Inspiring Stories from College of the Arts
Barbara Allegra Verlezza (Dance)
Having the BFA Senior Dance Concert/Student Dance Festival canceled three days prior to opening night was very hard on the students, particularly the graduating seniors. I have been reaching out with condolences, reassurances, reflections, etc. What a world, what a world.
I have been getting both inspiration and ideas from my husband who has been teaching virtual movement classes for some time. He has developed the class with a few of our former professional dancers who now live in St. Louis and North Carolina, including two who have cerebral palsy. He has also moved his local Pilates clients to a virtual format. He is serving as a fine example for me in demonstrating what can be done in real time using remote teaching and a bit of creativity!
For my classes (BFA Sr. Choreography Project and B.A. Capstone Project) where I am the sole teacher, I am working with the students to tailor the courses by adding and/or adjusting appropriate and relevant assignments to best accommodate them in this new remote learning environment. I regrouped with my co-instructors (Kimberly Karpanty for Modern I-B; Gregory King for Modern III-B) to revise our syllabi and schedules. As both of these classes are face-to-face dance technique classes, we are creating various assignments appropriate to the mission of those courses.
I am teaching a floor warm-up using a virtual platform (Zoom, for example) to each of these classes, using the May O’Donnell Technique in which they are trained. I check in with each student at the beginning of the session to see who is in attendance. I then lead the warm-up using the methodologies and vocabulary that I use in the studio. I check in with them as the class proceeds and do a final individual check-in with them at the end. It is simply to give them a guided warm-up and less about me seeing/correcting them as it is important for them to get a familiar workout. They ask questions as the class proceeds. After the class, I collect feedback from them about the value of the session and make adjustments and changes as needed. This is where a codified technique, one in which they have worked so hard, should be fully utilized. My ultimate goal is to keep us moving together as a community.
Theatre History II (Juniors and Seniors), Introduction to Graduate Study
(First-year MFA), and the Art of the Theatre Supervisor
My goals are to create comprehensive lectures with narrations and video links, quizzes and reading guides, and to set up an appropriate number of Blackboard Collaborate Ultra sessions for both classes. The pedagogical goals are to encourage my students to read and understand the assigned materials with critical questions, to discover critical issues, and to articulate their opinions verbally and in writing.
In addition to teaching two classes, I serve as the supervisor for the theatre liberal education course, Art of the Theatre. I am assisting graduate students so they can deliver narrated PowerPoint presentations through the Blackboard Ultra.
For Theatre History II, I completed the Harlem Renaissance PowerPoint with a graspable, feasible and clear narrative that covers musicals, writers, actors, musicians and visual artists. To encourage them to organize information, I created Respondus quizzes online. This is a pedagogical tool to help my students conclude a weeklong lesson by revisiting the assigned script. For Introduction to Graduate Study, we discussed, through Zoom and Blackboard Collaborate Ultra sessions, Sartre’s No Exit and postcolonial studies. The upcoming Blackboard-based classes/postings/lectures include their three-minute theses, poster-making, critique of the set of the film version of No Exit, critical theory lectures, and more scripts.
I created two narrated (by Dan Nadon) PowerPoint presentations (Postcolonial Studies History Part, view as an example) which I uploaded to Kaltura. I spent hours editing captions, since the auto-captioning is far from perfect.
The technology of making a narrated PowerPoint presentation has improved in the past 10 years and MP-4 files do not have to accompany presentations in one folder. Although I would rate the I-Spring program higher than PP, for now, it is a very effective tool that faculty can rely on.
I completed two Zoom and four Blackboard Collaborate Ultra classes and, amazingly, both went well. My undergraduate students discussed one of the lynching plays A Sunday Morning in the South (1925) by Georgia Douglas Johnson and they are very articulate especially after our production of Parade. I always collect their significant passages and analyses through discussion board so all of my students were prepared for class discussion. What I realized is that they can chat while one is presenting but their comments are all subject-related. Our discussion on Death of a Salesman and Tony Kushner’s Angels in America were also invigorating. My students post significant passages and their analyses through Blackboard discussion board. I read them in advance to organize our discussion. This is the same format I used in our face-to-face classes and it allows me to keep our discussion on the assigned material.
