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Student Blog: BFA.edu

Getting the most out of your hybrid learning experience!

Like many of us pursuing a theatre degree in a global pandemic, sometimes it seems like we're getting the short end of the stick. Some schools have resorted to being entirely online, while others have been given the opportunity to pas-de-bourree back to campus into a new learning environment. I'm a junior BFA Musical Theatre student at The Hartt School, and being back on campus has been no easy feat. For the 2020-2021 school year, we have implemented a hybrid learning experience with some classes in person and others online! Between tap dancing 6 feet apart to belting with our Singers' Masks, we have definitely been making it work.

I'm lucky enough to be taking all of my dance classes in person; we've renovated our black box theaters into dance studios for the extra space! Most of my acting and voice lessons are still online, but it's so refreshing to see everyone's faces as they work their magic. Sometimes, it's hard to push through it all. Seeing our industry change drastically with our own eyes is scary, and it's easy to become discouraged. I've really taken this time to hone in on my skills and remind myself that the world is going to change into bigger and better things after all is said and done.

One of the coolest parts about it all has been seeing our mainstage shows evolve. After two years of pining to be on the Hartt mainstage my junior year, live theatre was shut down. This didn't stop us though! In the fall, we put up four digital musicals and four plays; all incredibly creative and unique in their own ways. One musical was an underground, obscure piece that was given a new online platform, another was a virtual cabaret with incredible production quality and super sleek editing, and two were completely original works! Hartt would have never done anything like this if it weren't for these new innovations!

My digital-mainstage-debut was in Crafters: A New Untitled Musical Project. Compiling new works composed by some of Hartt's finest, we put together a cabaret of sorts. We filmed individually, so seeing the final project come together was so rewarding! The whole process was something new. It was definitely a different rehearsal schedule from shows I've done in the past. Singing trios over Zoom was a struggle bus and a half. However! I am so thankful for the skillset that I've developed from the experience.

The world around us is constantly changing; we don't know how much longer we'll be streaming performances, but I have a feeling the current technology we have isn't going anywhere. Here are some tips I have for the future of "filmed theatre" & self tapes! Get used to filming yourself. With the way the industry is going, self tapes aren't going anywhere. Start to get comfortable with seeing and hearing yourself because it. is. hard. We are all our worst critics. Start small by filming a mock audition or two, it'll definitely pay off in the long run. And hey! You'll at least have some awesome filmed material for your future website... My other piece of advice is to invest in equipment. Financially, times are tough, and tuition doesn't help! There are amazing, reasonably priced ringlights, Bluetooth speakers, and microphones out there that are worth their weight in gold.

This semester, those investments are paying off. Rehearsals are now in full swing for our biggest filmed musical yet, Spring Awakening. My spare time is now filled with recording (and rerecording) vocals, costume fittings, and getting prepped to work with our film crew. The grind never stops!

BFA Burnout is real, y'all, with or without a pandemic. From the Zoom eyestrain to the constant driving to and from class, anyone can start to have doubts. Without Broadway in action, it can be easy to forget what ignited that initial passion of performing in the first place. I always tell myself that I am here to create art and make people smile. Ground yourself in gratitude. Little mantras like that really remind me why I'm pursuing my dreams! Take advantage of every opportunity you have while you can, and then create opportunities for yourself! I'm looking forward to what the rest of this hybrid semester has in store, but I know that my faculty and friends will be working alongside me to get the best out of my college experience.

Check out the Hartt School's production of Spring Awakening this May!

Erika Spondike

tiktok/instagram: erikaspondike


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