Like all of us, universities around the world went into lockdown this Spring. Managers and administrators began to think through how they’d be able to deliver theatre classes online during the pandemic. 'The word ‘pandemic’ seems uncomfortably close to the word ‘panic’, and as we know panic often leads to ‘wildly unthinking behaviour’ (Oxford).
At DT+ we were approached in March by Josh Abrams, President of the Association of Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE), who was wondering whether we’d like to collaborate with them to put together some sort of guidance for teachers.
Josh, being a calm and thoughtful individual and not at all prone to wild or unthinking behaviour, simply floated the idea with us to see where it would lead.
Keen to help, we sprang into action, pulling together a panel of experts from the UK and US who we knew were pioneers and enthusiasts of online teaching. We asked them to address a free webinar for teachers delivered in collaboration with ATHE.
- Karen Morash at Rose Bruford in the UK has been teaching their theatre course online for years and presented ‘Strategies for effective and creative practice’ with specific examples from her own teaching.
- Ezra Lebank from Cal State in Long Beach talked about how to build a community online using social media (and also showed some great footage of remote stage combat….).
- Maha McCain from the University of Miami talked about flipping the classroom, using discussion forums and creating or facilitating student collaborations.
- And Nicola Abraham from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama gave a fascinating case study about ‘virtual applied theatre’ and how to move a practical IRL project online.
This - and the Q&A afterwards - was moderated by Cindy Bates from SUNY Empire State, who had presciently convened a panel at ATHE in 2019 on this very subject. All our presenters spoke candidly about the challenges as well as inspiringly about the creative possibilities of this current moment. As an example of the boundless energy and generosity of people who make and teach theatre it couldn't have been bettered.
We’re now working on developing those great presentations into an ebook for DT+ subscribers! So watch this space for more news soon.
Talia Rodgers | Editorial Director, Higher Education