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Student Blog: A Day in the Life of a Northwestern University Music Theatre student – Covid Edition

From masked dance classes to Zoom literature discussions, a window into the NU semi-virtual theatre student experience

I'm lucky enough to be studying theatre in a program that, even in normal times, is wonderfully unique. And while a global pandemic has of course brought its challenges, it's made for an experience that is all the more innovative, varied, and surprising. To give you a glimpse, I'll be taking you through my day as a Junior at Northwestern University, where I'm pursuing a B.A. in Theatre, along with a Music Theatre Certificate, and a World Literature minor. I've got an array of classes on the docket for one of the last days of my winter quarter, so I'm excited to take you with me!

9am: Modern dance-- I start off my day by heading to campus for a modern dance class. While most classes at NU have been virtual this year, I've been lucky enough to have largely in-person (masked, socially distanced) dance and acting classes. I had my acting and ballet finals yesterday, so this was my last in-person class of the quarter! This winter, my modern class this quarter involved a lot of improv and composition, so I found it really valuable toward both my performing and choreography work.

11:15 am: Voice lesson -- After heading back to my apartment (it's an easy commute, only about a ten-minute walk from campus), it's time to steam and warm up for my voice lesson. I have private voice lessons about 45 minutes a week, and while they've been virtual since the pandemic started, they have transitioned well to this format. My voice teacher is one of my absolute favorite professors: she's really transformed my voice for the better in the two years or so we've worked together. Today is our last lesson before the final, so we will be looking at the six cuts I'm required to have prepared (it's a lot of material, but that's the name of the game for this our "rep quarter").

Student Blog: A Day in the Life of a Northwestern University Music Theatre student – Covid Edition
The virtual voice lesson setup!

1:30 pm: Music Theatre History -- After lunch and a little work (assembling videos for summerstock auditions), I'm back on zoom for my Music Theatre History class. For our last class of the quarter, we're discussing the historic theatrical moment we are living in right now at the one-year anniversary of Broadway's shutdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. While most theatre classes I take at Northwestern are practice-based, we a required to take a few that are a little more academic, like this one. While they may feel a little more like schoolwork than my performance classes, I always enjoy these - getting to utilize skills developed in other academic classes to analyze, discuss, and write about the art form that I love, and gaining insight from professors and scholarly readings, is always extremely interesting, and I learn a lot from such classes that is very valuable in my performance, choreography, and dramaturgy work.

Student Blog: A Day in the Life of a Northwestern University Music Theatre student – Covid Edition
Music Theatre History!

3:30pm: English Literature -- After another very short break, it's time for my English class on "Danger and Desire in the 19th-Century Novel", where we're finishing up our discussion of Dracula. It's the last class of my World Literature minor, for which I have gotten to study literatures ranging from ancient Latin and Greek plays, epics, and poems to classic British literature to contemporary writings on justice to other literature from around the globe. This class, like all literature courses I've taken, is heavily discussion-based, and I've learned so much this quarter not just from my professor but from the insights my classmates have offered.

5:00 pm: Dinner, homework, and practicing -- In a rare turn of events, that class was my last scheduled event of the day. Usually, I'd have a short break for dinner before heading to rehearsals, which I'd be in from around 6:30-10:30, before spending the last hours of the day on the homework my school day doesn't allow lots of time for. For much of this quarter, I'd be in rehearsal for multiple productions a night, spending about 6:30-8pm in rehearsal for the show I choreographed and about 8-10pm in rehearsal for the radio play I performed in. While for most of this quarter that meant just jumping from zoom to zoom, I've spent many a pre-covid evening booking it from one rehearsal room to another. But now that both of those productions have finished, my evening is pretty free (though I have lots of work to fill it with). Tonight, I'll probably make some dinner, practice some songs and sides I've got to make self-tapes of tomorrow, send some emails, work on my MT History final paper on Bob Fosse, start choreographing a combo for my The Virtual Theatre Co. class on Saturday, and maybe if I have some time, watch some New Girl with my roommates.

One of my favorite things about Northwestern is that here, I feel seen as a whole person, not just a singer/dancer/actor -- and hopefully my day gave you a glimpse of that fact. I've been able to cultivate my love for literature (see my last blog post) alongside fantastic performance training with my minor in World Literature. After arriving at college as primarily just a performer with a slight interest in choreography, choreography classes and extracurricular opportunities (like the show I just finished) have made me a theatre artist who considers herself just as much a choreographer as a performer. While a global pandemic has of course complicated my education, I'm lucky enough to have professors who still care deeply about their students' growth, and will put in the work to create safe ways for us to still learn as much as possible. As my senior year begins to loom, I'm feeling grateful for days like today, and looking forward to many more - though perhaps with a little less Zoom.

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From This Author - Student Blogger: Emily Brooks