One of the challenges is to keep our students on schedule and keep a healthy learning community. In addition to email, I am using WhatsApp with my undergraduate students and Messenger with my grad students. The additional communication tools allow me to instantly share information and announcements. I share information which I normally do not; I sent my undergrads an Amazon link to a Japanese version of Death of a Salesman, translated by my father. Their reactions to this link in WhatsApp were very kind, positive and curious. These cellphone-based apps provide them with a sense of a community within their comfort zones.
Tammy Honesty (Design, Technology, and Production)
So much has changed in the time span of a week. We went from a normal daily routine of being encouraged to wash our hands more frequently to all buildings on campus being closed with all instructional education being delivered remotely. As Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz said “People come and go so quickly here!” There is a sense of being in a somewhat familiar yet completely foreign land. From the moment the students burst into my office around 2:45 p.m. on Tuesday, March 10, panicking because they had seen the leaked information about the immediate suspension of face-to-face classes, it was apparent to me that managing the anxiety of the students and the feeling of being out of control.
I feel fortunate that my courses this semester, THEA 41621 History of Period Styles and THEA 4/51525 Props & Crafts, could make the shift to remote learning fairly easily because I already utilize Blackboard for my courses heavily. Many years ago, I taught online. For the past eight years, I have utilized web conferencing into my courses and use it as a guest designer on a regular basis. I spent a bit of time on Wednesday researching all the different web-conferencing platforms, Collaborate Ultra, Google Meet, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams. Keeping in mind that there were two main things I need to do at this time 1) deliver educational content and 2) help the students be successful, for me, that meant I wanted a video delivery platform that I felt comfortable with and I could troubleshoot without anxiety.
That led me to the decision to use Zoom Pro and paying for the subscription myself. What Zoom does that none of the rest did was its capability to allow me to deliver content both synchronously and asynchronously. It allows me to connect in real time to the students, record the session and put it on Blackboard for those experiencing disruption in internet connection or having to take care of other family members they wouldn’t normally have to do. The only thing Zoom doesn’t do that other platforms do is provide closed captioning.
My goal was to recreate the normal routine of my classroom as much as possible. So far it has been successful. I have arrived “early” to class like normal to have the informal conversations with students (and they continue to show up early). The first day half the people in the class showed up 30 minutes early to class. The second day, it was about 25% of the class). I maintain the same format of my class but I ask them to unmute their audio and video periodically so I can check in on their comprehension.
In the next few class periods, Props & Crafts will move from individuals working on their projects to a presentation of projects to a lecture-demo followed by a new hands-on technique. It will be a challenge, but many educators across the globe are all working on solutions. With so many Facebook affinity groups (USITT, COVID 19 Online Theatre Educators, Technical Theatre Educators, etc.) and colleagues who are contacting and sharing ideas, it is providing a lot of rich resources to apply to our classes.
Grace Keenan (Costume) THEA 11732: Fundamentals II, THEA 21523: Costume Technology, THEA 41540: Draping for the Theatre I, and THEA 4/51624: History of Costume & Textiles for Theatre
If someone had told me on Monday, March 9 that we would be finishing the semester entirely online, away from campus and without the traditional end-of-semester events, I would have dismissed it as an impossible option. Unfortunately, we discovered around 2:30 p.m. the next day that this was going to be the new reality.
I teach four in-person courses, THEA 11732: Fundamentals II, THEA 21523: Costume Technology, THEA 41540: Draping for the Theatre I, and THEA 4/51624: History of Costume & Textiles for Theatre as well as over-seeing many of the BFA Practicum students and BA Capstones in the costume area. The process of turning these courses into things that can be delivered online has ranged from fairly easy to seemingly impossible. I did not sleep at all the night on March 10, my brain so overrun with all the countless things that needed to be thought of, changed or otherwise reworked to get my courses online by Monday, March 16.
Draping: I went into the office on March 11 with the first goal of delivering half-scale mannequins to my students in Draping I. I had my students drive up to the front of CPA so that I could put muslin and the small mannequins in their car. I spent the entire day going through my syllabi for Draping I and Costume Technology to figure out how this would work. Since these two are more like studio classes, there is a significant handicap to them moving online. Draping was, in some ways, the easiest as the students are juniors and seniors who know me and the work that I hope they will achieve, and we had covered the basic steps of draping. Afterward, it is just the act of repeating the process of draping that helps you become a draper.
Much of this time was also spent figuring out what kind of video chat software I would use and how to make sure that it was available and easy to use for all the students (I settled on Google Hangouts). This is necessary especially since so much of my feedback to the students in Draping I and Costume Technology is based on the work I can actually.
