Teaching in-person Drama in Uncertain Times

If you are one of the many theatre teachers that have to go out and teach drama in-person, it can be stressful and full of anxiety. For both you, your kids, and their parents. Data shows less than 20% of parents want to go back to full-time right now. But, if you are going back, here are some ideas that might help and relieve some of that stress.

I recently posed the question to a group of theatre teachers (from the FB group: Theatre Teacher Lesson Lending (awesome group BTW!)) who are struggling with the facts and thoughts of going back to teaching this fall. How to teach drama this upcoming school year? Below is a culmination of their thoughts. Some with elaboration, others are just ideas, and one is a full-on program!

As a BONUS, I end this with Alease Timber’s work. SHE’S been doing shows on stage during the summer – so, she has some hands-on experience, AND protocols in place to allow her to be successful. (yes, kids are wearing mask AND social distancing while on stage).

Do a live performance. Wait, what?! You heard me… a smaller social distant one with casts of 5 kids or less (we have several – Midsummer, Beowulf, Caesar) and a much larger one like the photo above – But, more about that type later.

Doing digital performances. This can mean Zoom or starting to shoot like a movie, where you can do some cool editing to give the appearance the kids are closer than they really are. It also gives life skills of editing video. And yes, this is a life skill. Most every company in the future will have some type of video media and will need people who are skilled to be able to make it stand out for their customers. Here are some video concepts that other groups have done.

Design work and projects on designers. Whether that’s costumes or sets. Nows the time to practice and learn from the pros. Start researching some of the great set or costume designers of the past and present and learn about what makes them great. Perhaps connect with some real-world designers and do a Q & A in your class. (Zoom or Skype of course!)

Thanks to Heather Cribbs for putting this great list together of designers. Please add to it if you know of more: DESIGNER LIST

“I picked my fall show to be Shakespeare” – this comment was more around the fact that she doesn’t have to deal with script costs and licensing issues of working with playwrights or companies. This gives her the flexibility to move, cancel, or edit at will how she runs her show. Essentially, giving her flexibility. (NOTE: If you are interested in doing one of our plays at PlayingWithPlays.com, we are very flexible and lenient during these uncertain times – contact us directly!)

Do some playwrighting or scene writing. The best way to learn and appreciate a skill is to do it. This always sounds easier than it is. Having to encapsulate the range of emotions with just language is a challenging task! And a bonus challenge, give them a word count. Have them stay under/over a certain number of words. 5,000 words (characters, language, stage directions) is about a 30-minute play. I like under, as it really starts to hone your storytelling skills. Mark Twain once said, “I would have written a shorter letter, but didn’t have the time.” So very true!

Restructuring group projects in monologue projects. Reduces the number students on stage at any one time as well as fewer rehearsals.

Do a Live Radio Show. Kids can be onstage but socially separated. You can record this for family to watch. You can also do rehearsals via Zoom. And sound effects or foley work can be a great skill to work on.

Do a Digital Talent Show. You can record these from wherever you need to and still go through all the same rehearsal process that you do for any show or performance.

An active reading of Children’s books. This would be for the upper kids so they can showcase for their younger, elementary kids. This works on vocalization skills as well as reading in an engaging way. (Great idea Amanda and Las Animas Colorado Theater program) – and don’t forget to get media releases if you decide to record this fo the kids to watch!

Make or buy face shields. Although it is still smart to wear a mask, we want to be able to see the expressions of the other actor’s face. Remember, good acting is reacting!

Learn how to do Voiceover work.

Learn how to audition effectively.

Teach Theatre History.

Do more play analysis.

Rehearsals and Auditions via Zoom.

Work on pantomime.

Set up a greenscreen to leave movie making skills.

Larger Cast Shows

Now, onto some real life experience from Alease Timbers of Temple Theatre. She has a very strict protocol:

  • No parents are allowed inside. Only staff are allowed inside the buildings.
  • Once the temp is taken, they go to their assigned social distant seat which has their names already on it (yes, socially spaced)
  • Once they are on stage – EVERYONE must wear a mask – she does her best to incorporate their mask into their costumes.
  • She carries a tape measure with her, as she makes sure everyone is 6-feet apart. And yes, she will break out the tape measure from time to time!
  • The fog before everyone arrives and at the end of the day.
  • The stage has a specific entrance and exit – as to not accidentally cross paths.
  • Any positions will need to have a backup. Both kids’ roles and staff.

That about sums it up. But, she left me with this: There is no such thing as being too safe. Have a backup person to help. And ALWAYS reinforce using correct exits and entrances. It’s ok to feel overwhelmed, be sure to ask for help. And plan as much as you can, things will change, but at least you have a baseline to work from. Oh, and always find the positives!

Thank you so much, Alease for such great knowledge sharing!

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About brendan kelso

Brendan is the main creative source and author behind Playing With Plays and the infamous Shakespeare for Kids series. You can typically find him inventing by day, playing with his family by night, and writing by very late night.

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