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Professional Development Intensives

The Educational Theatre Association’s Professional Development Intensives (PDIs) programs consist of one- or two-day interactive, hands-on opportunities for theatre educators to develop their arsenal of professional skills on a specific topic. Topics range from directing a musical to curriculum development to stage lighting.  

EdTA's PDI seminars also allows attendees to advance a graduate degree or earn credit required for continuing education.

The PDI program is typically run in conjunction with other Association events, such as the Thespian Festival or the National Conference. Attendees can minimize their time out of the classroom, maximize their budget for professional development, and allow for wider networking opportunities.

Professional Development Intensives will occur at:

2014 EdTA National Conference

July 24 - 27
Cincinnati, OH

Conference PDIs are being accredited through the University of Northern Colorado. Information regarding receiving extra credit can be found in the professional development entry of the Conference library.

Thursday July 24

Lighting in the 21st century
Dana Taylor and technicians
The session will explore lighting innovations of the last ten years including the advent of solid state lighting (LED fixtures) and its impact on lighting design, theatre design, and architecture. Participants will have the opportunity to use these powerful tools. Location: Vincent Lighting in Erlanger, KY.

Teaching costuming: Basic design and construction techniques for your high school Terry McGonigle
Participants will develop skills in script and character analysis and figure drawing as they pertain to costume design. In this session, we will also discuss using a swatch book to teach basic sewing techniques. Lessons include: skirts in twenty minutes, vests in no time, and converting modern clothing to period looks. Participants will leave with electronic and hardcopy versions of all handouts and teaching materials.

Directing an A+ production: bringing the perspective of an educator into the directing realm Shawnda Moss and Bradley Moss
For the theatre educator and student, the stage should be an extension of the classroom. It is important to discover how to pull student-centered learning into your directing and production work. Part of the challenge is dealing with the spectrum of needs and learning styles that exist within any cast. How can you best utilize the different personalities in your cast members to help all your performers succeed? This intensive will explore how to recognize and bring out the best assets of your actors to draw on their differences and strengths, develop a rehearsal process grounded in a variety of learning experiences, and teach your student actors how to collaborate and work together as a true ensemble.

Acting in musical theatre: a teaching boot camp Joe Deer and Rocco Dal Vera
Start your students down the path to exciting, integrated musical acting. Deer and Dal Vera offer a sequence of hands-on workshops: Musical Acting Fundamentals, Journey of the Song, Anchoring, World of the Song, Pedagogy and Course Development. Walk into the classroom and rehearsals with confidence. Joe and Rocco are the authors of Acting in Musical Theatre and the “Acting in Musical Theatre” column for Dramatics. Joe also wrote Directing in Musical Theatre, and Rocco co-wrote Voice: Onstage and Off with Robert Barton. Their students are on Broadway, national tours, and regional stages.

Sunday July 27

The cycle of teaching theatre
Leslie Van Leishout
Teaching theatre is more like a cyclical or recursive process than a linear one. This workshop will prepare both new and experienced teachers to leap forward from the New National Theatre Standard using their current curriculum to create observable, measureable, specific, and attainable learning objectives. Teachers will translate their updated learning objectives into scaffolded activities; create instruments of assessment for formative, intermittent, and summative measurements of students’ needs and learn how to educate administrators about your classroom.

Performance-based learning: utilizing twenty-first century tools to capitalize on class time Adam Moreno
Technology should make it easier for teachers to focus on what is truly important in theatre education: building confidence, developing creativity, collaborating with others, and creating a lifelong appreciation for theatre. Participants in this PDI will learn about free resources that will allow them to connect with other drama teachers, deepen content knowledge, and free more time for performance-based learning opportunities in the classroom. Using these tools will enhance your lesson planning, class discussions, parent communication, and student assessment. The beneficiaries: your students. Bring a laptop (preferred) or other device, along with lessons, handouts, and any other curricular artifacts with which you would like to work

Contemporary commedia dell’arte: History, masks, performance, and social commentary Michael Bigelow Dixon
Commedia dell’arte is one of the most influential art forms in the history of Western theatre. This part-lecture, part-hands-on intensive will include an overview of commedia dell’arte and its legacy, discussion and brainstorming of contemporary stereotypes, design and creation of character masks, improvisation of lazzi (comedic jokes or gags) and storytelling scenarios, and a discussion on the purposes and power of stereotyping. Participants will receive a PowerPoint presentation on commedia dell’arte, as well as lesson plans, and the masks that they designed, painted, and used for in-class performance.

