After it was announced that the first nine weeks of school this year would be only virtual district wide, theatre arts teacher Chad Little pushed out an email to all students involved in theatre explaining the new concept of master classes. Parkway theatre teachers formed the plan of having three classes each week extending until winter break in an attempt to keep students involved in theatre and to possibly explore areas or subjects that students may not have the opportunity to explore while a production is going on.
“Any Parkway student interested in Theatre is welcome to attend. They are from 3-4 pm on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Tuesdays focus on improv, Wednesdays focus on tech and Thursdays focus on acting. What is super cool is the talent we bring in to teach these Master Classes. We are enlisting the help of Parkway Alumni who have or do work in the realm of Theatre,” said Little.
Each master class includes a variety of material for students to learn and experiment with such as how to prepare for auditions, how to do old age makeup and even things like what to expect the first week of a professional production.
While master classes are a good way for the theatre department to stay in touch at this time, it is not ideal to put off productions that students have been waiting for when there may be a safe, viable option for the theatre department to continue as usual.
“Probably the hardest part of being a theatre student and going virtual is that we can’t be together. Theatre doesn’t really work if we’re not together working in the same space and can’t get immediate feedback from others. It’s really hard to work on both acting and tech over a zoom call. It’s something that you just have to be together for and so far, theatre students haven’t gotten that chance,” said junior Abby James, who is a member of the theatre board.
Not only have theatre students been facing the hardships of meeting virtually, other performing arts clubs like choir have also been affected negatively.
“Virtual choir is definitely not something that I would have preferred. It’s harder not singing with a group and learning songs that require the whole group to sing synchronized. We were gonna have a meeting on the 19th in the big gym with social distancing and masks but it got cancelled,” said junior Bailey Smith, who has been in choir for seven years.
While safety is all students, parents, and administrators’ first concern, students are wondering if there is a way for arts students to meet and continue with their projects safely.
“Students’ safety is always a primary concern for each theatre teacher in this district. We would follow all of the distancing, mask and time requirements the district would set forth,” said Little.
The main question is what would a theatre meeting or a choir practice look like with all of the proper safety guidelines if groups were to proceed.
“Obviously masks are going to be a must and social distancing as well. We can limit the number of students together in one area and make sure to sanitize everything we use. It’s really not hard to continue the arts and keep everyone safe. Theatre in particular is already something that we do fairly spread apart. On top of that, we can hold theatre meetings in a bigger space if people are still worried. I think the number one thing to remember is that it is an extracurricular activity. It’s not mandatory, so if you are worried about meeting in person and getting sick, you don’t have to go,” said James.
The arts is something that is arguably a necessity for students, especially at such a tough time, and for students who use the arts like choir, theatre, drawing, etc. as an outlet for stress.
“Theatre is an activity that teaches skills students will use practically every day once they leave our campus. Problem solving, communication, teamwork, self discipline, speaking and presentation skills. How to be comfortable in any situation as well as understanding and being able to follow rules and guidelines. Each student is using and recalling the things they are learning in classrooms throughout our building in the work they do on stage or behind the curtain. They are putting their lessons to use in “real world” practical situations in our theatre programs. Our students are also applying to colleges and for scholarships and the stronger the program is the better chance they have of getting into good collegiate programs and conservatories as well as better chances to earn the money needed to complete a college degree,” said Little
Some students are even caught in the middle of enjoying the fact that sports get to meet, while upset that other clubs they may be involved in do not.
“I think all groups should be able to meet with the correct precautions and social distancing,” said junior Rylan Turks, who has been in choir for nine years and playing football for seven.
Turks said that football is one of the sports that is being extremely safe and cautious with their practices.
“We do screening everyday and wear our masks when we are not practicing or when we aren’t wearing helmets even in the film room. We also make sure to tell everybody that if they are feeling any symptoms they need to stay home. I think as long as everybody follows the guidelines, takes temperatures before going out or meeting at all, follows along with social distancing and has no unnecessary contact with other people then more extracurriculars could meet,” said Turks.
Sports will continue to meet in person for practices and groups like choir and theatre will continue to meet virtually. However, with the constant state of change the district is experiencing due to COVID, who knows what will happen.