Costume Technology: This class is a completely different story. This was the hardest of my courses to put online. It is a traditional sewing class with mostly sophomores, many who had not had me in a class before this semester. The original final project in Costume Technology was building a men’s waistcoat with pockets and a traditional lapel and top collar, like a suit. How do I provide a pattern for them, restricted now to Blackboard and what would be printed at home? How do I get the materials? Do they have sewing machines? I spent a lot of time with this class thinking what the goals of the project were as opposed to the project itself. In what different way could I teach them the same lessons, but would be more accessible in a remote format. I was able to come up with creating a half scale vest pattern with a pocket sample. I spent Friday, March 13th packing up supplies and shipping them to the students so that we could start this after Spring Break. I actually became excited for this project and the students did as well when I told them. Helping the students find joy in the work has become my new goal with this change in routine.
Capstone: On March 17th, with the sewing classes prepped and posted, I was able to turn my attention to History of Costume, Fundamentals II, and my last Capstone student who was supposed to drape for our production of Richard II. For the student, she was able to come in briefly to pick up a half scale mannequin and fabric to drape and build the originally designed dress just as she would for the production, just in half scale. She seemed excited about this opportunity and we have set up regular meetings during my Thursday office hours to check in on her progress.
History of Costume: Since both History of Costume and Fundamentals II are lecture courses, they are a little easier to adapt to the online format. I was able to get both of these up fairly quickly, using voice overs for the lectures in Fundamentals II on the PowerPoints while planning on regularly meeting with my much smaller History of Costume during class to deliver the lecture since courses were only going to be remote for three instructional weeks.
On Friday March 13th we, the faculty and staff, received word during our full school meeting that courses would be remote the rest of the semester. I decided to wait until Monday to talk with the students directly on what they thought and to get a gauge on their mental capabilities. After talking it over with the students in this course, I started recording my lectures on the PowerPoints so that they could look at them in their own time. It is challenging for the students to get a good routine since some of them are in a completely different time zone, helping take care of siblings that are home and resettling into life living with their parents. By giving them for freedom to look at lectures in their own time, this is one small way that I can give them some breathing room.
Fundamental II: While we, the faculty, have been trying to get these courses online, the students, especially those living on campus, kept getting information that eventually led to them having to evacuate the campus by March 20th. Their entire daily existence has completely changed. Although work for me is different, my home environment has not changed and helps give equilibrium to my quarantined world. This has most greatly affected my students in Fundamentals II. Since the students are mainly freshmen and sophomores, they are the ones most likely to be living in the dorms. Though Fundamentals II was the easiest class to go up online, it has required the most contact from for the students as they try and navigate everything.
Now that I am halfway through the first week with my courses, I am starting to notice the students and myself slipping into the new normal. I have already lessened somewhat what I was hoping the students to accomplish to what I think is capable based on my conversations with them. As I told my students, we are doing learning triage, we are getting them the information and lessons that they absolutely have to have to complete the semester and be able to matriculate through their degrees while also being kind to ourselves and not asking too much.
Tom Humes (Stage Management and Design)
What has been a horrifying crisis abroad has now shown up in our own collegiate community. Students have had to vacate residence halls, buildings and services have been shut down or reduced to essential staffs, productions/showcases/events/juries have been delayed or canceled, and we faculty members have had to convert our face to face classes to an amalgamation of remote instruction, self-guided/online tutorials, and online group discussions/journaling in a matter of days. To say things are a bit chaotic is putting it lightly. Our time off this semester, our spring break, will certainly include planning for the rest of the spring semester in this remote instruction era.
While all of this is a bit disheartening, I believe our faculty and staff have risen to the challenge and have made the best of a sad situation. I, being new to academia after my professional work, have had to become more intimately acquainted with Blackboard and some of the tools that I have never utilized before. It is more than a grading ledger and dumping ground for PowerPoint slides, it is now our classroom. Since a couple of my courses are lecture-based, switching to Blackboard Collaborate Ultra was simple. It allows me not only to continue my PowerPoint presentations with my own narrative but also to include student input, questions, answers and record all of this. As a result, my students without technical tools can access the material from recorded sessions.
The class that I co-teach involves software demonstrations/access. So it has been a bit more of a challenge. Fortunately, this course is team-taught, so both heads are better than one. We are using a combination of Collaborate Ultra and Kaltura to streamline instruction and have re-configured our curriculum towards software that is available (free of charge) to our students while maintaining the objectives of our course.
