Black Box Design Model Theater

By Cheryl Hanson, February 27, 2017

Grade Level

  • High School


  • Other

Subject Area

  • Arts

Lesson Time

eleven 45 minute classes, plus field trip day


Students will investigate already established black box theater designs to create their own black box design for Brackenridge HS.  The design process (defining the problem—getting ideas—making and prototyping—testing and evaluating)will be helpful with this project. DEFINE-students will define the insufficiencies the Brackenridge Theatre Department has now to create practical solutions for these needs in a black box theater addition to our campus GETTING IDEAS- Students will research black box venues both online and in person to see how others address the needs a theatre department has GETTING IDEAS-students will interview technical directors at different venues to identify other needs of theatre departments MAKING AND PROTOTYPING-students will create a scale drawing of the black box complex addition to our existing campus that addresses the most important needs identified MAKING AND PROTOTYPING-students will build a scale model of the black box addition TESTING AND EVALUATING-through a gallery walk, students will evaluate other students’ models using a criteria based rubric TESTING AND EVALUATING-students will evaluate their own model design using a written reflection prompt

National Standards

TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) Theatre Expression Level II ·          Concentrate in one or more areas of theatre production (acting, technical theatre, theatre management) demonstrating responsibility, artistic discipline and creative problem solving ·          Select career and avocational opportunities in theatre and describe the training, skills, self-discipline, and artistic discipline needed to pursue them ·          Select one or more areas of theatre production, demonstrating responsibility, artistic discipline, and creative problem solving ·          Design, construct, and operate appropriate technical elements of theatre, safely and effectively, collaboratively and individually ·          Safely apply technical knowledge and skills to create and/or operate functional scenery, properties, lighting, sound, costumes, makeup and publicity   CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.9-12.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11-12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.9-12.1.A Come to discussions prepared, having read and researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence from texts and other research on the topic or issue to stimulate a thoughtful, well-reasoned exchange of ideas. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.9-12.1.B Work with peers to promote civil, democratic discussions and decision-making, set clear goals and deadlines, and establish individual roles as needed. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.9-12.1.C Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that probe reasoning and evidence; ensure a hearing for a full range of positions on a topic or issue; clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions; and promote divergent and creative perspectives. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.9-12.1.D Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives; synthesize comments, claims, and evidence made on all sides of an issue; resolve contradictions when possible; and determine what additional information or research is required to deepen the investigation or complete the task. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.9-12.2 Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) in order to make informed decisions and solve problems, evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source and noting any discrepancies among the data. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.9-12.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence, conveying a clear and distinct perspective, such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning, alternative or opposing perspectives are addressed, and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and a range of formal and informal tasks. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.9-12.5 Make strategic use of digital media (e.g., textual, graphical, audio, visual, and interactive elements) in presentations to enhance understanding of findings, reasoning, and evidence and to add interest. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-12.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem.  


  • Students will develop a list of specific needs Brackenridge Theatre Department has
  • Students will develop a rubric to evaluate black box venues
  • Students will work with a partner
  • Students will identify the needs of other black box theater technical directors through interview
  • Students will visit existing venues to analyze and understand how a black box theater operates
  • Students will design a black box that includes all necessary spaces to address the identified important needs of Brackenridge Theatre Department
  • Students will build a scale model of their black box addition
  • Students will produce a scale drawing of how and where the black box addition would fit into the existing Brackenridge campus
  • Students will evaluate all models in terms of criteria created to address needs and function of a theatre department
  • Students will explain own design choices that address the specific needs of Brackenridge HS Theatre Department


  • Online searches of black box venues
  • Three to four existing venues to visit with field trip


Ø  Scale rulers Ø  Graph paper Ø  Model building supplies Ø  Spiral for notes Ø  Rubric handout the class creates


