Students do not listen and watch—they do. Physical, vocal and imaginative exploration and expression are what actors do, and so acting students actively move, dance, speak, sing, think and feel during their curricular and extra-curricular experiences.
The school's statement of philosophy focuses on the concept of the pursuit of individual excellence by academic, physical and creative means within the context of a community dedicated to active learning, integrity and service to others. The Theatre, Speech & Dance Department views itself as immersed in this pursuit.
A theatre class is the very definition of active learning. With the exception of the eighth grade introductory course, all participation in the Theatre Department is by choice. By its very nature, a challenge by choice means personal involvement and commitment in the meeting of that challenge. Theatre classes are not about lecture and discussion—they are about activity. Students in the performing arts do not listen and watch—they do. Physical, vocal and imaginative exploration and expression are what actors do, and so acting students actively move, dance, speak, sing, think, and feel during their curricular and extra-curricular theatre experiences.
The department's approach to integrity is equally active, for it does not remain at a conceptual level. Integrity is not discussed, but rather is expected. Without integrity as part of the process, the product — whether it be the opening night of a show or the personal fulfillment of an individual — would be sullied. During the mounting of a performance, students must commit themselves to such tasks as reliable attendance and memorization. Students are also in school buildings and back stage during times when self-monitoring and control are absolutely necessary. In class students must gain the trust of partners and small groups while participating in activities of emotional exploration and physical contact. In short, all participation in theatre involves some personal risk, and without individual and group integrity, that risk would prove itself not worth choosing. As students continue to choose theatre, it would seem that integrity is an inherent aspect of the department.
This sense of integrity leads theatre students to serve each other. Each student is bound to the success of the group, and so the individual works to serve the ensemble. In each performance of the year, the ensemble then serves the cultural community of the school.
From the strong sense of camaraderie amongst its faculty to the quality of that faculty's relationship with students, the Theatre, Speech & Dance Department succeeds in creating the informal atmosphere of excellence, which is called for by the school's statement of philosophy. We "study, play, create" and strive to continue the pursuit of the active, ethical and valuable education expected of John Burroughs School.
The ability to speak and present logical arguments in public is one of the benchmarks of a Burroughs education. To properly equip students, Burroughs’ speech and debate classes are skill-oriented and rely on peer and self-evaluation according to set criteria. The focus is procedural and logical rather than competitive.