Teaching DP Theatre in Online Learning
It’s December 2019, run up to the 3 week Winter Break, and my DP1 Theatre class have just finished their solo performances - a mock run based on some research and practical exploration of Artaud. The performances were terrific, and I’ve got just enough time to guide them through their reports - how to hit top band in criteria A and B, pitfalls to avoid, some group collaboration on creating passages that they can personalise. All good stuff for a mock run, to give them enough confidence to do this task independently next year. I’m conscious that we have only 2 weeks back in school in January before we’re off for another 2 week break for Chinese New Year. These two weeks will be filled with mock exams for our DP2 students, and I’m the Diploma Coordinator - required in the exams for the most part, so my DP1 Theatre class will have a little time to work independently on their mock STP reports without me needing to set it as homework (which I always try to avoid). Should work fine.
January 2020, and the mock exams are in full flow. I’m in the classroom even less than I’d expected as I administer the mocks, but my DP1 Theatre students are really appreciative of the time to work on the reports. I’m able to drop in for short bursts of answering their questions, and my awesome colleague Alex takes them through some more involved stuff. This will be fine, I think. After the Chinese New Year break, when we return in February, we can start some more play text exploration, and it’ll be a good chunk of time to even bring their directorial ideas to fruition and possibly stage a performance for an audience. One of my students got really into the ideas of absurdism and existentialism a while back, and the class delved deeply into the limitations of language with Artaud, so I think a Beckett or a Pinter play will be ripe for this class. Starting to plan now - with the great energy of this class I can see this working really well…
Sprawled on a sun lounger on a Thai beach, refreshed and rejuvenated and ready to run a mock Production Proposal when I get back. I’ve decided that Endgame by Beckett will be our focal point: I have 4 students, who can each take a performance role whilst taking it in turns to direct a section. A bit more ‘productiony’ than I used to do for the mock Director’s Notebook, but I’m keen to try something new. Email arrives. Coronavirus is causing havoc - school reopening will be delayed by two weeks - and staff can stay where they are for an extra week. Nice. An extra week to get some of those long term shelf-projects wrapped up. Can’t afford to stay in this hotel the whole time, but an extra week to enjoy Beijing while it’s quiet will be great. Online learning will begin immediately, but that’ll be fine. DP1s can use the time to get to grips with the script, do a little research until we are back in school for practical experimentation.
February, and the closure is extended indefinitely. Kicking the can down the road is no longer an option for my DP1s. My DP2s have only to submit their Solo Theatre Piece report - easy online - and start and finish their Research Presentation. Doable via online platforms. So attention shifts to starting the Production Proposal. The lessons in the pack are very much a ‘seat of the pants’ job, and as it’s still ongoing at the time of writing this it’s not a complete start-to-end mock PP unit. It’s very much geared towards my specific context: the fact I haven’t had a face to face lesson with my DP1s since mid December; their unique energy and passions; their interest in absurdism. But for those of you in the same boat - either now with the coronavirus, or later with something else that closes your school campus - I hope it offers you a bit of thinking space to get your head around everything else that is new.