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COVID precautions detracting from artistic expression

  • 1.  COVID precautions detracting from artistic expression

    Posted 7 days ago
    Hey all,

    So, we are should be back to f2f soon, and I plan on starting rehearsals in mid-November for our competition one-act.  I am very excited to get back to creating, however, in the back of my mind is that nagging voice that reminds me that all of the precautions we have to do are going to interfere with my main goal of producing a great show.  So, as my mind wanders, I am thinking of
    • keeping kids social distanced, as required
    • keeping kids in masks, as required
    • monitoring all the kids, at all times, even if they are not in front of me performing (in seats, waiting for their turn on stage, kids who need to use the bathroom (which they are not allowed to do without being put on an electronic form)
    • what if we have to shut down temporarily and go virtual
    • sanitizing the auditorium, props, costumes, tech stuff daily
    I am already planning on having a student (probably an asst. stage manager) help with monitoring masks and such, but, ultimately, I'm responsible if a kid doesn't.  I also am planning on including social distancing requirements in their performance contracts.

    It is taking a bit of the wind out of my sails, so to speak, and there is a part of me that just doesn't want to--is it worth the hassle?  Personally, I'm not afraid of COVID, but I know I have to follow protocols, and frankly, there just isn't enough time in the day.  Any suggestions or words of wisdom?

    Marie Miguel
    Chespeake, VA

  • 2.  RE: COVID precautions detracting from artistic expression

    Posted 7 days ago
    Edited by Crit Fisher 7 days ago
    Hey Marie,

    My only suggestion is take a deep breath and do what you can do related to you points listed above. We have been in school for nine weeks. We have had dance, acting and vocal Master Classes. We also have had our regular tech and theatre classes throughout the day. We have assigned the same seats to the kids from the beginning. We are now in production for "Bright Star: Concert Version."

    We have a plan for productions, how we are seating, traffic flow, sanitation stations and even cleaning the auditorium. The program for the season is a google doc and we will have patrons scan a QR code eliminating paper.

    It's all in preparation and details. We as theatre folk are more detailed than anyone else in the school.

    Keep you sails at full and you can navigate this!

    Crit Fisher
    Lighting/Sound Designer
    New Albany High School

  • 3.  RE: COVID precautions detracting from artistic expression

    Posted 7 days ago

    The challenges this year are enormous. However, I have chosen to look at many of them as opportunities.  Acting with a mask on requires that we focus on projecting and enunciating. A mask covering facial features and reactions means we spend time on physicality.  A student isn't feeling well and stays home? They join rehearsal on an iPad.

    Regarding the challenges of making kids wear masks all the time: I treat it just like any other rules. If a student had to be reminded not to be talking while action was happening on the stage, I would remove them from the production. The same holds true for masks. I don't tolerate students who cannot follow our rehearsal expectations in a normal year, so that expectation hasn't changed. I set them clearly from the start of rehearsal and it quickly becomes the norm. I've been in rehearsals for 3 weeks and I no longer have to remind anyone that masks are required. 

    Adjustments are being made, but my students are enjoying the opportunity to continue doing theatre when so many others are not. 

    Chad Gifford
    Director of Theatre
    Minot ND

  • 4.  RE: COVID precautions detracting from artistic expression

    Posted 7 days ago
    Hi Marie,

    The challenges facing theatre educators are, indeed, daunting, but I think Chad put it well when he suggested turning those challenges into teaching and learning opportunities, whether it be enunciating trhrough a mask or adding more emphasis to physicality. And yes--take a deep breath and just try do your best, including serving as a role model of pandemic common sense for your students--it's all education in the end. If you haven't reviewed EdTA's Recommendations for Reopening School Theatre Programs guide, it might be a helpful resource as you continue to plan your production--I think the fundamental list that you've drawn up is a good start. Please consider also the need to educate audiences as well, when the time comes. As Crit said, "you can do this!"

    Be safe and remember that your work is more important than ever.

    James Palmarini
    Director of Educational Policy; Editor-at-Large - Teaching Theatre
    Educational Theatre Association
    Cincinnati OH

  • 5.  RE: COVID precautions detracting from artistic expression

    Posted 6 days ago
    If the question is, "Is it worth it?" The answer is, "Absolutely." I know these restrictions seem like walls, but I think of them as hurdles. We can overcome them if we are safe.
    My Assistant Director, now a senior, told me the fall play (this year a film version of The Laramie Project) is the main reason she comes to school. Sometimes we don't realize the impact we have on our students. You may have one (or even a few) that NEED this project, especially since most schools (and productions) have been shut down since March.
    You're right to get the students to buy-in from day one. Everyone must follow the protocols. I would emphasize that the completion of this project depends on everyone's cooperation - more so now than ever before. I'd remind them that we're all dealing with change, which isn't always easy. But art can survive. Art can inspire. Art can heal.
    Is it possible to stagger some rehearsals so you only work with one to three students at a time? I know this might lengthen the rehearsal process, but if you have the time, I'd suggest rehearsing with the fewest number of students until you have to bring them all together. Is it possible to occasionally rehearse remotely? I've had students in the same scene Facetime each other to run lines. Or make a video of some staging and send it to students?
    These are tough times, but we will endure and come out stronger (and more appreciative) in the end.
    Best wishes.