I am encouraged that our students are watching out for each other, have a semblance of hope and, most importantly, a desire to continue their education in whatever format is applicable. Sure, there are a few that are jaded by the experience and want their money back, but there are fewer of them than I anticipated. At least this is true in our school. To all my colleagues out there, stay safe, sane and healthy. May your internet stay connected, your bandwidth wide and your spirits up!
Nick Drashner (Sound and Projections)
Many of the courses I teach (e.g., Graphics for Theatre, Sound and Projection Design and Technology) utilize the personal computer as a central tool for learning. My classes are typically held in computer labs, and my teaching methodology often involves a combination of lecture/discussion, software demonstration and software-based creative project work.
After all classes moved to remote learning due to COVID-19, I have had to adjust the curriculum in my courses to ensure student accessibility. For all students to have full access, software we use now has to be available to them for free and has to be cross-platform (able to be used on a Mac or PC). To make this adjustment, I had to search out alternative options, learn new software quickly and create new project guidelines for all of my courses.
In terms of remote teaching methodology, so far, I have been using a combination of pre-recorded software demonstrations, and remote meetings (using Collaborate Ultra) wherein I give lectures, facilitate discussions, and provide a time for questions/answers related to software demonstrations.
Eric S. Kildow
On the Somatics of Social Distancing
The word came down. We were going online. That was fine for most of my classes, I either had already taught them online, or their lecture/discussion format would port readily into distance learning. The sticky wicket in my portfolio, however, was my course on The Alexander Technique. Alexander Technique, for the unfamiliar, is a practice of somatic bodywork that focuses on overcoming harmful habits in everyday activity as well as performance activity. It is, in short, embodied mindfulness in action. How could that embodied work be handled in a medium that, by its very nature, was designed to be disembodied?
In consulting with my colleagues in the somatic field, I found that a number of teachers had already been experimenting with distance education in their private practices, even before the current pandemic had raised its ugly head. So, from a professional viewpoint, it wasn't impossible. However, it did require a number of renovations in practice in order to make it happen. What would normally be hands-on guidance from the instructor would need to be replaced by verbal guidance. At the same time, the student would need to become far more practiced at describing their experience as well.
A favorite author of mine once wrote, “Wisdom is the ability to swim in strange water.” And in approaching my first remote lessons in Alexander Technique, I certainly had to keep this in mind, as both my students and myself were navigating the unfamiliar. Admitting my unfamiliarity, acknowledging my discomfort and working collaboratively with my students to explore this new modality has given me an experience of humility and gratitude that I have not felt in a long time.
Fabio Polanco (Character and Scene Study I, Graduate Acting Styles II, and Graduate and Undergraduate Advanced Directing)
Although there have been challenges, in some ways the transition to remote learning has been surprisingly smooth. I have benefited from my previous experience with online delivery, the effectiveness of the technology, and the experience, commitment, and generosity of my students.
When the decision was made to move to remote-learning for three weeks, I was able to quickly assess the situation and make adjustments. I was very happy with the choices I made. My satisfaction was partially the result of believing that we would be able to take the work we had done remotely and employ it in the live studio upon our return. Those circumstances quickly changed when the wise and bold decision was made to remain in a remote learning situation for the remainder of the semester. That second announcement left me with 72 hours to complete the much more difficult task of reorganizing and making substitutions in my courses so that the semester could be fully completed on a remote platform.
For Character and Scene Study I, I decided that we would complete our early-realism scenes using Blackboard Collaborate Ultra. Through this medium, partners could present their work to the entire class and receive feedback. Then, I substitute the last scene for a post-1970 realistic monologue. The hope was to alleviate the challenge of scheduling time for remote rehearsals. Monologues give the students more flexibility and allow them to apply the tools learned and meet outcomes. They were thrilled with the idea.
For Acting Styles II, I did the same thing. The students would complete their Classical Greek scenes and then move on to monologues from Molière plays. They were also pleased.
Advanced Directing provided some surprises. At the time of the transition, everyone was working on individual stagings of Chekhov’s The Bear. I came into the remote class proposing that we end our direction of The Bear and substitute a written or video reflection on the preproduction and rehearsal process in lieu of the final performance. I transformed each rubric criterion into a question for the students to answer.
The final project in the class is the direction of a 10-minute play or scene guided by or in the style of a “signature approach” to theatre/direction. This approach could be an established methodology, genre, or in the style of an auteur director. These plays were cast with actors from outside of our class.