Black Box theater—large space that can be manipulated into a variety of audience/stage relationships for intimate theatre experiences Venue—entertainment site Technical Director—manager of all technical aspects of a venue Rubric-a guide listing specific criteria that are rated on scale from bad to best Prototype-1st draft or version of a design


Students will analyze existing black box venues through both online and field trip research, interviewing technical directors. Students will use own experience over past 2-3 years of working in Brackenridge Theatre Department to identify needs of the department. Day 1: Goal: Design a black box addition to the Brackenridge Theatre Department that addresses important needs of the department and fits into the existing campus.   Warm up (10 minutes)   Students will list all the insufficiencies of the Brackenridge Theatre Department they have experienced working in class and on productions in their journal spiral. Prompt: What are some spaces or things that our theatre department needs?  What are some problems you have experienced in working in class or on productions that could be addressed with a new facility?   Students will share responses to prompt. Consolidated list will be put on board.   Design Challenge Introduction (10 minutes) To help focus the design challenge, we will identify the “user” as being students and adults who work or attend theatre productions or classes.  Teacher will introduce the field trip assignment of interviewing technical directors of black box venues.  The class will brainstorm open survey questions that will be used to interview the technical directors.  Students will write questions in journals.   Analysis and Discussion (25 minutes) Working with as a large group, students will identify most Brackenridge’s most important needs.   Day 2: Continued Analysis, Discussion, and Synthesis of New Rubric (30 minutes) Using a sample rubric with criteria, the class will create a new rubric of criteria to rate and  assess other venues. (See attached sample rubrics 1)   Research (15 minutes) Students research existing venues through online research of images, blueprints and web sites Day 3: Partner discussion and planning (15 minutes) Students will discuss findings with partner from previous class and identify ways other venues have solved needs. Partners will identify any other needs Brackenridge has that need to be addressed. Research (30 minutes) Partners will continue research to see how venues have addressed these. Homework Assignment (10 minutes) Partners will revisit closed survey questions.  They need to have a total of 5 questions that they will ask technical directors that can answer their specific needs. Day 4: Field Trip to existing Venues Investigate and Research (55 minutes at each venue) Students will tour 3-4 different venues to see the way that each venue addresses needs of the specific theatre department. Students will interview technical directors at each venue  using the questions the partners created to acquire information addressing needs. Closing (5 minutes) Students will turn in exit ticket that identifies the 3 things they learned from tours and 1 thing they still need to find out. Day 5: Field Trip Debrief and Review (15 minutes) Class will discuss findings from field trip as large group.  Then break into partners to create list of most specific needs Brackenridge Theatre Department has that they plan to address with their black box design. This list will be turned in. Scale Drawing Review (10 minutes) Class will review scale drawing techniques by looking at examples. Design and Prototype (20 minutes) Partners will make a scale drawing of their black box design and build a scale model that addresses the specific needs they identified and fits into the existing Brackenridge campus.   Day 6 thru 11 Prototyping (45 minutes) Students will prototype and design scale drawings and scale models  using provided building supplies. Day 12 Self Evaluation (10 minutes) Students will explain in written reflection how their design best fits their target user (see attached-Reflection Prompt #2). Gallery Walk with Evaluation  (40 minutes) Students will engage in a gallery walk evaluating all students’ black box designs using the classes’ own original black box design rubric.   Closing (5 minutes)   In an exit ticket, students will identify the design they think best addresses Brackenridge’s needs while fitting into the existing campus.  They will also explain in writing why they think that is the best. (see attached exit ticket prompt #3)


Students will engage in a gallery walk evaluating the classes’ design posters using the black box criteria rubric they will design in class. Students will explain in written reflection how their own design choices best fits the target users needs. (See attached reflection #2 and exit ticket prompt #3)

Enrichment Extension Activities

Students could attend performances of community black box productions and compare venue to their design.   Students could present their designs to the school board.   Students can investigate technical careers in conjunction with San Antonio College mentors.  

Teacher Reflection

Have not implemented the lesson plan yet.  

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