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BWW Blog: Zoomin' Through Life- The Impact of Online Schooling on DeSales Theatre Students

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I'll admit it. I am a grandma stuck in the body of a 22-year-old- technology is not really my "thing." Until college, I had never been exposed to any form of online education, as I attended a public high school. In my four years studying at DeSales, a liberal arts college, I have only taken two online classes, neither of which were theatre related. While everyone's technological abilities certainly may vary, all performing arts students- theatre majors, dance majors, and design technology majors alike, are now facing the additional struggle of completing their theatre education from the comfort of their own homes. Many facets of each of these performance divisions are simply not as teachable or as attainable when students and teachers cannot be in the same room, working off the energy that physical presence supplies. This transition that came in the blink of an eye, for both students and teachers, and has brought about an extreme amount of change to the schedules and course work for the remainder of the semester. Students are certainly getting a crash course in adaptability.

Being a senior theatre major with only a few performance-based classes on my docket, (one being our showcase, which was inevitably and indefinitely postponed), I began to question how this transition was impacting the students of the classes below me. I interviewed one student from each class to grasp how their educational experience has been impacted, and to parse out the feelings these changes have evoked. Below are there responses:

Freshman- Megan Castellane, Musical Theatre Concentration

Sophomore- Emily Tazza, Musical Theatre Concentration with a minor in Music

How many theatre-related classes are you currently taking? What are they?

  • M- I am currently enrolled in 3 theatre-related courses this semester which include, movement for the actor, training of the speaking voice, and applied vocal lessons.

  • E- I am taking 2 theatre classes, 1 dance class, 1 music class.

Since the switch to online classes happened, have you sensed an overall attitude shift towards your classes? How do you feel your class as a whole has reacted to the change?

  • M- I 100% agree that there has been a complete attitude shift in some of the theatre classes. Most of the work we do is experiential, to be there present and in the moment, and that's hard when you're not actually able to be there. I honestly feel a lack of concentration and motivation within some of my classes and it's a shame. None of us asked for this and we should be applying what we know and learned into the work we do outside of class, and now in our homes.

  • E- Since moving online, as a theatre major, everyone had to adjust everything they've ever known. This major is very hands on and demands in person instruction, so we all have had to change our outlook on training and find new outlets to produce artwork through social media and video submissions. I feel as though people have taken this with grace, as it is currently our only option moving forward.

What major changes are your instructors making to their syllabi and class content since the switch? Are there any aspects that have changed that you actually prefer?

  • M- There is a huge change in almost every theatre course I take. One of my classes doesn't even meet via Zoom or any form of face to face video call at the moment. We submit videos every week of work we've prepared and then the class leaves comments through a discussion board. This is so unfortunate because before the health crisis, we would each get one on one work with a teacher to improve our work in the present time. Now I don't even get feedback until the day after I've actually completed the assignment. In my other classes, we had to completely cut things out of our syllabus. In my movement class, we are no longer able to complete a stage combat section. There isn't much class wise that I feel I have personally benefited from because of COVID-19. The only plus side for me is at home, I am lucky enough to have creative freedom 24/7. If I need to practice my song for this week's lesson, I can do it in my room with no complaints.

  • E- One major change to my performance-based classes (Musical Theatre and Jazz) are video submissions. We must now submit videos of our songs and dances to receive feedback. We have obviously been stripped of a live audience and a proper performance space, but the plus side to this is that self-tapes are becoming more popular in the real world, so we have shifted our focuses in these classes to how to make proper self-tape auditions and adjust to working with what we have.

Personally, how do you feel this change will impact the art that you create moving forward in your education, or post-graduation? How is you online theatre education with our program at DeSales going to inform the way you approach your in-person education come the fall?

  • M- Through this change, I was able to have another "this is why we do what we do" sort of moment. Without any form of art, whether that be painting, singing, acting, or pottery, how would anyone be able to get through this? Going forward in my education, I am inspired to continue exploring all different forms of art, and at a program like ours, it's not hard. I am fortunate enough that I am only a freshman and my time at DeSales is not short-lived. I am excited to go back to school in the fall and be able to ask my teachers questions and be able to get that experiential experience again. This is not the end, just a small stumbling block on our path.

  • E- For me personally, I'm not going to school for just a degree. I am in school to get training for my professional career. By moving to online instruction, I am definitely lacking a lot of that in-person training, but this only makes me want to work hard now to keep up, and even harder when I get back in the fall to keep pushing forward. Right now, everyone in the world is turning to movies, books, TV shows, and music for an escape. I hope that moving forward there will be a new appreciation for the arts not just from undergraduates like myself, but from everyone at any age.

Stay tuned for interviews from members of DeSales junior and senior classes to hear how the online shift has impacted their entrances into senior year and the professional world!

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From This Author Student Blogger: Angela LaRose