By : Sophia Sturdee / Staff Writer
The University Theatre Department offers a variety of courses for theatre and dance majors, and those that are interested in learning more about the performing arts. Many of their programs are largely hands-on and experiential. They learn through dancing, acting, singing and producing. Many things that take in person classes. These courses get more in depth the closer students get to graduation. As the year started, many of the theatre students at USM went into their junior or senior year. These are often the busiest semesters, finishing classes and working on internships. For some, all of these can be achieved online. While for others, these classes can only be in person, and require a large amount of hands-on learning. So how did a global pandemic affect these classes and programs and more importantly, how did it affect the students?
Halsey Redman, a senior Theatre major with a performance track, spoke about her experiences transitioning online during the pandemic. “My department is incredibly resilient and adaptable,” she said. She described her experience doing a ballet class over zoom, using a chair and pool noodle as a bar. Cami Gibson, another senior at Theatre major with a dance minor, also had to adapt to these changes “There would be days where I was dancing in the kitchen, or dancing in the basement for tap class,” she said.
She also talked about the struggle of living with roommates that were also theatre majors, adapting to virtual classes as well. “All of us had to work around each other’s schedules.ho needs to use the piano? Who needs to use the basement for dancing? It was a crazy time trying to schedule everything,” she said. Each class seemed to have their own difficulties going virtual. The production classes were hit the hardest. Gibson spoke on these, “We had a class called theatre workshop, where you get an assignment to work on a production. You would either do lighting, sound, stage management or backstage crew. You would do a bunch of different elements and create a show together”.
Gibson gave a lot of praise to Sara Valentine, the department chair. Valentine worked hard to ensure that each student got the experience they would need. With all of USM’s theatrical productions canceled, Valentine worked on creating workshops and mentoring, to give seniors the experience and credits they need to graduate.
Although many classes have shifted to online learning, some classes are making adjustments to stay in person. Redman spoke about an acting class she has in the theatre, “We have little dots on the stage that we can stand on, that are far enough apart. You just stand on those spots for the entire class and perform around each other”. As a close knit and affectionate group Redman said it’s hard, going to class and wanting to hug her best friend.
Even with all these changes, both seniors said the pandemic was humbling and overall strengthening. Throughout it all, they kept in touch with their fellow classmates and created new ways of experiencing their passion for the arts. Artists created online galleries and musicals and plays were uploaded to streaming sites to watch. Online entertainment and online performance have become such an integral part of our world this last year.
Both seniors spoke about the world of theatre shifting and becoming something new due to this pandemic. Redman shared a quote from her theatre circle, “The show could be canceled tomorrow and it would be alright, every night is like the first performance”.