lighting from selected works of theater. The emphasis is on the implementation of concepts and ideas in physical production. Lab fee.

Prerequisite: Permission of the instructor


An independent study may be arranged for the advanced designer who would like to concentrate on a specific skill and area of expertise. Lab fee is required.

Prerequisite: Permission of the instructor. Workshops in Makeup and Costume Design are offered for all theater students.


Students will get hands-on training working in the Theater Shop on Keiter Center productions. They will assist in scenic construction, painting, lighting, sound, rigging, and props. Students work in the costume shop and learn basic sewing skills necessary for work on costumes for the theater. Students must put in two hours a week, or 25 hours a semester.

Prerequisite: Permission of the instructor.

Mama Mia

42nd Street

Points of Pride


Walnut Hill theater students have continued their studies at some of the world’s best colleges, conservatories, and theater programs including:

Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts — American Academy of Dramatic Arts — Boston Conservatory — California Institute of the Arts — Carnegie Mellon University — Circle in the Square — DePaul University — Elon University — Fordham University — Harvard University — Indiana University — Ithaca College — The Juilliard School — New York University — North Carolina School of the Arts — Northwestern University — Penn State University — Point Park University — Roosevelt University — Royal Scottish Academy for Music and Drama — Syracuse University — University of Cincinnati — University of Miami — University of Michigan — University of Southern California — University of St. Andrews — Yale University

Notable Alumni

Ashley Blanchet ‘05
Barrett Weed ‘07
Briga Heelan ‘05
Brooke Stone ‘02
Christian Finnegan ‘91
Joby Earle ‘01
Matthew Risch ‘00
Nicholas Christopher ‘08
Rachelle Lefevre, Summer Alum ‘94
Ross Philips ‘06
Sara Newkirk Simon ‘95
Van Hansis ‘00
Zac Young ‘01

Many of our graduates have gone on to act, direct, sing, write and more onstage and on film and television. Others have taken their creativity and applied it to non-arts fields and also found much success. Here is a sampling of some of the exciting things our alumni have gone on to do, for more news from our alumni, visit our Class Notes page.

Theater Faculty

Eric Anderson

Eric Anderson

Titles: Musical Theater
Matthew Anderson

Matthew Anderson

Titles: Voice Teacher, Classical and Musical Theater
Naomi Bailis

Naomi Bailis

Titles: Theater Faculty
Gina Beck

Gina Beck

Titles: Adjunct Voice Coach
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