Academic Group 6 Subjects

Overview: Theatre HL & SL

In my opinion, theatre is one of the most underrated courses you could take in the IB. While it is one of the more practical and research-based courses out there, it also allows you to explore your capabilities as an individual and as a team player. If you are interested in taking this subject, read on!

Coursework

For Theatre, you have 3 pieces of coursework for SL and 4 pieces for HL. Only the Collaborative Project is internally assessed. All the others are externally assessed. 

1. Solo Theatre Piece (HL only) 

This project allows students to devise an original, short piece (4-8 minutes) to be performed in front of a live audience, based on a theorist they have not previously studied. The theorist does not have to come from a prescribed list.

According to the syllabus, a theorist is:

“a theatre practitioner who has contributed to the shaping and development of theatre through his or her published work and ideas (primary sources). In addition, there are published works by others (secondary sources) regarding the theatre theorist’s contributions, ideas and the impact they have had on theatre practice, signifying that the theatre theorist’s work has had implications beyond his or her own practice and an impact on theatre in general. Theatre theorists will often present frameworks, approaches, techniques and models of practice. They will often develop existing theatre practice or shed new light on it, as well as innovating new forms and approaches.” 

2. Director’s notebook (SL & HL)

Here, students create a vision for a staging of a play text they have not studied before. There is no prescribed list of play texts you could study. 

3. Research presentation (SL & HL)

Students deliver a 15 minute presentation about a specific aspect of a world theatre tradition from a prescribed list and briefly demonstrate this aspect. Similar to the earlier pieces of coursework, this tradition should be one that the student has not studied prior to IB.  For instance, you can explore hand movement in Kathakali. 

4. Collaborative project (SL & HL) (Internally Assessed)

For this project, students work together to create and perform a 13-15-minute piece to an audience. This is the only piece of coursework that is internally assessed. 

Note: musical theatre is not advisable to look at (I know, a shame). You can, however, study the original text that a musical was based on or explore the work of someone from the creative team! Some ideas and examples can include: 

  • The Lion King: 
    • Solo Theatre Project/Collaborative: you can look at Julie Taymor’s work on puppetry 
    • Director’s Notebook: you can create a vision for Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
  • Sweeney Todd: 
    • Director’s Notebook: you can create a vision for the original 1973 play that the musical was based on
    • Solo Project/Collaborative: you can use one of the songs as a ‘starting point’ or as inspiration for your piece! 

Why should you take Theatre?

1. It’s a course for everyone!

While there is definitely a performance element to the course, most of this subject is actually about research. So, even if you prefer behind-the-scenes action to stand in the spotlight, there is no problem. For example, your technical prowess can come through in how you explore lighting and sound for your coursework. Alternatively, if you’re struggling with breaking out of your shell, the performance elements could also help you gain confidence. 

2. You graduate with a very practical skill set

For example, the very nature of the Collaborative Project helps you develop empathy and communication skills. These are two vital soft skills that are prized in any industry! 

3. You can learn about new cultures

Have you moved to a new country or continent for your IB years and you know nothing about this new place? The research presentation could help! By studying the theatre tradition of your new home, you get to fulfil an IB requirement and ease the adjustment period.

For instance, you have just started at a new school in Greece, having come from a different country. Studying Ancient Greek tragedy or Karagozi puppetry could help you understand the performance history and the cultural heritage of this country!

4. You can learn about your personal history

Being of Chinese descent, I decided to research about Chinese Opera for my research presentation. If you also want to learn about your heritage, the research presentation could assist you. 

5. You can make links to your other subjects

While it’s not advisable to use a play that you’re studying in a language class for your Director’s Notebook (Coursework #2, as seen above), you can definitely look at a text by the same writer or from the same genre or time period. 

For example, are you studying Shakespeare’s plays in your Lit class? Try looking at his contemporaries, like Marlowe or Webster, for your Director’s Notebook. A more interesting option would be to go in a completely opposite direction. Why not improve your understanding of Maths by creating a vision for Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia, which explores Fermat’s Last Theorem, chaos theory and more? 

6. It is creatively satisfying

For the Director’s Notebook, for instance, you basically have free reign over what theatrical text you want to create a vision for and how you want to explore that vision.

In my case, I took Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew and I set it in a 1950s Americanah aesthetic. In addition, I included a section about character analysis. To deliver a clearer message about the impact of patriarchal oppression, I particularly emphasized Katherina’s role as a victim of the patriarchy and Petruchio’s role as embodying the worst dimensions of the system. 

5. There is no written examination

You heard that right. No final exam, with or without COVID!

Overall, taking IB Theatre was one of the best decisions I made for my IB program. Because of the liberating nature of the course, it was a subject that I always looked forward to in my week. Good luck!


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