What Are Theater Workshops?

Tara Barnett

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.

Aspiring actors can gain insight through a theater workshop.
Aspiring actors can gain insight through a theater workshop.

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.

Theater workshops can teach actors how to properly express emotions during a performance.
Theater workshops can teach actors how to properly express emotions during a performance.

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.

Theater workshops might focus on dance performances.
Theater workshops might focus on dance performances.

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Discussion Comments


It's also worth it to point out that there are theater workshops for people who work in technical theater. These workshops have all the advantages that workshops dedicated to actors have. Also, tech theater is something that is always changing so getting some continuing education can be a real career boost.


Every summer I offer a youth acting class. I am a high school drama teacher and think it is part of my responsibility to get new generations of kids thinking about and falling in love with theater.

It is all fine and well if a kid discovers the theater in high school. But the earlier you can get them appreciating the labors of the stage the better. Most of the kids I work with are between 8 and 12 and there are some that you can tell, even at that early age, are destined for a life on the stage.


Theater workshops are a great way for both new and experienced actors to refine their craft and to gain some new skills. No actor is ever finished studying and workshops are a great way to get exposed to new ideas and fresh talent.

I have run theater workshops myself over the years and most have focused on comic acting. It's harder than it looks. There are a number of great dramatic actors who could not tell a joke to save their lives. There are even funny people who make lousy comic actors. It takes talent and hard work.


Most theater workshops will have some kind of specific focus so be sure you seek out workshops that cater to your interests.

I remember that when I was a young theater student and doing a lot of workshops in the summers I had an incredible workshop that focused on stage combat. I had a little bit of training from other classes and productions, but this was full on stage combat that ranged from hand to hand to equipped with weapons.

My final performance was a staged fight with me and a bunch of ninjas. How many people can actually say they have fought ninjas?

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