The play must go on: Moving arts ed forward during COVID-19

Dive Brief:

  • Theater instruction can support academic learning and social-emotional tools, and it can still be taught in a virtual learning space, youth theater director Shana Bestock writes for Edutopia.
  • To start, Bestock said educators should note the roles pupils pick to play, a decision that can help teachers potentially gain insight into students’ emotional needs. Educators can also give students some ownership in how a play is staged, even one produced virtually, allowing them to voice opinions on music and costumes, which makes them think contextually and thematically about a piece of theater.
  • Even teaching students how to handle mishaps, such as forgetting a line or having a video stream drop out during the performance, can help students develop an inner strength they can take with them into the rest of their education, Bestock writes.

Dive Insight:

With social distancing and remote learning still the norm for many students, theater, performing arts and even spoken word projects have been affected tremendously by the pandemic. New York’s Broadway theaters and many others nationwide remain closed. And for every online one-off, such as the original cast of “Hamilton” performing a song a song from the Broadway hit or the recent digital table read of “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” in-person performances have been a rarity in the COVID-19 era, like the few regional performances recently mounted of “Godspell in Massachusetts.

But schools can continue to offer students a chance to stage shows and even perform, all while taking social distancing measures. The Folger Shakespeare Library, for example, offers online resources on how to teach theater during COVID-19, including lesson plans it built around specific plays including “Othello” and “Romeo and Juliet.” Suggestions range from children asking members of their families to read aloud the play with them to having students perform as a group via Zoom or another video conferencing tool.

The Educational Theater Association offers tips for those schools that have reopened, such as having students continue to maintain six feet of distance, having them wear masks during all rehearsals, and even washing all costumes and sanitizing wigs after each rehearsal.

Virtual live musical performances, on the other hand, can be extremely difficult through regular video conferencing tools because of the time lag that can occur through the technology. But for schools that have some in-person teaching this fall, the National Federation of State High School Associations and the National Association for Music Education recently produced guidelines on how to continue with face-to-face music instruction amid COVID-19. These include having students wear masks when not playing and even using special masks with small openings when playing wind instruments.

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