BWW Blog: Zoomin' Through Life- The Impact of Online Schooling on DeSales Theatre Students: PART 2
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 of 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 see how their educational experience has been impacted, and to parse out the feelings these changes have evoked. Below are their responses:
Junior- Matthew Camardo, Musical Theatre Concentration with a minor in Communications
Senior- Meaghan McKiernan, Theatre Design Technology with a Stage Management Concentration
How many theatre-related classes are you currently taking? What are they?
MC- Currently, I am taking one theatre related class (Jazz II) as well as vocal lessons.
MM- 2, one is Act 3 our senior project and the other is my independent study in stage management
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?
MC- Since the move to online classes, I have definitely felt an attitude shift as we've moved to virtual instruction. It's certainly been difficult for my classmates and I as we attempt to navigate this new "normal." Our performance classes have now been reduced to a plethora of observation papers and "online research." We are lacking the physical portion which restricts us from saying that we have completed a Jazz level II class. Many of my classmates are considering re-taking the course or opting to pass/fail the class.
MM- In regard to Act 3 it seems that all instruction has stopped with the quarantine. Our shows are canceled so I think the attitude is that there is no point in working on anything. I have definitely sensed a change in my independent study. I am less willing to make a big effort in my study. My instructor seems to be more lac in deadlines. I was supposed to meet with other stage managers to learn and brainstorm and it seems useless now and I think everyone that would be involved feels that way too.
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?
MC- My professor was unfortunately left with no choice but to update our syllabus. She has asked that we view a virtual Jazz class via zoom and write a reflection on it. I am not opposed to this idea, as it gives us students the chance to take a class with a performer or choreographer we enjoy. I'm appreciative that she is not limiting us to one specific instructor. For our final project, we are being asked to pick a specific choreographer and create our own piece. This allows for some artistic freedom, and an outlet for those of us who feel we are missing crucial time creating art in the studio.
MM- I think the biggest changes I have noticed are the deadlines for things are shifting. The theatre professors know that this is a big mental undertaking and that we are all going through it. I've heard of professors in the design tech department cancelling projects and extending due dates of others so as to not overwhelm us even more which I really appreciate.
Additional question for Matt- how is this impacting your Act 3 experience?
MC- Our Act 3, for the most part, has continued to remain on track. We finished our director pitches last Wednesday via zoom, and now we are continuing with the remaining positions. We now know more than ever that anything can happen, and we are making every minute count.
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?
MC- Moving forward, I am aware that my classmates and I are not the only people affected by this situation. Millions of students, teachers, performers, workers in general may feel helpless at the present time. However, we are still making art. Social media is our best outlet at the moment, and it warms my heart seeing so many people using their platforms to share their work. This is an opportunity to be seen. I'm certainly learning how to make a lot of self-tapes! I think this change has reassured me that everyone is experiencing a canceled performance, audition, master class, etc. We will get through this.
MM- I was really, really looking forward to continuing my senior year in person. Being a stage manager is something that cannot be done remotely. I see lighting designers doing plots for imaginary productions, actors working on monologues and vocal pieces on their own time, but being an SM is hard to do without a real production. So much of being a stage manager is working with designers and directors and actors in rehearsals and meetings. Streamlining communication is one of the most important things for ab SM. If there is no production. There are no actors, directors, or designers. My art isn't something you can prep for or do in an imaginary scenario. It's all work in real time, on the fly, in real circumstances. I am crushed to know that I won't be able to call two more full productions or run rehearsals for a large-scale musical before I go out to be a professional SM. In my heart I think I can adapt quickly to the professional world, but without the opportunities that I would have gotten, I can't be sure. Finishing my senior semester would have solidified my confidence and skills for the professional world and I just don't have that ability anymore.
To all college theatre students continuing your education remotely- YOU ROCK! What an experience to bring into your work when you either get back into the classroom, or hit the ground running in the professional world. May we all take it one day at a time, allow ourselves to feel what we need to feel, and move forward knowing we are part of a larger community. A community of artists, all in the same boat, all rooting for one another.