Dance and theater cope with online learning despite normally interactive curriculum

    Article Originally Published by North Texas Daily on North Texas Daily

    By contributing writer Emma Saldivar

    Despite the level of interaction its curriculum usually requires, the Dance and Theatre departments have altered the way they move forward with productions and curriculum to accommodate online learning.

    As of the 2020 Fall semester, the department made the decision to transfer all live performances to zoom productions.

    “We’re trying to figure out how to keep our performance chops active,” said Adam Chamberlin, associate professor and co-manager of university theatre productions. “As a dance and theatre department, our expertise is not online productions.”

    The department released a document to all faculty and students, explaining the precautions taken to promote safety. Students must now reserve communal spaces like rehearsal rooms and design labs and specify when they will be working and whom with.

    Because there are not any productions to build sets or hang lights for, those who are employed in the different design labs and shops, like junior Destini Spraggins, are struggling to keep busy.

    “The scene and electric shop have become essentially obsolete now,” Spraggins said. “For the E-shop, we do a lot of maintenance, which we needed, but we find ourselves twiddling our thumbs way more than I’d like to admit.”

    The few in-person classes that are still being held are in the university theater. The theater can hold roughly 400 people, but now holds a max occupancy of 46.

    This has forced faculty and student choreographers to change the way they will present shows like the New Choreographers Concert (NCC).

    “With our dances now, there’s no touching each other through movement,” senior choreographer Brynne Loberger said. “It’s different than what was done before and what I have done before. It’s a lot to get used to.”

    Loberger has kept her cast of dancers to a minimum of five including herself. Rehearsals are mainly one on one, and all dancers must wear masks while they perform.

    Seniors in both the Dance and Theatre departments have begun to feel the pressure of producing viable work for future employers while maintaining CDC guidelines.

    “It forced me to think about what my options were as far as how I can continue to improve myself as an artist,” theater senior Reid Sullivan, who has a concentration in directing and lighting, said. “But also it’s my last semester and I need to start networking.”

    Because Sullivan can no longer direct a regular show, he started a podcast where he analyzes different plays to keep as a reference for future productions as well as expose people to theatre.

    Sullivan said he has been working closely with faculty members to strengthen his resume but understands the faculty is being spread too thin.

    “Everything is online now,” Sullivan said. “So it’s hard to get their focus when everyone is trying to do the same thing.”

    Since actors, designers, and technicians rely on the energy of a live audience to hone their craft, Chamberlin said these adjustments made during the pandemic are not here to stay.

    “One thing I keep pushing is that this is not the new normal,” Chamberlin said. “This is just until we can get back on the stage again.”

    Courtesy Destini Spraggins

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    Source: North Texas Daily