Navigating Tides of Change: From Drama Classroom to Black Box

Room: E141-142

Audience: Architects, Engineers, Specialized Consultants, Facilities Personnel, Educators, School Administrators, Educational Policymakers, Community Stakeholders

Call to Action: 
Reflect on Design Principles: Take time to reflect on the design principles discussed during the session and how they can be applied to your own educational context. Consider how adopting student-centered approaches can enhance student outcomes in your teaching practice.
Engage in Collaborative Learning Communities: Seek out opportunities to engage with fellow educators and design practitioners to exchange ideas and best practices. Join online forums, attend workshops, or participate in professional development programs focused on designing for student outcomes.

Abstract: Explore the shift from traditional drama classrooms to contemporary black box theaters in this engaging session on the evolution of educational spaces. Discover how educational settings have adapted to changing needs, emphasizing spaces that align with evolving pedagogical and artistic practices. Gain insights through comparative analysis of past and present environments, exploring innovative design principles and strategies for problem-solving. Imagine future educational environments that cultivate creativity, collaboration, and student-centered learning. Join us on a journey through the past, present, and future, where we delve into the dynamic relationship between environment, pedagogy, and creativity.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Identify key characteristics of the traditional drama classrooms and contemporary black box theaters, highlighting the shifts in educational spaces over time.
  2. Analyze examples of then-and-now educational environments, exploring the ways in which design, technology, and pedagogy intersect to enhance learning experiences.
  3. Examine challenges and opportunities associated with adapting existing spaces and designing new ones to support evolving educational practices and artistic endeavors.
  4. Develop strategies for envisioning and creating future-proof educational environments that promote innovation, inclusivity, and adaptability in response to changing needs and aspirations.
Lainie Simonton
Lainie Simonton
Director of Special Projects, Houston ISD

Lainie has a Masters in Educational Leadership and Policy from the University of Texas at Arlington and a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Theatre Arts. In her 25 years in the public education and non-profit sector, Lainie has been responsible for the oversight and design of Cultural Arts Programming. The breadth of her work in urban school districts is in managing educational programming, curriculum development, training, and building students, teachers, and district leadership capacity.

Rachel Harrah
Rachel Harrah
Founder, Harrah LLC

Rachel is an advocate for generational equity through her educational design company, Harrah LLC. Formerly the Director of Theatre and Dance at Dallas ISD, she earned accolades including 2015 Dallas ISD Secondary Teacher of the Year and the 2020 Theatre Administrator of the Year. With a deep understanding of large, urban school districts, she aims to be a catalyst for positive change, fostering relationships and systems grounded in data and clear educational outcomes.

Dave Vieira
Dave Vieira
Principal, WJHW

Dave earned his master’s degree studying a self-designed program blending Theater Design and Construction Project Management at UT Austin. As a Principal and Theatre Consultant (ASTC) for WJHW, he is fortunate enough to get to plan and design the most exciting theatres and rehearsal spaces for performing arts in the world. The combined knowledge of construction-based project management and practical theatrical production experience makes him an ideal resource for project collaboration.

Core Competency

Educational Visioning
Exhibits an understanding of best and next practices related to educational leadership, programming, teaching, learning, planning and facility design. Establishes credibility with educators, community members and design professionals while conceiving and leading a community-based visioning process. Demonstrates the ability to articulate the impact of learning environments on teaching and learning and uses that ability to facilitate a dialogue that uncovers the unique needs and long-range goals of an educational institution and its stakeholders – translating that into an actionable written/graphic program of requirements for the design practitioner.

LearningSCAPES 2024 Conference in Portland, Oregon


Oregon Convention Center
777 NE Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd, Portland, OR 97232


October 16-19, 2024


+1 480.391.0840