Teaching drama in the time of COVID

“All the world’s a stage” – William Shakespeare

“All the world’s a stage and most of us are desperately unrehearsed” – Seán O’Casey

When the pandemic struck our world like a freight train, I was definitely not prepared to take my classroom online. For me, theatre art always meant a harmonious symphony of voice-speech and movement. Movement was pretty much restricted and I was desperately unrehearsed.

“The theatre was created to tell people the truth about life and the social situation” – Stella Adler

Initially I decided to focus on the voice/speech aspect of drama. It was important that students and I discuss the situation we were in and accept our restrictions. However, I desperately wanted drama to still be that fun subject for my students.

As a student of theatre, drama has  always been therapeutic for me. I have always loved to read different scripts and perform different characters. So I chose to do reader’s theatre with my students, through which they would develop fluency skills.

Finding scripts and resources online was easy. So many writers have made their work available for the community to use; royalty free. Aaron Shepard is one of the generous scriptwriters and his scripts can be found on http://aaronshep.com. Aaron writes and translates folklore, ballads and stories from all over the world.

Students got to read globally, a variety of scripts in different accents while working on their voice projection, diction, enunciation and character study. Not to forget that these scripts were a window to a different social structure and a glimpse into their mundane yet inspiring life.

“Actors are all about entrances, but writers are all about exits” – Vincent H.O’Neil

The second unit that we covered was script writing and story-telling. This was again an essential and integral part of drama that did not require a lot of movement. Impromptu story building games and character study exercises motivated students to write two scripts, one individually and another collaboratively.

“I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.” – Oscar Wilde

Next, it was extremely important that we focus on performance and production.

Students had already written their scripts but there was no way that they could come together and perform their plays on stage, as long as we remained off-campus. After a lot of thought and research, my mind was stuck in a limbo.

It became imperative to discuss with my students that I was stuck and I needed their help. It is important as a teacher to accept that students are more open-minded and wildly more imaginative and less constrained by the virtues of adulthood. With the wind in their wings, they can fly beyond imagination.

My students decided to do virtual plays and short films. Surely, being tech savvy came in handy.

My desire to keep the drama class fun was hilarious. So, I would throw in theatre games here and there. Kids loved those games so much that when I offered them to actually play any game of their wish or offer them a free class, most probably they would request for a repeat of one of the theatre games.

“Movies will make you famous, Television will make you rich; but theatre will make you good” – Terrance Mann.

Teaching drama during COVID has been such an exhilarating experience. As I always say, “Even though the script is all the same, every show is a new show”.

And every class has been a new learning experience.

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This post has been authored by our Middle School Theatre Teacher, Ms. Khushboo Shroff.

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