The virtual stage for theatre classes

By Ava Turner

Elm Staff Writer

Amid virtual living, theatre classes are having to adapt to a new stage.

Considering the setbacks, junior Margaret Poppiti said she is “getting the same [quality of] education” that she would be receiving if classes were in person. 

Poppiti is in the Intro to Directing course, taught by Professor of Theatre and Director of the Daniel Z. Gibson Center for the Arts Dale Daigle, where students meet every Thursday to discuss materials and perform scenes.

Poppiti said virtual theatre classes have benefits and said, “being at home gives [students] more time to sit with the material,” so students can develop deeper understandings and creativity. 

However, Poppiti misses the human connection of in-person classes. During virtual classes, she said it feels as if “some people are just not in it,” by being physically present without being mentally present.

One of the challenges Poppiti said she faces with her virtual theatre class is that students “have to use people in the class,” for their scenes.

Usually for directing classes, students are required to bring students from outside of the class to act in their scenes, so they can learn about casting and better focus on directing.

Sophomore Sophia Rooks also misses the connection and energy of in person classes. Rooks said she misses “when [students are] in person [because] people can bounce off each other,” to better collaborate ideas and concepts for scenes.

Rooks is also in Intro to Directing and is taking Intro to Theatre Design, taught by Associate Professor and Interim Chair of Department of Theatre & Dance, and Program Director of the Arts Management & Entrepreneurship minor departmentLaura Eckleman, where students meet twice a week to learn and talk about the work behind the design process.

Rooks commends virtual theatre classes for “the creativity it forces [students] to bring,” to class and how it teaches actors to be more “mindful of facial expressions.”

However, Rooks said she feels as if her theatre education “does suffer a little,” in the sense that “theatre is difficult to replicate.” 

She said that “scenes are altered to fit the Zoom format,” and finds collective challenges in figuring out the logistics of certain projects.

According to sophomore Remus Ashmore the department “[has] really adapted really well [to] keep theatre consistent,” in students’ lives.

Ashmore is also in Intro to Theatre Design and takes Improvisation, taught by Daigle, where students meet once a week in a student-led Zoom session. 

Ashmore said that virtual theatre class “makes things more accessible for disabled kids like [him]” who would have trouble attending every in-person class.

He said that virtual theatre class helps to keep the certainty of “theatre in life, even when everything feels uncertain.”

Ashmore said he was grateful to theatre for teaching him “to be [himself] above everything else.”

However, according to Ashmore, “it can be difficult finding time to meet with [his] partners” to work on the collaboration aspect in his classes. Ashmore also said he misses “the people [and] the connection that gets formed” from in person classes.

Ashmore recommends taking a theatre class as part of a liberal arts education. “There are things you [will not] learn anywhere else,” he said. 

Some courses the Department of Theatre and Dance will have available for the Spring 2021 semester are Drama, Stage and Society taught by Associate Professor of TheatreBrendon Fox, Advanced Acting: Acting for the Camera taught by Daigle, Advanced Design: Costumes taught by Eckleman, and Making Art in the Time of COVID taught by Daigle.

Poppiti suggests that students interested in theatre take the Intro to Acting course because it can help with public speaking, confidence, and putting one’s self out there.

For more information on the Department of Theatre and Dance and their upcoming Spring 2021 courses, visit the department page on the college website or check out their Instagram @wactheatredance.

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