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Introducing our 'Theatre Remote Learning Class of 2020'

Collage of students in zoom meeting during remote learning.
Theatre students remote learning

This is how Theatre teacher Jenny Lovell runs a lesson in Zoom, as a Baroque dame in costume, makeup and a wig made by a former student.

During remote learning, Henry VIII made an appearance to celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday and there have also been Hat Day, Head Wear Day, Hit Men and Glam / Fancy Day as Jenny and her Theatre teaching colleagues at the Prahran campus mix it up for their students.

They have embraced the challenges of delivering their very practical and hands-on courses remotely, keeping it engaging at the same time.

Like the rest of us, they had little warning that we were all about to stay home for a long time.

‘The first thing that came into our minds was “oh my, no” because so many of our courses are practical, hands on,’ Jenny says. ‘Students in costume, they're standing up and performing scenes with each other in close quarters, putting makeup on people and our live production students are hands on with all of the equipment in the theatre.

‘Our initial feelings were very much “What are we going to do? We can't teach anything.” But it ended up that we could and we did.’

Jenny says she and other one-year diploma course teachers - Specialist Makeup, Live Production and Costume for Performance – already worked closely, so rose to the challenge together.

As students broke for holidays early,  staff used that time to get the cameras out and transfer their lessons to video.

‘We spent a lot of time filming each other and creating videos around the theatre,’ Jenny says. ‘I filmed a lighting tutorial, I filmed myself walking around the David Williamson stage doing voice exercises.’

They filmed makeup demonstrations and costume tutorials and videos featuring various techniques, and also made PowerPoint presentations.

‘What's been great is that we've actually now compiled a range of material that we can keep as backup material for next year, which we're all very excited about,’ Jenny says. ‘It’s pushed us to get that done.’

Teachers helped the students prepare for Zoom classes by having a couple of meetings in the holidays, so they could get used to it. And that's when the costumes came out.

There were technical issues with both students and teachers and unreliable internet, but they helped each other through it and relied on the videos and PowerPoints which could be viewed later.

The challenge of acting in Zoom was met by setting scenes for example in a café where the characters would be seated anyway. And they have been developing soap opera characters: ‘They have to be different to themselves, a different energy, physically, vocally to themselves is the brief.’

They will be recorded just for class purposes: ‘It’s for our own fun and the students can look back and see what they look like. It's allowing them to reflect and evaluate on their work but doing it in a really fun way.’

Timelines of delivering units were flipped around and assessment of some elements happens online. Theory work was brought forward, so the practical elements can be done later, in person. There will be monologues and more solo work and scenes will be performed with characters 1.5 metres apart.

A gradual return to face to face teaching is planned, with students on campus Mondays and Fridays instead of every day. They’ll be split into smaller groups around the building to work on practical elements of their studies and to physically demonstrate what they have been working on at home, such as personal voice warm-ups.

The spaces have been mapped out to meet physical distancing requirements and all the surfaces sanitised.

The students’ annual show 'Grimm Tales' was to go on in June, but has now been postponed to Melbourne Cup week.

Grimm Tales features 10 original stories from the Brothers Grimm, ‘the way the stories were originally written before Disney got hold of them. Much darker, lots of people die at the end of these stories, spoiler alert!’