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BWW Blog: My Favorite Zoom Staging Movements

A ranking of my favorite Zoom-specific blocking

BWW Blog: My Favorite Zoom Staging Movements

Last semester, I was lucky enough to have a pretty good experience with Zoom acting school at NYU. In Zoom acting school, I was in two shows, and I worked on a scene in my acting class. All of the above included some sort of Zoom staging. Because my scene partners and I could not be together in person, some actions that would be super easy to choreograph on stage in person became quite a challenge to figure out on Zoom. Nevertheless, we prevailed! Through these experiences, I have assembled a list of some of my favorite Zoom choreography to date, and I will rank these in this post, from least favorite to most favorite movements.

12. Moving in a Room with Other People

This sounds so simple; it is not. At least, not on Zoom. On stage, it's easy to know where other people are most of the time, because I can see them. On Zoom, everyone is in boxes, and often in different places on different people's screens. Actions that were once so simple, like looking at the person to your right or moving out of someone's way, have now become a fascinating challenge! In my experience, it simply meant choreographing Zoom entrances (what order we turn our cameras on), and remembering which direction everyone else is in. When done right, it looks cool, but it's not my favorite Zoom blocking.

11. Walking

Another one that reminds of me of how much simpler the times were without Zoom blocking. Walking on Zoom does not always have to be weird, but in the context of the scenes I did, it was very weird. In my acting class, my partner and I were often seated (mostly so that we could see/hear each other), and I had to "walk" into the scene without seeing him. Because I had to be seated when I turned my camera on, and it would make no sense if I were to stand up again, I had to master the art of "walking" while sitting! I sort of bounced awkwardly in my seat, as I moved my body as far to right as I could without going off camera, without looking at my screen. This one gets points for humor and creativity, but I really felt so silly doing this one.

10. Singing in a Group

I am a big fan of group singing, but unfortunately this one just does not work on Zoom (at least, not with my internet!). The lag causes everyone to be singing at different times, and Zoom only highlights one voice at a time. So unless you're going for some wacky, robotic Happy Birthday remix, Zoom is unfortunately not the best platform for group singing, in my experience. In one of the plays I was in last semester, the cast had to sing Happy Birthday, and it went about as well as you would expect it to go on Zoom. Everyone was cutting in out, and we had four different endings! However, this one never fails to make me laugh, and it's a nice bonding moment. At least, it was for the cast of the play I was in!

9. Prying Something Off a Wall

In one of the plays I was in, I had to act as though I climbed on a chair and pried a clock off a wall. What I actually did was stand up a little bit away from the camera with my arms up, and I sort of just moved around and made noises like what I was doing was rigorous. This one is just kind of meh for me. With dialogue, the audience can tell what you're doing, but without dialogue, it just kind of looks like you're standing with your arms up. Very middle of the road for me.

8. Shaking Hands

A very simple action that stayed very simple on Zoom! We just put our arms out like we were shaking hands, and voila! It's just not very exciting, in my opinion. It might have scored higher if you could actually see our hands, but then it wouldn't have looked like a handshake. It gets points for believability and practicality, but not for Wow Factor.

7. Entering and Exiting

Because this is a category of movements, it is here in the middle. With Zoom, there is so much versatility with entering and exiting! You can move your computer and magically appear in a different place! You can turn on your camera and emerge from below or from the side! This is even one of the simpler, easier Zoom actions. At the end of the day, though, it's really just turning your camera on and off, which can look cool on Zoom, but I don't find it to be the most exciting. Also, with some of the other blocking on the list, this one can be stressful when you can't see your screen, or if you need to coordinate your entrance/exit with someone else!

6. Lighting Candles

This one looks really really cool on camera! We just used a lighter and pointed it down to look like we were lighting birthday candles on a cake. However, it is a fire hazard, and it doesn't last very long, so it doesn't rank super high on the list. Depending on your surroundings and computer camera quality, though, it can look very nice! It gives a nice sort of orange glow, but requires much attention to safety! Don't burn your computer!

5. Passing a Cup (or other items)

This one would have ranked higher if not for the fact that not everyone owns the exact same cups! A scene I was in required a cup to be passed around by the members of the cast, and after some practice, it looked almost real on Zoom! Except for one thing... we all had different cups. This is a cool effect for when one thing is supposed to turn into a different thing, but most of the time, when you pass something on stage, the item remains the same. True, we could have all bought the same cup, but that did not occur to us. Easy to master, and it looks cool - worthy of the top five!

