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VCE Performing Arts

Theatre Unit 1: Pre-modern Theatre Styles and Conventions


There are no prerequisites for this unit.

Course Description

This unit focusses on the application of acting, direction and design in relation to theatre styles from the pre-modern era; that is, works prior to the 1920s. Students creatively and imaginatively work in production roles with scripts from the pre-modern era of theatre, focussing on at least three distinct theatre styles and their conventions. They study innovations in theatre production in the pre-modern era and apply this knowledge to their own works. Students develop knowledge and skills about theatre production processes including dramaturgy, planning, development and performance to an audience and apply this to their work. Theatre styles from the pre-modern era of theatre include Ancient Greek, Ancient Roman, Liturgical drama such as morality/miracle/mystery plays, Commedia Dell’Arte, Elizabethan, Restoration comedies and dramas, Neo-classical, Naturalism/Realism, Beijing Opera, Noh theatre, Bunraku and Kabuki and other traditional indigenous theatre forms.

Production roles:

For Area of Study 2, students must work in at least two production roles. The production roles for Area of Study 2 are:

• actor

• director

• designer – any one or more of costume, make-up, props, set, lighting, sound.

Areas of Study

Exploring pre-modern theatre styles and conventions

In this area of study students explore playscripts from the pre-modern era of theatre; that is, works prior to the 1920s. They study at least three distinct theatre styles from the pre-modern era and the conventions and scripts associated with each. Students study innovations in theatre production in the pre-modern era. They learn about contexts, cultural origins, production roles and performance possibilities for each of the selected playscripts. Through practical workshops students gain knowledge of how these periods have shaped and contributed to the world of pre-modern theatre. 

Interpreting Scripts

This area of study focusses on the presentation of playscripts from the pre-modern era of theatre. They work creatively and imaginatively in at least two production roles to interpret playscripts from three or more distinct theatre styles from the pre-modern era. Students study and apply relevant conventions and consider how work in production roles is informed by different theatre styles and contexts. They learn about processes for developing characters and consider the influence of the audience on work in production roles to enhance text interpretation. Throughout the production process, students will have opportunities to develop oral skills by participating in discussions and explaining how their work in production roles contributes to realising the production aims. They study and apply elements of theatre composition and safe working practices in theatre production.

Analysing a Play in Performance

This area of study focusses on an analysis of a professional performance of a script.  They study the nature of performance analysis, including audience perspective, acting skills, directorial skills and design skills, and the ways in which the contexts and theatre styles identified or implied in a script are interpreted in performance. Students study the use of theatre technologies and the elements of theatre composition in professional theatre performance. Where possible, students should analyse a pre-modern play in performance.


Assessment Tasks
(school-assessed coursework)
Identify and describe distinguishing features of theatre styles and scripts from the pre-modern era.​ Analysis of playscripts from the pre-modern era.
Work creatively and imaginatively in production roles to interpret scripts from the pre-modern era.​ Developing performances utilising theatrical conventions specific to theatre styles of the pre-modern era working in 2 production roles.​
Analyse a performance of a play script. Written analysis and evaluation of a professional production.

Overall Final Assessment

End of Semester Examination – 1.5 hours.

Information can be obtained from the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, Victoria, Australia: