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ArtForce: Performing Arts 

Marian University 

Grades 9-12

July 11-15, 2016

Program Summary 

ArtForce: Performing Arts provided eight high school students from Indiana with a hands-on experience with professional theater artists. Participants learned about all the hard work that goes into creating a stage performance through workshops, and then they had the experience of creating their own original performance in just five days. They gained valuable experience in playwriting, costume design, set design, and hair and makeup.


The final day of the program concluded with a culminating performance and showcase. The participants performed their student-made short play and displayed journals and masks they created throughout the week.

Program Objectives

  • To increase participants' understanding of theater techniques.

  • To increase participants' understanding of the stage production process.

  • To provide students with a mentorship program where they can learn hands-on from professional artists

Program Design

Seeing as this was a pilot program, ArtForce: Performing Arts was designed to give the students as much freedom as possible. Head instructor Ryan Mullins created a week-long curriculum, but he also took into consideration what the students were interested in and wanted to learn about as the week went on. This allowed the students to be creative, have fun, stay engaged, and learn about theater all at the same time. Mullins said, "I had some ideas on what I wanted to do with them, but it was really important for me to let them guide where we were going; they really took the helm. They got to have at least a bit of experience in almost every aspect of theatre production."


The beginning of the week was focused on selecting a storyline, setting, and plot. Then, Ryan led the students in numerous script read throughs, staging, and blocking. The end of the week was focused on creating masks and deciding on costumes and props for the final show, as well as dress rehearsals.

Our Partnerships

ArtForce: Performing Arts was made possible by Arts for Learning’s partnerships with Marian University and NoExit Performance, a theater company that seeks to creatively engage their audiences by promoting civic and social dialogue between artists and their community. Our participants had the unique opportunities of performing in Marian University’s Theater and taking a tour of campus, as well as working closely with three different NoExit Performance teaching artists.

The Creative Team

ArtForce: Performing Arts 2016 instructor and teaching artist Ryan Mullins has been a company member, director, and lighting designer with NoExit Performance since 2008. Mullins created a curriculum and worked with the ArtForce participants daily to enhance their knowledge of theater techniques and the stage production process. Additionally, NoExit Performance company member Beverly Roche gave the students a guest workshop on scriptwriting, and NoExit Performance’s Executive Director Lukas Schooler provided the participants with a guest workshop on mask-making. The participants all agreed that the three instructors were effective. One participant even said, "Ryan was an awesome instructor for me! He taught me skills and terms I hadn’t known before. He kept good humor but at the same time was serious."

The Creative & Learning Process

ArtForce students began the program on Monday, July 11, with the final performance taking place on Friday, July 15. Participants went to the Marian University Theater Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. for instruction from Ryan Mullins, as well as workshops from visiting artists throughout the week. At the beginning of the week, the students each received their own journal. They used their journal throughout the program to sketch masks, write short stories, brainstorm character traits, and so much more.


The students started each day of ArtForce with a warm-up exercise, such as Human Knot and Fear in a Bag. They then moved into their theater workshops. Throughout the week, ArtForce participants collaborated and wrote a script together, had mock auditions, were casted for the script they wrote, created masks and props, and staged and blocked their show to perform at the final performance on the last day of the program. The students, guided by Mullins, had the freedom to create the characters, setting, plot, etc. for their show.  


The students’ final performance was a short, modern play based off of traditional fairy tales. Characters included Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs, Little Bo Peep, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, and other familiar fairy tale characters. The short performance, as well as the display of masks and journals, was open to the public.

Meaningful Student Learning

At the beginning of the week, participants were timid to act in front of students they did not know. By the end of the week, though, each participant was comfortable in front of the others, and there was a sense of trust among the group. Of the eight participants, six said they discovered they were more confident than they thought ​because of ArtForce, and five of the eight discovered they had talents they didn't know about. Parents of the participants also noticed positive changes in their children, just after one week of the program.

From ArtForce: Performing Arts Parent: "My child is typically excited about science and math, but I was surprised she was really excited about this program every day."

From ArtForce: Performing Arts Parent: "She was stretched socially (she’s shy), she enjoyed meeting new people, and she was self-motivated to be organized with the things she was asked to do at home to prepare."  


The benefit of a pilot program is that the students have the freedom to tailor the experience to what they want it to be. Even though they had so much freedom in choosing and creating what their week looked like, ArtForce participants were still able to expand their knowledge first through workshops, then through experiencing different theater techniques and the stage production process hands-on with three different professional NoExit Performance artists.

Closing Thoughts

Next year, ArtForce: Performing Arts will be a three-week program. Adding two weeks will allow participants more time to create a longer original play, as well as provide opportunities for participants to see other performances together and go on enriching field trips. This would also allow time for more guest teaching artists to give workshops and/or lectures. We will also add our apprenticeship aspect of ArtForce to the performing arts track, where the participants will create their own theater lesson plans and teach them to younger students. We hope to expand this program to allow 10-15 students this unique opportunity.

Written By:

Leesa Jing

Summer Program Assistant, 2016

Butler University, Class of 2017

     B.S. Arts Administration

     B.S. Mathematics