4. Stage Combat! (Specifically pushing and punching)

Stage combat is exciting to me on a real stage, so it's no surprise to me that it made my top five! I note specifically pushing and punching because this is the Zoom stage combat I've encountered. When choreographed specifically and drilled, IT LOOKS SO COOL. It's like they're in a room together! The reactions were perfectly timed, even on Zoom! Even the mishaps were entertaining; there was one time where my cast-mate somehow hit a cardboard box, and her punch sounded like a gunshot (our stage manager captured this moment on video!). Definitely one of my favorite, more interesting Zoom stagings. This one has the Wow Factor! You can even do sound effects!

3. Throwing and Catching Popcorn in my Mouth

This would be exciting for me onstage or on zoom because: food. I love eating food in a play, so this is number three. It was easy to time and choreograph on Zoom, and it was fun! And no one could see the slightly embarrassing mess of popcorn that accumulated on the floor around me! And it was such a cute moment in the context of the play! Top three material, right here!

2. RUMBLES

This one is pretty specific to my experience, so allow me to explain: one of the plays I did on Zoom last semester was set on a spaceship, and at the end of the play, the spaceship lands. This results in the ship "rumbling," which was something we had to choreograph. The process it took to get these rumbles correct was a grueling one! (Just kidding, it was actually so silly and fun). Everyone was doing their own sort of earthquake-y, jolt-y movement, so first we needed to make it cohesive. Once we finally mastered what exactly the action of rumbling was, we needed to figure out how to beat the internet lag and rumble at the same time. This was the hard part because everyone was rumbling at different times. We tried one person starting the rumble. We tried all counting off to the rumble. In the end, what worked was rumbling right at the end of someone's line. The rumbles were quite a process to create, but when they happened correctly it was so satisfying. Not to mention, our rumbles were apparently just so good that we got compliments on how good they were in our talk back after the show!

Honorable mention: Stage Kissing

Honestly, this one could have been an entire ranking of its own, so it is here as an honorable mention. For whatever reason, my friends and I had to do quite a bit on stage kissing on Zoom last semester, and it was a very awkward and funny process to figure it out. We began with simply skipping the stage kisses, but that didn't work because the kisses were pretty integral to the plots of the shows and scenes we did. Also, staring and waiting was super awkward and brought the energy of the scene down. My acting teacher suggested my scene partner and I slowly put our hands up to the camera to signal a kiss, like a slow high five instead of a kiss! This actually accomplished the same thing that a kiss needed to accomplish in our scene, so we kept it! Was it silly and awkward? Absolutely. Another version of Zoom stage kissing I encountered was in one of the plays I did. The director instructed my scene partner and I to stand up to make it seem as though we were kissing. This one felt the most natural to me, but it apparently confused some of our audience members at first (my mom later told me that she asked my dad in that moment, "Why are we staring at their chests?"). However, a few seconds into it, the audience got the gist of what was happening. Although it is super awkward, Zoom stage kissing was one of my favorite experiences of Zoom staging thus far, simply because I find it so comical. I am thankful, though, that I have not done the version of stage kissing that a friend told me about, where a pair of scene partners leaned in and kissed their cameras!

1. Dance Parties

This one is my favorite. There is nothing quite like a dance party, whether it be on Zoom or in person. When we do dance parties in my Zoom classes, my classmates and I almost always comment about how this is the closest we get to feeling like we're in the room together. To me, a dance party feels like coming together, like we are united. It does even feel, for a fleeting moment, like we're all in the same physical space. Dance parties are one of my favorite ways to escape the world of Zoom dreariness because they are so jubilant and joyous! Ending with a dance party is ending on a high note. It's a reminder that even in these crazy Covid times, we are not alone - we're all dancing together!

This has been my ranking of my favorite Zoom staging movements! What a wacky time we are living in, and what a wacky time to be making theatre! But we are still making theatre! We are adjusting, evolving, and making it work. And we're laughing in the process! I hope you've been having as much fun as I have with finding new, creative ways of moving and playing on Zoom!


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