I proposed that we complete the “signature approach” research and the presentations of that research. Then, instead of actually rehearsing and performing the plays, we would substitute a series of lectures and discussions on rehearsal processes in general. All were in agreement.
In passing, I mused that we could complete the project as remote readings that could be broadcast live and/or recorded and shared with the greater world. I was surprised and buoyed when the directors jumped at this idea. I was further buoyed when they reached out to their actors and they also showed the same enthusiasm and commitment. As a result, the class will now conclude with a remote performance that can be attended by a remote audience.
Paul Hurley (Acting and Movement)
One of the basic skills we work on in the first unit of my beginning acting class is being IN ADJ USTMENT. That is what makes live theatre so exciting: actors who are continually in adjustment to everything that is actually happening, as it is happening moment by moment! Another exercise I introduce on the first day of class is the ball toss. In this exercise, we make friends with messing up. When someone drops the ball, instead of judging them, we congratulate them as an ensemble by saying “PERFECT!”
The main intention I set for myself and my classes when we suddenly transitioned to “remote learning” is a combination of these two basic practices: to be “perfectly in adjustment.”
The reality is that we are in a pandemic. No instructor planned on redesigning (in a matter of days) the final six weeks of a semester to take place “remotely.” Perhaps more importantly, no student signed up to take a “remote” class—especially an Acting or Movement class, which is what I teach.
After researching all of the possible platforms to conduct remote classes, I decided to utilize Zoom, and I have been really pleased with this decision and the possibilities it has afforded my students. For each class that I teach, I start out with my main goal of the session: to check in with each student and give them an opportunity to share. This has evolved into many different forms. Sometimes we check in as an entire group and other times we utilize Zoom’s Breakout Rooms to check in as smaller groups. This activity has lasted as long as one hour and has been as short at five minutes. For me, this is the most important part of our class.
It bears repeating that we are in a pandemic. Students are scared, bored, angry, worried, anxious, and every other possible feeling that we may experience as human beings. Students are struggling with all kinds of challenging circumstances. They are back at home living with parents and siblings, who are all working/studying in close quarters. They are sharing rooms with their 10-year-old sister for the first time ever. They just lost their job and have no idea how they are going to afford rent (let alone tuition for college). They still have a job, but they are terribly afraid because they come home every day to family members that are considered “high risk” due to underlying medical conditions. They fear going to the supermarket and having racial slurs spewed at them. This list goes on and on. I share it as well. My wife and I have struggled with infertility for 4½ years and have been through an unimaginable journey. In a final Hail Mary IVF cycle last year, she got pregnant. As I sit here writing this, we are expecting our baby to arrive in the next seven days: exactly when the number of COVID-19 cases are expected to peak in Ohio.
All that to say, collectively we are dealing with a lot right now, and classes have been invaluable to maintain a community. We listen to one another, we are generous with one another, we support one another, and we are committed to being a stand for each another. I am daily inspired by my students and colleagues and find myself regularly brought to tears with gratitude. What has been truly amazing is that attendance in all of my classes has been nearly perfect since going “remote,” which speaks loudly to the fact that we all need this outlet right now. Perhaps more than ever.
Once we have checked in with each other, then we move on to honing our craft as actors: applying Laban’s Efforts to character development, employing Stanislavski’s physical action in monologue work, continuing Meisner’s moment to moment work, and furthering our physical exploration of Chekhov’s tools of Imaginary Body and Qualities of Movement. We have had group presentations, meditated, used polling questions, watched plays, danced, laughed, cried, been scared, and at times shared our family (including pets) with each other.
One of the things we have discussed a lot as a faculty in the past two years is how to establish a work-life balance. What a funny concept that is in a pandemic, when we are all working and studying from home. There is little to no separation of these two for the time being, and maybe that’s a good thing. In fact, maybe it’s “perfect.” For the time being, we are doing both simultaneously. Classes with students and meetings with colleagues (with my dog siting on my lap and my pregnant wife on a work call across the room) have become highlights of my day. And when my little girl is born, my students will be among the first to meet her. Which all seems pretty “perfect.” April 10, 2020
Courtney Brown (Voice and Acting)
“What happens if this is all practice?” This is a question a recently posed to my Voice I class, during this unprecedented period of remote teaching and learning, stay-at-home orders and deep uncertainty.
