By Matthew Chrismer
It’s no shock: 2020 and now 2021 have brought unprecedented changes to how students learn. COVID-19 has put an immense amount of strain on students in particular, leaving some wondering if they are receiving a full education in front of their computer screens.
But a certain number of classes have been affected more than most. Those are the performing arts. Learn- ing calculus or history over Zoom and an e-textbook might not be pleasant, but band and chorus classes especially have issues.
Not everyone has access to a professional quality microphone, or even a decent pair of headphones or earbuds. Likewise, without the whole class being in the same room for a practice session, cohesion during a performance could be a struggle.
Beyond that, the closing of cinemas, concert halls and countless other venues—maybe permanently—has left those students wondering if there will be jobs for them when they graduate.
Even with students and instructors adapting the best they can, performances have been moved online, which lacks a proper audience or the air of being in a concert hall.
There have been, however, some unexpected positives in this unprecedented time, Seminole State arts officials have said.
This is a time of learning and overcoming, dealing with challenges and coming out on top. Some students truly enjoy the added flexibility of remote learning.
The pandemic has reforged the instructors and professors, who have struggled as much as their students, if not more, with sitting at their computers and instructing for hours on end.
Dr. Michele Cuomo, Dean of Arts
and Communications at Seminole State, provided insight on how remote learning has affected the arts here, and what students have done to overcome their situation. Contrary to some, Cuomo views the move positively.
“I believe that it focuses audiences back on the words and meaning of the play,” she said. “It is a different experience than live theatre, but interesting, none the less. Performers are in control of their own lighting, costume and sound. It creates a new responsibility for actors. I also enjoy some of the virtual choirs and ensembles I have taken in, as well as virtual art galleries.”
Drama students in particular have found new and creative ways to perform, create their own costumes, control their own lighting and countless other tasks normally distributed around the drama department. This gives them more skills for their class, Cuomo suggested, even preparing them for other things they may have to do, if acting is their calling.
Even more exciting, these virtual performances have in a sense expanded the college’s drama department. They have incorporated actors from out of state.
“The advantage of many of these
creations,” Cuomo explained, “is that
they can be viewed from anywhere
and the performers do not have to
be in the same region. The College’s virtual production of “Spoon River Anthology” featured actors in Brook- lyn and Los Angeles, as well as our students, faculty and staff.”
This can expand student interest in the fine arts in the long run, she said, as well as foster new growth when schooling returns to normal.
Another unexpected outcome of this pandemic is virtual art galleries.
These allow students to display their works and have it viewed from the safety of one’s own home.
The virtual art galleries can be put into an actual virtual reality program. These can resemble a true art gallery, where you can walk around and view the students’ work.
Cuomo said she is pleased with how the entire fine arts department has handled the transition to distanced learning. Through this challenge, she believes students of the arts have had to come up with more inventive ways to display their work.
“I believe artists may be disappointed and isolated during this pandemic,” she said, “but at the same time, many are responding with sharing their work through non-traditional means, and I think that creative and resilient responses will strengthen the arts when we are able to return to full audiences.”
Cuomo added that due to the actions of instructors in the department, no fine arts classes have had to be dropped due to the pandemic.
The theater season opens this week with virtual performance of “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” Feb. 24 at 7 p.m.
Another virtual performance, “I Won’t Be Silenced: The Story of Zora Neale Hurston During the Trial of Ruby McCollum,” will take place March 26 at 7 p.m.
The season will end with a return to live in-person performances of “Combat of the Masks,” presented outdoors on the Sanford/Lake Mary Campus. Masks are required.