A previously-scheduled PDI entitled Directing Tablework will no longer be offered at the 2014 EdTA National Conference. We are looking to reschedule this PDI for a future EdTA National Conference.


Rocco Dal Vera
is a drama professor at University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and a certified trainer in Alba Emoting. He is also founding editor of Voice and Speech Review and on faculty at Xavier University Leadership Center. Rocco has taught at National Theatre Conservatory, Willamette University, and United States International University and is former chair of voice and speech at American Academy of Dramatic Arts. He is resident vocal coach for Cincinnati Shakespeare, Cincinnati Playhouse, Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati, Actors Theatre of Louisville, and Human Race Theatre and a coach for some fifty regional productions a year.

Joe Deer
is a distinguished professor and head of Wright State University’s musical theatre program. He is also an award-winning director and choreographer of more than 150 productions in Off Broadway, regional, and university theatres and a resident artist with Human Race Theatre. In a former life, Joe appeared in Broadway and national tour productions of Anything Goes, Singin’ in the Rain, The Music Man, and Brigadoon. He has also served a master teacher and education consultant for New York City Center, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, Danish Academy of Musical Theatre, and Stage School of Hamburg, Germany.

Michael Bigelow Dixon
teaches on the theatre faculty at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky. As literary manager at Actors Theatre in the 1980s and ‘90s, Michael supervised the Classics in Context Festival that celebrated commedia dell’arte and brought together leaders in that field, including Jacques Lecoq, Ferruccio Soleri and Bill Irwin. Michael has been literary director at the Guthrie Theater and resident director at the Playwrights’ Center. He’s co-edited thirty-five volumes of plays and criticism and is a regular contributor to Teaching Theatre and Dramatics.

Terry McGonigle
has been a theatre arts teacher and director for four decades. He is in his fourth year at Alma High School in Arkansas. He holds a B.A. in theatre from Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas, an M.A. in technical theatre and design from Emporia State University, and a second M.A. in journalism from Pittsburgh State University. A long-time supporter of the International Thespian Society, Terry was inducted into the Educational Theatre Association’s National Theatre Educator Hall of Fame in 2008, the Georgia Thespians Hall of Fame in 2006, and the Kansas Thespians Hall of Fame in 2004. In the summer of 2012, an instructional video featuring McGonigle’s work as a costume designer and educator was released by Interactive Educational Video. Terry served as the costume designer for the National Thespian casts of Ragtime and Thoroughly Modern Millie.

Adam Moreno is a drama teacher and director at the University School of Milwaukee, a 1:1 school, and the founder of Higher Expectations Theatre. He co-moderates a Twitter chat at #VidEd and blogs about his educational theatre experiences at He has presented at three EdTA Conferences, at the 2013 ISACS national conference, and at Edcamp events in Chicago, Madison, and Milwaukee.

Bradley Moss
has been teaching theatre and media for the past fifteen years and holds degrees in both theatre education and media literacy education. He is currently teaching at Maple Mountain High School in Utah and serves as adjunct faculty for the Department of Theatre and Media Arts at Brigham Young University. He recently served on the NCCAS writing team creating the first ever national standards for media arts.

Shawnda Moss
manages the Theatre Education Curriculum Database at Brigham Young University, where she also teaches courses in pedagogy and methods, production, and directing, and supervises student teachers. She directs and performs for various Utah theatre companies. Previously she taught high school theatre for several years in Salt Lake City and at Maple Mountain High School in Utah.

Dana Taylor
teaches technical theatre for the Mount Vernon High School Fine Arts Academy in addition to serving as director of Vocal Music at Mt. Vernon Senior High School. Dana’s articles have appeared in Dramatics, Teaching Theatre, and Projection Lights and Staging News (PSLN). He was named Technical Theatre Educator of the Year in 2005 by Stage Directions magazine. He is a member of the Educational Theatre Association, the American Choral Directors Association, United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT), and PLASA.

Leslie Van Leishout
is currently the Theater Education Coordinator in the Department of Theater and Dance at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE). Leslie is a member of the Theatre Writing Team for the National Coalition for CORE Arts Standards (NCCAS) and a former Co-Chapter Director of Washington State Thespians. She was inducted into the EdTA National Hall of Fame in 2013.