When Cal Poly Pomona transitioned to remote learning on March 18 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many classes were affected by the sudden change, especially the performing arts classes.
Since a majority of performing arts classes required in-person interaction and activities to enhance students’ learning, faculty members in the Department of Theatre and New Dance made adjustments to provide students an opportunity to advance in their courses through Zoom meetings.
Adjunct lecturers Emilie Beck and Thomas Bryant both teach the Special Topics for Lower Division Students Activity course consisting of five first-year students. The course focuses on providing students with acting experience in theater productions and prepares them for main stage productions.
During the transition to moving classes online, both instructors assigned a final exam where students are to create a video diary containing monologues with two separate instructions focusing on the topic of COVID-19.
For the assignment, Bryant instructed students to create a video diary containing monologues on their personal COVID-19 experiences, which relates to the community-based theater that creates drama out a person’s life experiences. Bryant added that the performance artist Luis Alfaro inspired this idea through his posts on social media discussing his experiences and issues during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think this is also a great way for them to communicate about their experiences and gain support for what they are going through,” Bryant said.
On the other hand, Beck described how she instructed the students to create a video diary containing three different monologues to represent a fictional character’s experience at the start, during and the time following the pandemic.
“By allowing the students to create a fictional character deeply affected by the coronavirus pandemic, it allows them to represent an arc of experience,” Beck said. “It is an amazing opportunity for students to understand drama at its fullest which shows people at their extremes.”
Fourth-year kinesiology student with a minor in theater, Samantha Ledezma, shared her experience with learning remotely in her acting class, taught by Adjunct Theater Lecturer Michael Kachingwe. Ledezma explained that many assignments where students planned to perform scenes with one another converted to solo performances done through Zoom meetings.
“To me, the class is still very hands-on because we still perform parts of a play alone and get a new perspective on your character when you get feedback from Professor Kachingwe and other students,” Ledezma said.
Kachingwe also implemented an activity that allowed his students to do a mock audition with four professionals in theater through separate breakout groups within their class Zoom meeting. The students chosen by the four professionals returned for callbacks to ultimately be cast to play the specific roles they auditioned for.
To finish off the semester, Kachingwe said he replaced the original plan for students to perform a scene with one another with a monologue from a variety of plays that students perform for the class during finals week.
“By adapting to moving our class online, these activities stand as one transition to help them as students and to help me keep excited about being on camera and also to continue doing great work for the class,” Kachingwe said.
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