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Performing arts professors find creative ways to teach online

Updated: Oct 4, 2022

From online performances to live web production, professors in theater and performance classes are finding new ways to have class now that the university has moved online for the remainder of the semester.

“For theatre students, liveness is a critical part of their process,” said Dr. Jane Duncan, associate dean and professor for the department of theater and dance.

“Fortunately, we are able to use platforms that allow us to interact with one another in real-time and in other ways so that we can still provide one another with meaningful feedback.”

With the decision to move classes online for the rest of the semester due to COVID-19, professors of hands-on performance and production classes are finding creative ways to teach theater production, stage fighting and acting.

“My professor came up with a pretty genius idea I think,” said Eve Petty, a senior theater and directing major. “He said that all of the scenes are going to be played as if they are being done through technology.”

“So for our Shakespeare plays, it might be we’re having a Facetime or a Zoom section. One of my friends joked they might do a series of TikToks for their scenes.”

For his stage combat course, professor Eric Pasto-Crosby is also introducing the use of technology in his classes.

“I’m having both classes film the exercises, then I send them notes and we do it again,” said Crosby.

Though professors are working to make these classes as easy as a transition for their students, many students are still concerned about what these classes online will look like for them.

“I think the main thing is just worrying about how my learning style is incompatible with online learning and how my major is also incompatible with online learning and having to navigate that alone,” Elizabeth Brianne Gresser, a junior theater performance major.

“I think I’m going to reach out to my professors as much as possible and try to keep in touch with my classmates and check-in and ask questions to them and see how they are navigating it so I don’t feel so alone.”

Like many other students, she has reached out to her professors saying she misses that daily interaction with her instructors and peers.

After hearing similar comments, Crosby plans to hold more video chat-based classes to check in on students and see how they are navigating the change.

“I do think that having those moments of visually seeing your professor would help to ease them a lot,” said Crosby. “I’m going to have more of the physically seeing them as much as possible.”

Even though holding these classes online may not be ideal, students like Eve Petty see their professors working to make this change smooth as possible.

“These are just very unusually and confusing times and many of us have never had to deal with anything like this, but I think our professors have a pretty good handle on it,” said Petty.

Though the performances classes must go on, the actual performances will not, which adds another layer of stress and concern for students.

Petty’s senior capstone performance was canceled, and as a result, she is unsure how she will be able to make up that portion of her capstone.

“I’ve tried to ask if I’m going to have to take another semester or what this means for me as a senior since my senior capstone has essentially been canceled,” said Petty. “Like, do I have to make that up somehow? And I think basically the answer for that is they don’t know.”

Gresser is also experiencing disappointment with her canceled performance for her Directing II class.

“I saved some extra credits just so I would be able to take Directing II and be able to direct a full-length piece. And not being able to do so is incredibly disappointing,” said Gresser.

Instead of creating a performance, both students will have to write a paper.

For students like Petty, the sudden changes have been difficult — but Petty said she is confident she’ll see the semester through.

“Even though this isn’t how I planned it, does life ever go as planned? We’re still going to finish school. I’m still going to get my degree, it’s just not how I saw it going. It’s going to be okay,” said Petty.

Article written by Madison Bowen. Photo courtesy of Belmont Office of Communications.

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