In somatic-based classes like I teach (Voice I and Character and Scene Study I), we practice mind-body skills such as awareness, concentration, embodiment, self-knowledge, play with purpose and curiosity. We learn to notice, in the moment, what arises—physical sensation, image, thought, or memory—and choose, in the moment, to use what arises to serve some creative or communicative purpose. These are also life skills. I encourage students to notice what arises in their daily lives and use the familiar events from class to move through thoughts, emotions and physical sensations with the same curiosity, compassion and steadiness as we practice in class.
During this time (with remote teaching, huge amounts of uncertainty, fear, contraction—physical, mental and emotional—and grief, both for faculty and students), my core mission as a teacher has felt even more like a true calling. More than ever I try to have the students work with the underlying principles of the self-teaching model of learning that is at the core of the Lessac Kinesensic Approach. Self–teaching draws on concepts of mindfulness and critical self-reflection capabilities. It refers to our human capacity to critically assess one’s state of being, to choose to change and to take responsibility for re-patterning processes. It speaks directly to the human’s capacity to critically self-reflect in and on action.
The fundamentals of my classes remain largely the same as prior to the disruption. I have been using Blackboard Collaborate Ultra to conduct classes together. We have used breakout groups and the main-room function. In Voice I and Character and Scene Study I (CSSI), we begin similarly as we did together in the studio – by tuning in and up. We dance, hum, breathe “all together, but on our own.” I keep my video and microphone on, but the students are invited to turn both off, so that there is a semblance of privacy and safety for them. I “hold the space” for them. In Voice I we have continued exploring the Lessac Vocal and Body energies, using the course packet I previously created. In CSSI, the students are now working on monologues, as continuing with scene work felt too much like a burden for them. We are continuing to work on text and vocal work, physical development of character and Stanislavsky’s elements of objectives, obstacles and actions.
“What if this is all practice?” What if we continue to use this time, both in and out of class, as wisely, compassionately and effectively as possible? Might it be possible to increase overall awareness, concentration, embodiment, self-knowledge, play and curiosity? This is my hope and offering to all of my students and colleagues as we move all together, but on our own, through this time.
Michelle Souza (Costume Design)
When KSU announced the shift to remote learning in March, I happened to be in the costume shop for fittings for our (eventually canceled) production of Richard II. Once the news became official, students began to stream in, most of them in shock and anxious about how this announcement would impact their academic and personal lives. Though in shock myself, I tried to support them as they grappled with uncertainty and anxiety. It was an experience that emphasized to me that my role in the lives of my students is much more than information delivery—they turn to me and my colleagues for emotional support and reassurance as well.
Those first few hours significantly informed my strategy when I began converting my courses: Costume Design (THEA 21524) and Design Studio- Costume (THEA 41524), both studio- and discussion-based classes that emphasize visual and verbal communication through theatrical design. I understood that many of my students had left campus to return to their family homes, and others were staying in Kent and holding down jobs, and I couldn’t be confident that they all had easy access to the technology offered on Blackboard. Considering this tumult, I decided not to focus on synchronous class meetings, as I didn’t want to overwhelm them with attendance requirements in addition to the logistical challenges they might be facing in that first week. I have since provided opportunities for us to connect synchronously via video chat, which I think has provided an additional layer of support for them.
At my previous institution, I trained and completed a certification in online teaching, and I delivered two semesters of an Introduction to Theatre class online to groups of 40 students. I am grateful to have a solid understanding of online course design as well as the tools provided through Blackboard. Because of this training, my learning curve was not as steep as it might have been if I were jumping into this challenge untrained.
As I migrated to the online environment, I focused on the learning objectives from my initial course planning in order to plan the delivery of information and interactivity in my classes. The biggest challenge, perhaps unsurprisingly, was offering a method for students to observe one another’s visual work and enter into meaningful and substantive conversation.
The Costume Design students were in mid-stream for their culminating design project for A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I divided my twelve Costume Design students into small groups of four. I created a discussion board for each group on Blackboard and asked students to submit their next assignment, a collage, as a new thread. Then, within each group, the students could observe and evaluate their peers’ work, beginning a conversation to which I offered my own contributions. I was heartened to see that not only was the work itself extremely successful, but their discussion board interactions showed a commitment to one another’s design development process.
Design Studio students had reached a crucial point in their design process for Liz Duffy Adams’s Dog Act, and I set up one-on-one video meetings with each student to discuss their rough sketches and design concepts for that project. It was a significant time commitment for sure, but it allowed me to guide them individually much as I would during a studio work day in the classroom. We each used the opportunity to pose questions and hone ideas as they worked to make their costume designs more specific and final. The results of this work were likewise impressive!
