Acting Block Overview

The Acting Block at Sonoma State is the heart of the acting program.  It is a four-semester cycle that assumes the actor has significant experience and mastery of a realistic acting style prior to entrance into the Block. 

The Block meets four days each week from 9:30-11:50.  The first portion of each class is dedicated to building physical and vocal foundations.  Here actors, dancers, and design/tech students come together to develop body, mind and spirit that prepare students for their discipline-specific work that begins no later than 10:30.  Dance faculty often teaches foundations.

The Acting Block cycle is:

  1. Physical Theatre techniques designed to teach the actor to express himself or herself
    through his/her body and to move beyond verbal language and voice as the actor’s primary tool.
  2. Verse Drama teaches the actor how to read, analyze and activate dramatic text written in verse form. Study in Shakespeare will comprise the majority of work in this block. ENG 339 is a prerequisite to this semester of the Block.
  3. 20th Century Non-realistic Drama examines 3-5 different dramatic styles other than realism. Writers normally include Shaw, Brecht, Beckett and Fornes.
  4. Exposure is the fourth Block semester.  Here professional residencies offer the student actor exposure to contemporary approaches to making theatre. A second focus of this semester is on-camera technique.

Each semester will be taught be one or more instructors who will be chosen for their individual strengths in teaching a given area of study. At present, the intermediate and advanced actors study concurrently. Therefore, depending on which year you enter the block you will begin with Block 1 or Block 3.  As the department grows, it is planned that two separate cycles will be taught so that all actors may take the cycle in the order listed above.

Taken as a whole, we believe that each student will develop an individual acting process, a strong sense of craft, and a broad working understanding of several styles of acting and a range of acting skills and techniques.  We aim to train strong, independent, risk-taking actors who are able to work exceptionally well in collaboration with other performing artists.

Standards, Evaluations, Grades

We feel strongly that each student should be present every day and able to work in class to her/his top capacity.  Our reasons stem from the course design that is a building of physical and vocal exercise upon exercise, skill upon skill leading to an increase of individual ability to bring an appropriate and artistically resonant stage life to a performance of dance or text.  A missed day represents a missed opportunity, and a missed link in process-building. We therefore assume that you will be present and on time, and that it is your responsibility to do so.

Our goal is to develop artists.  To do so we want to train you to be lifetime learners, dedicated to your craft, the field you are training for, and to your own futures in those fields.  We urge you to take responsibility for your own development, and are prepared to help you do so.

Criteria

Your work will be assessed by the following criteria:

  1. Being present
  2. Being actively engaged and fully committed to the work of the class
  3. Individual growth
  4. Growth in ability

Standards

Being Present: If you miss a class, nothing you could read, and nothing that anyone could tell you would be equivalent to being in the room with your classmates at that time receiving and processing the experiences of that day.  For this reason, absences will affect your grade.

Because the knowledge and material that the class offers can be passed on exclusively with your body and spirit in the classroom with this group of teachers and colleagues, absences are not evaluated as "excused" or "not excused".  Please talk with us about health or personal concerns that might be interfering with your class work. Your health and well‑being are very important to us, and we want to know relevant health issues that may be an obstacle to your being in class, and doing well in class.

Timeliness: Learning to approach acting work with rigor, discipline and sense of commitment to craft and to colleagues to build ensemble is at the heart of the intent of this class.  To support these goals, it is in your best interest to begin the class with everyone in the room, together, at 9:30.  Therefore, you will be expected to be in P.E. 1 and ready to work at 9:30.  If you are arrive later than 9:40 you will not be allowed to take the day's movement/ vocal foundation work, without which you will not be allowed to attend the drama or dance section that day.    If you arrive between 9:30 and 9:40 you will be counted as late.  Lateness and absences will affect your grade.

Get to know what you need, and plan so that you give yourself time to feel present and comfortable by 9:30.  The room will be open at 9:15. You may need to allow yourself time to arrive, dress, socialize and prepare. 

These guidelines are in the best interest of your body as the class is designed to progress gradually and intelligently from the beginning.  They are also in the best interest of the attention and commitment of you and your classmates.

Being actively engaged and fully committed to work of the class.  The standards for these criteria are based on faculty assessment of how well you:

  • Leave behind what is past or future, and engage fully in the present moment in class
  • Bring an attitude of engagement and commitment to one another
  • Receive information with openness
  • Process information fully ‑ sensing, feeling and thinking
  • Act with full commitment and follow through
  • Enjoy your work: there is real pleasure to be found in committed, even difficult work that leads to positive results  

GROWTH: the distance you travel form the starting point of the class to its conclusion based on your increased comprehension of ideas, improvement of skills, and development of personal artistry.

ABILITY: your level of actual achievement with regards to comprehension, skills, and artistry. 

Evaluation of your growth and ability during the semester is based on the instructors' perception and assessment of your work in:

  • Fundamentals of Movement
  • Voice
  • Acting craft
  • Integration of specific materials. (i.e. integration of scanning and paraphrasing skills while in the Verse Drama Block
  • Relationships with peers and instructors

Each teacher you work with will give you a grade based on the above criteria and standards.  Your final grade will be an average of Fundamentals of Movement, Voice work (if applicable,) and Acting Class work. Weighted percentages for grades are determined by amount of class time each Block instructor has with the Block each week.  Typically, the foundation work represents 10% of the grade, while the acting class is seven hours, while 90% will be from acting instructors. 

Grading standards are:
A = excellent work
B = good work
C = average work
D = poor work
F = failing

Tardiness and absenteeism are considered after grades are averaged, and grades are adjusted accordingly.  After 4 absences, you can expect your grade to go down. Grades are a tool for measurement, not the thing being measured.  If you work well, your grades will reflect your work.  The opposite is also true. 

EVALUATIONS

You will be given the opportunity to meet with your instructors at mid‑semester to discuss how you are progressing in class, and to voice questions, concerns and perceptions of how we might do better working together as learners and instructors. This is an opportunity for an open conversation about how you might best approach your work in the second half of the semester. At the end of each semester, you will have another opportunity to meet with your instructors to discuss how the semester’s work has gone for you, and to identify directions you may want to be headed in future semesters. Written evaluations are also provided at these meetings.  We normally do a group evaluation in finals week of each semester.