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Theatre (SL and HL)

Theatre is about transformation. It is the application, through play, of energy and imagination to frame, reflect, expose, critique and speculate. The Diploma Programme theatre course is designed to encourage students to examine theatre in its diversity of forms from around the world. This may be achieved through a critical study of the theory, history and culture of theatre, and will find expression through workshopping, devised work or scripted performance. Students will come to understand that the act of imagining, creating, presenting and critically reflecting on theatre in its past and present contexts embodies the individual and social need to investigate and find explanations for the world around us.

The theatre course emphasizes the importance of working individually and as a member of an ensemble. Students are encouraged to develop the organizational and technical skills needed to express themselves creatively in theatre. A further challenge for students following this course is for them to become aware of their own perspectives and biases and to learn to understand and value those of others. This requires a willingness to understand alternative views, to respect and appreciate cultural diversity, and to see the varied role that theatre plays in reflecting these. As a result, the theatre course can become a way for students to celebrate the international and intercultural dynamic that inspires and sustains some forms of contemporary theatre, while appreciating the specifically local origins that have always given rise to performance, and which, in many parts of the world, still do.

At the core of the theatre course lies a concern with clarity of understanding, critical thinking, reflective analysis, effective involvement and imaginative synthesis—all of which should be achieved through practical engagement in theatre.

Theatre students at both SL and HL are presented with a common core syllabus that encourages the development of certain skills, attributes and attitudes. Due to the nature of the theatre course, there may be no great difference in the complexity or artistic merit of the work produced by students at SL and HL. However, the difference in recommended teaching times at SL (150) and HL (240) signals a clear distinction between the demands made on students. It is expected that students at HL will use the extra time available to develop their personal research and practice in theatre, and to extend their understanding of the ideas, practices and concepts encountered during the course.

Theatre syllabus outline

Syllabus component

Core Syllabus: Theatre in the making

The focus of theatre in the making is on the process of theatre making rather than the presentation of theatre. It encompasses the acquisition and development of all skills required to create, present and observe theatre. It is exploratory in nature.

Core syllabus: Theatre in performance

The focus of theatre in performance is on the application of skills developed in theatre in the making. This involves students in various aspects of presenting theatre, where their practical skills can be applied in different roles (as performers and as part of the production team), while also building upon the knowledge they have acquired in other areas.

Core syllabus: Theatre in the world

The focus of theatre in the world is on a practical and theoretical exploration of a range of theatre traditions and cultural practices around the world. It allows students to explore the origins and traditions of a variety of theatre conventions and practices from diverse cultural and historical contexts. 

Independent project (HL only)

Students at HL are required to choose one from the following two options:

  • Option A: Devising practice—allows students to develop and explore in depth the devising and actualization of a performance concept
  • Option B: Exploring practice—allows students to undertake a comparative study of theatre in advanced practice.

Independent project (SL only)

Students at SL are required to pursue an independent interest in theatre, which may have arisen from their studies within the course.


Key features of the curriculum and assessment models

  • Available at standard (SL) and higher levels (HL)
  • The minimum prescribed number of hours is 150 for SL and 240 for HL
  • Students are assessed both externally and internally
  • External assessment consists of a) the Research investigation (students must undertake personal dramaturgical research into an unfamiliar theatrical practice for the production of a play or theatre piece), and b) the Practical performance proposal (students must adopt a directorial perspective and write a rationale, outline and detailed description of a proposal for staging a performance)  
  • Internal assessment consists of a) the Theatre performance and production presentation (students must give an oral presentation on their involvement in the performance and production aspects of all areas of the core syllabus), and b) the Independent project portfolio (students must prepare an independent project portfolio that shows the development of their independent project and its connection to their experiences in the core syllabus).

Find out more

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Read about similar studies in the Middle Years Programme and Primary Years Programme.