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Taking Theatre 101 to Broadway

Jeffrey D. Mason
Performing Arts Department
CSU Bakersfield

Many of us seek to involve students in our courses in ways that lectures, textbooks, tests, papers, and even discussions don't provide. A student working in a science lab is much more likely to grasp the principles than another one trying to memorize a page in a text. Some courses send students out into the field, others arrange internships, and still others encourage problem solving with as practical an orientation as possible. I have found success using another approach, one that requires just a bit of imagination and involves the students in some role-playing.

Theatre 101, Introduction to the Study of Theatre, is a general education course at California State University Bakersfield that typically enrolls forty to sixty students (mostly in their first or second years), who are pursuing majors ranging from criminal justice to psychology to business administration to liberal studies. Theatre is a participatory, social, vital, and active art form—one hardly congruent with a traditional large lecture course. Yet the principal course objective is to guide the students towards becoming informed audience members—people who can attend a theatrical event and better understand the experience, what it means, and how it's accomplished. Upon returning to teaching the course after a hiatus of several years, I resolved to find a more effective way to engage the students. My new strategy involves organizing the students into groups of four in order to mount virtual theatrical productions, and I present the instructions and information in a Website configured as a game called "Broadway."

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