What do you do when your student who thrives off of consistency, routine, and normalcy has their classes postponed until further notice?
Across the country, students are now at home. Schools are closed, extracurriculars are suspended, and students are now left with nothing to do. For members of our Pegasus Ensemble, made up of neurodiverse performers, this can prove to be particularly challenging. These students benefit from a clear routine, timely warnings when things will be different, and an overall sense of consistency. As the Imagination Stage building closed its doors in response to government guidelines, maintaining consistency – let alone continuing the progress the ensemble had already made over the previous semester – was thrown into question.
During this time of adaptation, Scott S. Turner, our Access & Inclusion Coordinator and the leader of our Pegasus Ensemble, was now faced with the challenge of teaching theatre remotely. Scott decided to deliver his class virtually via Google Hangouts with the students able to call in, watch, and participate from the comfort of their own home. He planned it like every other Pegasus class in an effort to maintain the sense of a consistent schedule despite the new medium for all involved. We would go over the schedule and rules, move on to our question and word of the day, and then on to the lesson. He called upon assistant teachers Tristen Geren (Access Apprentice ‘20) and Emily Cerwonka (Access Apprentice ‘19) to call in as well to monitor the video feeds, to encourage specific student participation, and to check which students were raising their hands and volunteering as if it were a normal classroom.
Like educators across the nation, Scott and the team were attempting to shift their teaching to the digital space; the team faced the added challenge of finding the accommodations to maintain an accessible classroom space. Access Classes at Imagination Stage typically have accommodations to help each student learn. These accommodations can be physical like seating adaptations or placement in the room, or learning-based like specific visuals or behavior systems. Scott used a variety of self-scaling methods, inviting students to monitor their own needs and space. Language like, “If you don’t have enough space to do this, you can choose to do it sitting down!” was useful. The team utilized table-based theatre activities to help support the overall goal of the ensemble. The role of the assistants proved to be key as Tristen and Emily were able to do the same sort of one-on-one monitoring they would do in the classroom. They monitored the chat so that any technical difficulties could be resolved, they answered in real-time parent and student questions, and they adapted in the moment to provide exactly what the ensemble needed.
This past Wednesday’s lesson was about script analysis and how to arrange beats, or moments when a character tries a new tactic to get what they want. Students took turns reading a script over the call, finding character objectives, conflicts, and the tactics used by those characters. They chimed in with their own ideas. Some chose to use physical choices to create character bodies that reinforced the ideas of the text.
Students were thrilled. Many of them logged in before the class had officially started and were chatting with their peers and instructors. They stayed after the instructors were finished to chat as well. Parents raved about Virtual Pegasus – one parent said, “This was the best thing she [my child] has had since the shut down. She was completely engaged and enraptured!” Scott, Tristen, and Emily are so excited to continue working with the ensemble virtually throughout this uncertain time. Our Access Department is as committed as ever to providing our students with the same level of instruction they would receive in any other class.
About the Blogger
Tristen Geren is the Access & Inclusion Apprentice for Imagination Stage. He comes to Maryland by way of Texas, graduating from Texas State University with his BFA in Theater and Special Education and working across several theatres as a technician including Fredericksburg Theater Company and the EmilyAnn Theatre.
Our Commitment To You
Keep coming back to our blog and social media for updates on what Imagination Stage is up to as well as ideas and activities for you and your little ones to do at home. While we are currently unable to utilize our typical frameworks of live theatre and best-practice arts education, Imagination Stage is committed to doing everything we can to continue serving our children and families during this unprecedented time.
Imagination Stage has always had a grand vision: to empower ALL young people to discover their voices and identities through performing arts education and professional theatre. For the past 40 years, we are proud to have empowered 1.5 million young people and their families through theatre performance and education experiences. You make these experiences possible.
We are dedicated to making sure that our community and staff remain safe and our arts and education programming remain strong. In light of the current global health crisis, for the next two weeks, we are suspending all programming including professional theatre, education, and community initiatives. We are working hard to ensure our operations and mission are not impacted by this necessary closure. Your donations are critical to helping us achieve this goal. Thank you for being part of our community. Your support, now more than ever, is vital to keeping our mission alive.