How the performing arts are adapting to COVID

By Nick Hawks

CSU schedule for ‘Pandemic Theatre’

Of everything to be switched to an online format at Cleveland State University for the fall semester, an argument can be made that performing arts has been hit the hardest. Student-to-student interaction is at the core of performing, whether it be in dance, theatre, film, or music. Fortunately, there are some classes that are still able to meet in-person, and there will still be performances throughout the semester. 

Theatre and Dance

The theatre and dance programs are conducting classes through a mix of remote and face-to-face/hybrid classes. According to Lynn Deering, the Director of Dance and Chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance, it is dependent on the type of class it is. 

“Some classes like the dance studio upper-division studio classes meet face-to-face every class (wearing masks and socially distanced), and some theatre classes do synchronous Zoom class one day a week and face-to-face one day a week,” Deering said. “Classes such as vocal-heavy ‘Voice and Speech for the Actor’ meet remotely because wearing masks would impair the ability to project and practice vocal techniques safely and are better served in remote delivery during the pandemic.” 

In response to the pandemic, Cleveland State created “The Pandemic Factory Stage,” a stage-crafted specifically to deal with the challenges that COVID-19 presents. The stage will host three performances in the fall, beginning with “Blood at the Root,” directed by Colleen Jackson, set to debut on Oct. 2. According to a release put together in July by Russ Borski, Cleveland State theatre professor, and director, the stage offers “a space that incorporates social distancing, yet theatrical and interactive space for actors, on the paint deck in the scene shop.” The three productions will be filmed or live streamed. The transition has presented many challenges, according to Borski. 

“I think the biggest challenge is adapting to the day-to-day climate of this pandemic,” Borski said. “Creating a safe space to produce this semester’s three performances has also been challenging. We have tried to find creative solutions to having our students have performance experience, safely, and with great respect to the reality of COVID-19.” 

Music

The School of Music at Cleveland State is conducting some classes remotely and some in-person, with some modifications, according to Dr. Heather Russell, the Director of the School of Music.  One of those modifications is a small slit being placed in students’ facemasks for mouthpiece access, along with other socially distanced practices, such as lockers being six feet apart. 

One of the biggest challenges to having classes conducted online is the internet connection, as there are sometimes freezes and delays. Dr. Russell has a quick fix for that. 

“The best way to lessen the latency issue is to actually be connected with the Ethernet, to be wired to your connection rather than be wireless,” Dr. Russell said. “That helps a lot. We’re encouraging students to do that and also professors when they teach lessons.” 

The School of Music recently made the decision to not hold a live audience at any of their performances this fall, although there is still the possibility that some families will be permitted. They are looking into alternative viewing methods, such as live streaming. 

The film school could not be reached for comment

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