A choice for high school students, a charter school for the performing arts. Elizabeth shares her experience as a Drama Academy student.

Posted by Pioneer High School for the Performing Arts on Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Enrollment still open. Take a tour and join us today!

The Drama Academy integrates the disciplines of film, stage and vocal performance training for the theatre. This interdisciplinary approach prepares students to be conversant across disciplines resulting in a well-rounded performer. Students are exposed to professional standards and training by professionals in the industry who themselves are graduates in the theatre arts with professional credentials on TV, theatre and film.

A multi-level curriculum
The academy has a multi-level curriculum that caters to the skill level of each student. A high level of commitment is required of students that emphasizes individual growth while building ensemble, critical thinking, creativity, confidence, and proficiency across the operational aspects of theatrical productions.

Prepared through performance
Training is polished through regular performance opportunities. Students engage in peer and parent reviews, compete at the Shakespeare competition, and also participate in Utah High School Activities Association competitions for region and state. This is in addition to productions that students participate in offered by PHS. Instruction and performance opportunities reenforce the development of a complete performer.

Prepared for career and academic opportunities
The course of study provides a multi-dimensional experience that captures the breath and depth of theatre as an art form and exposes students to cutting-edge concepts in theatre. Upon completion of the PHS experience students are prepared to enter into a professional acting career, compete for scholarships and opportunities for college, university or conservatory, and provide students with many career choices related to and not limited to theatre, production, script writing, and directing.

To receive more information about the drama academy click here.

ShawndaMeet the Artistic Director
Shawnda Moss received degrees in Theatre Education and Theatre for Young Audiences from BYU. She taught high school theatre for over eleven years in the public school system in Salt Lake County and Utah County. During that time she established theatre programs that became respected statewide in theatre educator’s circles. Currently Shawnda teaches directing and theatre education courses in the BYU Theatre and Media Arts Department as well as supervises theatre student teachers in local public schools. She often conducts workshops at national theatre education conferences and seminars for university education programs. She is on the Board of Directors for the Utah Theatre Association and organizes and produces its annual conference. She loves to perform and can be seen acting as well as directing on local stages in plays and musicals. She is married to Bradley Moss, another theatre instructor, and plays mom to three adorable, brilliant, blond-haired children.


Meet the Department Chair
Brieanne Witte is originally from Southern California and has taught Theatre and Dance for the past five years at Century High School in Pocatello, Idaho. Under her direction, the program became the 4A State Drama Champions and several of her students have received National recognition for their work in the Performing Arts. Brieanne has a BS in Secondary Education with a Theatre Credential from Idaho State University and is also a member of the NEA and the Educational Theatre Association. She has served as a Board Member for the IHSAA , been nominated for Theatre Teacher of the Year, and recognized as an Excellent High School Educator. Apart from teaching, Brieanne has professional experience as a Director, Choreographer, Dancer, and Business Manager for various production companies in Idaho and Southern California, with extensive studies/work in Physical Acting, Theatre History, and Playwriting.

Drama Academy Classes

The Drama Academy is designed to develop actors, playwrights, and screenwriters with emotional, intellectual and artistic depth and breadth. Below is a sampling of classes offered to achieve this goal:

Class Name Teacher
Acting the Song
This course is designed to help actors improve their use of gesture, expression, and intentional movement. Students will explore physical characterization and spatial use in order to add dimension to their vocal performances. Performance material will include both solo and small group ensembles, as well as vocal selections from various Musical Theatre, Classical, and Contemporary songs.

Ms. Brieanne Witte

Acting Conservatory
This course offers exploration into the tools and techniques of creating character within the context of the world of the play. Through script analysis and attention to style, students will learn how to create the imaginary world in which the character lives. We will focus on the given circumstances, creating a physical life for the character, and miming the relationships that drive a play or scene. The young artists will deepen their understanding of self- observation & continue to apply discoveries to style, scene work, and monologues while learning how to critically dissect and discuss the varied nuances of performance. This class will be directed to an advanced level, with an incredible emphasis put upon deepening the work and our understanding of the craft.