The rapport I had already established with students in the classroom has been key to the success of these course. Because we had laid the foundation for in-class discussions that begin with me asking the question “what do you see?” in their peers’ work, the students were trained in the vocabulary of observation and meaningful critique. Without this foundation, I might have chosen different instructional methods in order to cultivate the culture of questioning that is so vital for my design students to experience.
Steven Ray Pauna (Technical Direction)
At the st
art of this process I observed an interview with one of the cast members from the TV show Shark Tank. The question was, how can businesses survive this situation? The response resonated with me: “What is the DNA, the essence of the business that you don’t want to lose and keep going?” I applied this notion as a guideline for my classes to move forward. A large part of the experience for me has been to reassure the students that quality education can still occur to the end of the semester.
Interestingly, I feel like I have been preparing more thoroughly for remote teaching than face-to-face instruction, really examining content and putting a time limit to the sessions. Perhaps it just feels this way after 20 years of face-to-face instruction. I also realized it has been easier to prepare for class at home. With a piano and singing one office away and power tools running with the shop radio blasting, I am not surprised it can be difficult to prepare in my office, which is located in the scene shop. It has been working pretty well. For student training, I am thinking of purposefully adding a week or two, or and assignment, where we virtually attend.
Jennifer Black (Dance)
There are many challenges when teaching an online dance class. While some teachers chose to have students learn the mental aspects of dance, I preferred to have the students keep moving. My first experience with zoom was not great. I found it very difficult to see the students and physically teach them combinations at the same time. Students had trouble with the connection. Many of them would hear the music later than I did, or their computer would just freeze. I found that the best way to deal with these unforeseen challenges was to give the students options. I posted the weekly assignments late on Sunday night and took them down late on Friday night. This would allow them the opportunity to dance when they had the time and space to do it the best they can. found many videos on YouTube that were helpful. It took hours of research, but there were several that gave good content, advice, or class that was perfect to do at home. I would even create videos in my basement and put them on YouTube myself. Some of the students had difficulty “mirroring” the images and found it challenging to learn combinations that way, however, I also think that learning from a video is a useful skill to have for any students that find themselves in a dance company or show that is recreating their pieces by learning it through video. I also used a site called DancePlug that had a few tap combinations or warm ups that I thought the students can learn. What I liked about DancePlug is the different ways the combinations were taught. After researching several virtual platforms, I chose to pay for zoom pro. It allowed me to see all the students at the same time. After several tries, I found that changing my mind set on how and what the students were learning was helpful. First of all, I simplified all the combinations. I would teach it so it was easy to remember, then I was able to watch them while saying the combination through my computer screen. Obviously, it was going to be difficult for students to turn in the floors they were forced to use. Therefore, I focused on balances and the proper preparation instead. I was also able to focus on ballet barre, technique, small jumps, strengthening and stretching.While I think that this is obviously not the best way to hold a dance class, I truly feel that the students that chose to do the work still learned something from it. Students and teachers were forced to think outside of the box in their teaching, choreography and projects. While many students may have had difficulty with the situation as well as staying motivated and consistent, I believe that those that have managed to rise to the occasion will find themselves successful with other challenges in future careers.
Read Professor Black's Full Story (PDF)
Jakyung C. Seo (Theatre | Lighting Design)
On March 10th of Tuesday, I was driving from Cleveland Playhouse to Kent State to attend the 2nd technical rehearsal of SDF/BFA concerts at Kent State University. I, as a lighting designer was working on “Middletown” that the production was produced by Cleveland Playhouse. One of my MFA students called me and said that the school was closing now due to pandemic. It was heart breaking that the students couldn’t have the real experience of the productions. While preparing all of my classes, I was trying to focus on the practical side of the experience into remote classes. I used real example of lighting paper works from Broadway to my professional works to share with the students. And then I encouraged them to review the details of the lighting paper works from Broadway and then cooperated to their paperwork. When we have the production works before pandemic, students often missed the details in their paperwork due to limited time opening the productions. In addition, I reinforced to the students the positive side of being remote classes. I created the sign up schedule at google drive schedule. While I met them outside of class time, I gave them the individual attention. It seems students liked the time that we could meet regularly outside of class time. It was tough time but, I was proud of our students works. They focused and kept their momentums to learn about lighting design.