Distance Learning: Tips and Techniques for Online Performance
The Spring Show was cancelled and now we are scrambling to fill students time until further notice. Our Seniors are devastated, and our Booster Moms were really going to raise so much money this year. It’s heartbreaking. But get this. We are experiencing a pandemic in the time of The Internet. So. Before we lose that, too, let’s make a play on it. Not only is this an assignment for your students to receive credit for and to do while social distancing, this is an opportunity for your actors to produce a play together.
Perform a play from home and share it with their friends, loved ones and the world.
Stage Partners' playwrights have taken advantage of their shelter-at-home time and written a series of monologues just this week for your students. The idea was ignited by Stage Partners Co-founder Jason Pizzarello, who gave some intriguing ingredients to our far-flung network of playwrights and then setting them off to create timely new monologues perfect for remote production.
We call their work Stranded: Views from Quarantine. This collection of 20 monologues allows you, the director, to either have students perform them all or handpick the perfect monologue for each of your students and thread together your own piece. You get to arrange the order they flow. The students get to perform. ALL FOR FREE.
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How to put this together?
You and your students can read every Stage Partners play in its entirety online for free.
- Assign/cast each of your actors with a monologue. And give them an off-book date.
Schedule your Rehearsals — Invite your students to a virtual rehearsal. Individually rehearse with FaceTime or WhatsApp. Have a group rehearsal or first read-through with Zoom. Right now Zoom is completely free for K-12 schools-- they even removed the time limit for the group conference call, so the large groups can all participate.
- Students must self-tape their monologue and submit it to you by a certain date that you give them.
- You can even have students write their own monologues using the assigned ingredients. Then add their own monologues in with the others.
Editing the monologues together? Accessing software is now easier than ever for first-timer remote creatives. Adobe is offering access to free software (and we have more tips below!).
- Promote it! Post your work on social media and build community online. Invite people to "Tag #____" (think #theatreonline, #socialdistancing, or make your own!) and consider selling virtual “tickets” to your Zoom show.
- Send it to us and we will upload to our YouTube channel. We’d love to help you promote your new work!
Remember to credit the creative and generous playwrights who made this all possible.
To-Dos for the Monologue Self-Tape
Ready to get your self-taping started? Here are a few things to look out for!
BACKGROUND — Students should find/create as plain of a background as possible OR you can assign them to create a specific background for their character.
- LIGHTING — Natural light is the best. Find a window that does not have direct light and film facing that window.
- CAMERA SETTINGS — The phone should be set or held horizontally and filmed in "landscape" orientation (aka "widescreen"). Camera can be set on a tripod, suction mount or selfie-stick. Don’t have these accessories? Lean it against something or ask a friend to hold it! No matter what make sure the camera is steady and held arm's distance apart from the actor.
- SOUND — Ideally, we could record this through a lavalier mic, but that's not going to be an option for most students at home. If relying on the sound of the phone, please try to make sure you have the least amount of ambient noise as possible. Consider recording in a well-lit closet or a room with curtains and other fabric to absorb the echo.
ACTING for the iPhone Camera — Since we are arms-distance length from the camera, we do not need to play to the back of the house. There is no need to look directly into the camera. Having your eyeline fall just to the side of the phone or just above will be a comfortable place for the viewer.
Now do like you do. Take this script and your creativity and your eager, talented, genius students and make some art. We can’t wait for your On-Line Opening Night!
We are all looking forward to when we come out on the other side of this. What we do with this time and how we navigate our young people through it is vital. Keep in touch with one another!
Have more ideas?
Need additional resources? Just let us know. We’ll do this, together.
Maria McConville has been a NYC Public School teaching artist since 2005. In the past she has worked with the Theatre Development Fund, LeAP! Onstage, and Periwinkle Theater for Youth, and as a Shakespeare and Playwriting teaching artist with Theatre For A New Audience. Her students have performed and adapted the work of Shakespeare, written their own plays, devised ensemble performance pieces, sang and danced in musical productions, and performed their peers work on a Broadway stage. Growing up in New York, Maria attended LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts for Drama, and recently adjudicated the auditions for incoming students. Maria is also a playwright; her published plays include "#Censored" and "#Viral" (Stage Partners) and "To Date or Not to Date" (Playscripts).