Open Forum

Technical Theatre and Social Distancing

  • 1.  Technical Theatre and Social Distancing

    Posted 07-10-2020 13:28
    I teach a Techical Theatre course with an assistant and would like input on how to safely teach students to use power tools while social distancing. We usually have students in close proximity to ourselves when they are learning to operate dangerous equipment. Also, how do we facilitate group building projects while having students socially distance?

    Anna Giannini
    Theatre Teacher
    Albuquerque NM

  • 2.  RE: Technical Theatre and Social Distancing

    Posted 07-11-2020 11:01
    This one is tough for me as well.  If we go back with face-to-face learning, I plan to require masks, gloves, and safety goggles at all times whether you're actively using the tools or not.  You can have a 6' distance when possible but, if you need to get closer, you could add a face shield to what you already have on and avoid talking too much.  I generally model the usage and step back and let them have a go.  I only get close if I see an issue that could cause injury or complete ruin something.  Disinfect the tools in between usage.  I'm also trying to re-envision as many projects as possible to avoid as much contact as possible.

    Joel King
    Woodstock GA

  • 3.  RE: Technical Theatre and Social Distancing

    Posted 07-11-2020 15:25
         I don't see any way of doing it without masks. If you are building a frame, two people are a must and usually are within a couple of feet away from each other because it's hard to hold the wood still while operating a screw gun. I usually have 40-45 kids in my Stagecraft classes and am more than a little worried about how this will pan out. I'm a little concerned about my own health as well since I only have one lung and find breathing more difficult to work the demanding set building with a mask on.      The other issue is that with few stage shows, we probably won't be able to build any actual sets for a while, so we'll need to keep kids occupied with scale models, design, etc. until we're able to be on stage again.
         One thing theatre has taught me is to be flexible, though, so we'll figure it out as we go along.

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  • 4.  RE: Technical Theatre and Social Distancing

    Posted 07-11-2020 20:42
    Great to see these questions, concerns and issues raised with such open-minded ideas, suggestions and flexibility.  There are many things to address in an environment of uncertainty, and fluid and changing data and recommendations.  For some reliable information on COVID-19, and guidance on reopening strategies and workplace precautions, I encourage you to order a copy of the most recent ACTS Facts Newsletter.  (Vol. 34, No. 06/07).  Monona Rossol, the ACTS Facts editor, is an industrial hygienist (IH) who, among her other consulting positions, is the Health and Safety Director for Local 829 of the United Scenic Artists, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE).  Her monthly newsletter covers safety and health for many aspects of the entertainment industry.   Monona brings her theater and IH background to bear for answers to many of the Safety and health concerns related to theater production work, and performance.   This issue of the ACTS Facts newsletter covers the corona virus itself, routes of transmission, ventilation, air filtration, disinfecting surfaces, distancing, and masks.  Information on her arts S&H organization, Arts, Crafts and Theater Safety (ACTS), and the newsletter is on the ACTS website:
    I also encourage everyone to keep asking these hard questions. Please do not move forward with any theater production activities that potentially put yourself, your staff, your colleagues, and most especially your students at risk until you have clear and concise answers.

    Bill Reynolds (he.him.his)
    Lecturer in Theater Safety & Health
    Yale School of Drama/Yale Repertory Theatre

  • 5.  RE: Technical Theatre and Social Distancing

    Posted 07-19-2020 10:40
    A tech theatre class can be two different things. Well, at least two.

    One is what I've seen referred to as "stagecraft," which seems to be about buildung the set for the current show. The second is a lecture/lab or lecture/demo class about the various aspects of tech without involving the current show.

    As noted above, the first one is tough not only because of the required labor, but also because of the distancing and personal safety issues. I've never taught in a high school, but, if it were me, I'd avoid this for the time being. There are lots of plays that can be staged with hardly any scenery, and I would consider this to be a great time to focus on the acting and telling the story through acting.

    As someone said somewhere along the line, you only need three things in theatre: a story, an actor, and an audience.

    The second one is far easier, since lots of tech topics can be taught as lecture/demo, even remotely. And there are lots of videos available that can be used as a way to start a discussion -- including ones on set design, history of styles, set construction, painting, antiquing, lighting design, lighting tech, costuming, props, and on and on.

    So, depending on your situation, you may have lots of choices for doing a real, informative, productive class.

    George F. Ledo
    Set designer