Theater Arts Courses Cut Short by COVID-19

Ariana Lasher, Staff Writer

Although all classes and lectures have made the switch to Zoom virtual learning, not everyone is having an easy transition. Some majors, such as theater arts, have students struggling more to return to normalcy than others. This new way of learning is affecting multiple acting, dance, and other performance classes in a way that cannot be repaired by Zoom.

“Our class is incapable of being an online class,” said Caston Otersen, a theater arts major and member of the Class of 2020. “Students were supposed to write, direct, design, and act in shows by ourselves, with the guidance from our professor, that culminated in two performances for the public.”

Otersen is referring to the major required theater course, Student New Works, instructed by Jonathan Yukich. This course offers experimental learning for students, allowing them to create and perform their own original plays in a festival at the end of the semester, while experiencing the process of developing new works along the way. Because of stay-at-home learning, the festival is canceled and this course cannot continue the way it should have.

“This also impacts our resumes for graduate programs,” said Otersen. “Some schools require presenting our own original work and that work being recognized on a stage to even apply. Now we don’t have that opportunity.”

Another theater course affected by this change is a dance class is Special Topics: Jazz Dance Technique, instructed by Diana Harris.

“We’re not really dancing anymore,” said Pepper Lavoie, class of 2020. “It’s weekly check-ins, learning a bit more about jazz as an art, and doing short responses to self-care and wellness videos Diana puts together.”

With all of these changes, some professors are feeling just as disoriented from the virtual shift’s impact as their students.

“Suddenly, a class that relied on open space, physical interaction, and experimental learning has been reduced to being trapped in a small space, interacting with a screen, and watching dance instead of experiencing it,” said Harris. “While this adaption could technically work with experienced dancers, my students are novices who need guidance on how to execute movements properly and safely.”

This class has gone from learning and performing jazz style dances together twice a week to trying to figure it out from their homes on Zoom.

“I’m a little sad about the changes,” said Lavoie. “I really enjoyed getting to practice the dance style together as a class, but I know it’s for the best.”

This situation is out of everyone’s control. Students are unable to gain the knowledge and education that they registered for. Many seniors will never get the full experience of finishing their final classes and performances. Here’s to hoping for a better and brighter future.