Theater workshops are small classes that focus on interaction and practice within different areas of theater. In most cases, students in these classes create a product or finished piece, but there are some workshops that simply teach techniques. The use of the term workshop as opposed to class is primarily due to tradition, as there are many acting classes that function much like workshops. Generally, the duration of a workshop is shorter than that of a class, and the students involved may critique one another as part of the learning experience.
Within the broad category of theater workshops, there are a number of smaller, more specific types of workshops available. It is common, given the short duration of most of these activities, for these workshops to be highly specific or involve a small number of participants. Play writing workshops, acting workshops, and even design workshops all fit under the broad category of theater workshops. Many are even more specific, focusing on, for example, a single style of acting or problems within play writing.
In many cases, theater workshops are taught by talented professionals or famous individuals. When offered through a school, this type of experience is a great way for institutions to connect students with important theater figures without demanding that the professional teach a full class. Each teacher may have a different style for teaching workshops, but some adhere to very strict guidelines. There are also traditional teaching styles that may be common in certain theater movements.
The activities performed in theater workshops depend on the subject at hand. In acting workshops, students may work on scenes or physical tasks. Writing workshops often involve bring a piece to work on and critiquing the work of others. Design workshops are frequently limited by the scale of many theater projects, and thus often focus on creating small models or other reasonable projects. Some workshops involve significant amounts of work outside the group, but others focus on creating an experience within the class.
While there are many reasons that people attend theater workshops, one of the most compelling is the chance to interact with other individuals a student respects professionally. This means that the caliber of participants and teachers has a large impact on the value and prestige of the workshop. Some well-established workshops are thought of as breeding grounds for future stars in theater and are thus highly competitive. Smaller workshops can be just as valuable, but rely on mutual respect for success.