It is no surprise that this school year already has taken a shape that the greater majority of students and teachers alike do not entirely recognize. Indeed, many teachers find themselves resorting to methods of content delivery that have been frowned upon as not fitting into the mold of "best practices." Students lack the immediate feedback of a face-to-face environment in which a subtle gesture or twitch of the teacher's facial muscles can reveal worlds of information that simply does not transfer over the pixelation of a virtual learning environment. Our "normal" has changed - it is different.
That aspect of "difference" - the change between what has been and what is now - presents itself somewhere between two-and-ten-fold over within the theatre class. It has become perhaps the expectation that the realm of performing arts class time is one of intense rehearsal with little time for theoretical discussion that may be found in the traditional academic core of secondary education. There is no shame in this method of learning in the theatre class - there are only so many hours in the day, and productions must open on opening night.
However, where are we left in our mission to enrich the lives of our students through the entirety of the dramatic arts? A rehearsal allows for the practical application of talent, an opportunity to speak the words whilst standing atop the boards of the stage, yes. An examination of dramatic theory, however, allows for the exploration of the hidden corners of what it means to engage in the theatrical form.
How, for instance, would one plunge the depths of A Midsummer Night's Dream if only given time to rehearse with none given to a detailed unearthing of the play's chaotic content? If only provided with rehearsal time, a set of young actors may, in fact, focus entirely on their own individual parts and thereby miss entirely the relevance of the text as a whole and how their individual characters relate to the greater thematic ideal of the production. Similarly, if a young technician or designer is entrusted to work head a production element, how are they to be held to their highest standard of excellence if they have not received instruction on the professional standard and techniques utilized beyond the walls of the theatre classroom?
The change we have experienced has undoubtedly thrown a great wrench into the former system, and, like all major events in history, it forces us to reexamine the past as we hope to move toward the future. Though I wish for the speedy, safe return of our students to a traditional, face-to-face learning environment, I would be remiss to not pause and consider the ultimate change for good we may experience in the education of these young artists. "Different" is not synonymous with "bad."
It is my pledge to use our present to review the past and look to evolve the future. Our star is shining bright. Our time is coming.
Change is a good thing.