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Theatre Classes Take On Social Distancing

By Emma Robinson, News Editor

Preceding the first day of classes at LIU, professors began the arduous process of integrating social distancing measures in their classrooms. That process was especially difficult for the Post Theatre Company, whose classes often have a large number of students in attendance and whose rehearsal spaces are generally not large enough for students to act, sing and dance an acceptable distance apart.

In order to maintain safety for the musical theatre program, the classes that are at the highest risk for viral transmission will be taking place online this semester.

“For me, that’s voice and speech as well as voice lessons because in those situations, the virus can travel up to 20 feet instead of the standard six,” Kamerann Burney, a sophomore musical theatre major, said. “We avoid [possibly spreading the coronavirus] by making [those classes] a Zoom University experience.”

Burney said that she and her classmates feel extremely uncomfortable wearing masks in order to attend their dance classes. Some of the dance classes have been moved to the gym to allow more space for the students to spread apart, but face coverings are still required. 

If [wearing a mask] is what it takes for us to be working in a studio, we are all more than happy to do it,” Burney said. “We will not compromise our health or our education, and masks are a means of accomplishing that.”

While students were aware of the unique challenges presented to the program because of the coronavirus, some opted to take all of their theatre classes online via Zoom or simply take a gap year.

BrayLynn Willis, a sophomore musical theatre major, is one student who considered taking a gap year.

“Ultimately, I decided not to take a gap year because I felt that I had finally found my place in the department,” Willis said. “I’ve come to know and love working with the people in my program. If I took a gap year, I wouldn’t be graduating with my friends and I’d have to make all new connections with a new group of people.”

The theatre faculty members send out emails and create online meetings to constantly keep the students informed.

“It’s almost like the updates physically can’t come fast enough because of how fluid the situation is, but we’re all very connected and very candid with each other. We help each other through this,” Burney said.

While the students attend classes and prepare performances in such an uncertain environment, it is an ongoing conversation in the department on how the shows will be viewed by audience attendees.

Currently, students and faculty plan on pre-recording shows on Zoom and posting them online for students to watch.

This past week, the showcase for students who were freshman last year was cancelled by a student vote.

“Between the stresses of starting a new school year during a pandemic, and the awful Wi-Fi problems we’ve been experiencing, the students and faculty agreed [the] showcase was too much of a burden to put on,” Willis said. “We held one rehearsal and there were multiple people who couldn’t stay connected to the Zoom for longer than a minute. What we were capable of performing under the circumstances wasn’t the kind of art we wanted to put out there.”

Announcements for upcoming shows will be posted to the theatre company’s Instagram handle @ptcliupost.

Despite the stressful and changing nature of how the program will best adapt to social distancing, while maintaining a solid foundation for learning, the students try to keep a positive outlook on their education.

“Nothing is the way it should be,” Burney said. “So it is difficult to pinpoint [the biggest change in the program], and I feel everyone on campus can relate. I don’t love that this is our new normal, but again, I have to accept it just like the rest of us.”

Burney and Willis both report the amount of support they feel from their classmates as well as the theatre faculty helps them stay grounded.

“At this point, we’re all facing problems head on and I take pride in the fact that our department is committed to creating the best work we can, in spite of those problems,” Willis said.

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