Theatre students adjust to online classes through COVID-19 pandemic

Kaitlyn Burns performs in "Who Will Talk to the Boys?" The show was held in The Purple Mask Theatre on March 1, 2018. (File photo by Andrea Klepper | Collegian Media Group)

Making the transition from in-person to online classes has been a big adjustment for a lot of students, including theatre students who are learning how to act and perform online.

Kaitlyn Burns, senior in theatre, is currently taking four different theatre classes online, including Fundamentals of Technical Production, Practice in Directing, Introduction to Theatre and Musical Theatre Dance. She says the adjustment was difficult at first, but her professors have smoothed out the process.

“At the beginning, it was definitely difficult because theater revolves around everyone collaborating in person and it’s just difficult to move all of that online, but our professors have been amazing in integrating all of these techniques we’ve been learning to an online setting,” Burns said.

Although Burns’s Introduction to Theatre class was already online, she’s been adapting to the new procedures for her other three theatre courses. In her Practice in Directing class, she was in the process of directing a 10-minute play before the university shifted online.

The performance of her 10-minute play was completed before spring break, but she is now learning how to direct the actors using Zoom for other projects.

“It’s just interesting to try to navigate how to express the same emotions you would face-to-face versus on a screen,” she said.

Burns was also cast as Lady Macbeth in K-State Theatre’s Production of Macbeth, which was supposed to open on April 23, but was postponed until next semester.

“We had already done two weeks of rehearsal and even brought in a fight choreographer from Canada,” Burns said. “I’m just glad we are still getting to perform. It’s unfortunate for some of the seniors who are graduating this semester, but our theatre faculty [were] kind enough to give them the opportunity to perform in the fall next semester if they are able.”

Jennifer Meier, sophomore in finance and theatre, has also been learning how to become accustomed to the new normal in her classes.

“Acting has a lot to do with the environment, whether that be the people you are with, the place you are or who you are talking to, it’s so important to use it to help create acting choices,” she said. “When that is limited by a screen and choppy audio, it is hard to be fully present in a scene.”

Meier was also in a production this semester that was cancelled, but will now be performed online.

“We were going to put on a revue show with music from Starting Here, Starting Now [with] lyrics by Richard Maltby Jr. and music by David Shire,” she said. “It is different because you now don’t have the added feature of a live audience which is what makes theatre a lot different. Having the show postponed was definitely a bummer because we had worked so hard already.”

Aside from the challenges of learning to perform online, Burns says the situation has given her and some of the other members in the Kansas State theatre department the opportunity to become closer.

“For one thing, it’s honestly made a stronger bond between the people in the theater department,” Burns said. “All the professors have been reaching out to us individually to make sure we are doing well with our mental and physical health.”

Burns says she believes a lot of the public has turned to the arts for comfort during this time, which has ultimately motivated her to seek out ways in which she can help.

“The general public has been looking to the arts to find entertainment, to find inspiration, something to keep them going and that’s given me more of a drive to give what I can,” she said.