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Durham Academy students are no stranger to the stage, from those memorizing lines for their first class play as Preschoolers, to the cast and crew staging the Upper School winter musical for at-capacity crowds in Kenan Auditorium. Regardless of a student's age, participation in theatre helps boost students' self-confidence, hones problem-solving and oral-language skills, and encourages emotional regulation and empathy. 

The winter musical is the centerpiece of the Upper School's performing arts program. The musical is a collaborative effort by all performing arts disciplines — with actors, dancers, vocalists, instrumentalists, stage managers and crew members each playing an integral role.

Learn More About Theatre at the Upper School

Preschool Class Plays

Pre-kindergartners act in their class play.

Each pre-kindergarten and kindergarten class produces a play each year — typically adapted from a beloved children's book or folk tale, like The Empty Pot and Little Red Hen. Every single student has a speaking part (with memorized lines), and children work with teachers to create their own costumes. After much rehearsing, students put their hard work on display for a beaming audience of family members and fellow Preschoolers.

Lower School Drama

Lower School drama classes support the literacy curriculum by encouraging children to visualize and make connections with poems, fables, fairy tales and short stories. Students act out plays, experiment with playwriting and improvisation, and practice stage presence.

Lower Schoolers attend drama class once in each eight-day rotation.

For many Lower Schoolers, a much-anticipated tradition is the fourth grade play. This production is a truly student-produced performance, with students acting as writers, actors, costume designers and musicians. Students work together to write a new script each year in drama class, and each fourth-grader has a speaking part and sings. In addition, many students play musical instruments. Students stage the play twice: once for fellow Lower Schoolers, and once for an appreciative audience of family members and friends.

Two students act in the Durham Academy fourth grade play.

Middle School Theatre


Theatre is one of the six trimester-long courses that all fifth- and sixth-graders participate in as part of the Explorations component of the Middle School curriculum.

The Middle School's theatre program aims to instill a love of theatre by providing every student with the opportunity to engage in the many facets of the playmaking and theatre production process. The exploration trimester begins with a focus on establishing the skills needed to collaborate and work together as an ensemble. Students are then exposed to the fundamentals of acting and improvisation while creating original scenes based on their ideas and interests.


Through the Electives component of the Middle School curriculum, seventh- and eighth-graders may choose to take a deeper dive into theatre through a yearlong course.

Upper School Theatre


The Upper School theatre program includes courses in acting, dramatic writing and technical theatre.

Extracurricular Offerings

In addition to our curricular offerings, many students interested in theatre join the cast or crew of the Upper School's two major productions each year.