Mr. Chase Ramsey

Actors in Action
This course serves as an “actor’s workshop” for the entire Drama Academy. Students will have opportunities to develop auditioning skills, to rehearse and receive direction for performance pieces/other course work, to give/receive constructive critique, to participate in Guest Artist workshops, and to build rapport and trust with fellow actors. Within this class, students will be mentored and coached to ensure progress in all Drama Academy courses. Emphasis will be placed on professionalism and growth as a Performing Artist.

Ms. Brieanne Witte

Ms. Heidi Mendez Harrison

Film Studies (cross-academy course)
This course provides an introduction to the art of Filmmaking with a non-performance based approach. Students will develop a foundation of knowledge and appreciation for the creative processes and aesthetic principles which guide Screenwriters, Directors, Filmmakers, and Actors. Upon completion, students will be able to recognize various film genres, stylistic trends in filmmaking, and to evaluate/analyze various aspects found in films and screenplays. By exploring the trends, styles, important filmmakers/artists, and technical aspects of filmmaking throughout history, students will understand the impact this art form has in shaping humanity and the Performing Arts.

Ms. Brieanne Witte

Acting Foundations
This course serves as an introduction into the art and techniques of Acting. Students will learn stage terminology and a working knowledge of the production process, develop fundamental acting skills (characterization, memorization, blocking), and most importantly increase their confidence as a performer. Within this class, important playwrights and theatre movements will be studied/used for performance to help actors understand how theatre has evolved throughout time and around the world.  In addition, various acting techniques will be introduced and explored to help students develop their own personal approach to the art of Acting.

Ms. Brieanne Witte

Musical Theatre Scene Study
This course is intended to provide students with in-class performance opportunities to practice and demonstrate their abilities as Musical Theatre actors. Various music and choreography styles will be studied in addition to important writers and trends in musical theatre. Students will analyze and prepare both individual and group scenes and musical selections (including characterization, choreography, and blocking).

Ms. Brieanne Witte

Physical Acting
This course is designed to increase students’ physicality and physical awareness as an actor. Using movement exercises and non-verbal communication skills, students will learn to alter their physical presence to create new characters, move naturally onstage, create interesting blocking choices, and to portray emotions realistically and believably. In addition, the art forms of Mime and Commedia dell’Arte will be extensively studied to help students gain a command of space, gesture, and physical dynamics.

Ms. Brieanne Witte

In this course students will learn about multiple styles of puppetry, their history and contemporary uses. They will build and perform with sock puppets, big mouth puppets, simple Bunraku, and parade puppets. The class will have multiple short performances for each puppet and a final show.

Mr. Nat Reed

Stage Combat
This course will teach the basics of stage fighting technique and fight choreography. Focus will be on learning safety and essential skills through in-class practice and partner work. Coursework will include beginning technique in at least unarmed and quarterstaff fighting.

Mr. Kevin O'Keefe

Stage Presence  (cross-academy course)
Students will explore a variety of concepts including vocal techniques, body language, expression, public speaking skills, and ways to "pitch" their craft in order to develop a commanding and effective stage presence. 

The Big Picture
This course is designed to provide students with experience and knowledge about the theatrical production process. From production responsibilities to technical design and concepts, students will learn and explore how all of the aspects of production come together to create a cohesive whole.

Ms. Brieanne Witte

Vocal Technique 1, 2, 3
Students will demonstrate mastery of understanding proper and healthy vocal techniques; increase their understanding of basic vocal fundamentals including breathing, posture, support and relaxation; and include the study and mastery of different vocal styles including classical, musical theatre, pop, and belt.  Students are introduced to different vocal styles based on their ability and mastery of the basic fundamentals. Throughout the year, students will increase their vocal technique by preparing contrasting songs for vocal evaluations and showcases. Mastery levels are adjusted to accommodate beginning, intermediate and advanced vocalists.

Ms. Kelly Kuhnen

Ms. Georgia Wadsworth