Theater students and graduates are relying on virtual methods amid COVID-19

An empty theater, as many theater productions are no longer taking place in person. Photo courtesy

COVID-19 has impacted the college experience for many theater students and the job search experience for many recent theater graduates. However, virtual methods are allowing college theater programs to continue teaching and putting on productions. They are also allowing recent graduates to continue their job searches. 

Jarius Pleasant, a junior theater student at Florida A&M University, spoke about how COVID-19 has impacted the learning experience for many theater students. 

“My educational experience as a theater student has changed because everything is now virtual. All of our meetings are virtual, all of our classes are virtual, and all of our assignments are now virtual,” said Pleasant. 

However, Pleasant feels that his professors are making the most of the situation to teach students the necessary things they need to know. 

“My professors are thinking of new ways and are doing new things when it comes to this pandemic,” said Pleasant. 

COVID-19 has not only impacted learning for theater students. It has also had an impact on their productions. Todd Bellamy, a sophomore theater student at FAMU, has been in both an in-person production and a virtual production while being a student. 

He spoke about how those two experiences were different for him. Bellamy explained that the in-person production rehearsals were normal without having to be six feet apart, and large crowds would come to cheer them on for shows. The virtual experience was a little different. 

“With [the virtual production], at the beginning of rehearsals it was one on one rehearsals with the director and during the show, we had to be spaced out backstage,” said Bellamy. “And since we did it as a taped performance, having little to no audience was just a tad bit weird because we feed off the energy of the crowd.”

However, he feels that they made the situation work for the virtual show, and it was a new experience for him, as an actor, because he had to try and express his role fully through a screen.

“As an actor, you know somebody is listening to what you have to say, they’re just not physically there. You know that your character really has to pop through the screen and give the energy like there’s a physical crowd,” said Bellamy. 

COVID-19 has also impacted the experience for many recent graduates of theater programs, especially with their job searches. Remar Scott, who graduated from FAMU’s theater program earlier this year, spoke about this. 

“COVID-19 has made it extremely hard to find work in the industry. Especially due to the fact that when I graduated COVID-19 was really fresh and everything was shut down. So, things that I had lined up were canceled,” said Scott. 

But virtual methods are providing alternatives for people in the film industry during this time, and that gives recent graduates hope for the future. 

“At first, COVID-19 did make me worry about my future a lot. But now that we are a little more familiar with COVID-19, the film industry has found many ways to still put out content or have auditions. So now I am more confident in my future because of the many opportunities that are showing up during this time,” said Scott. 

Overall, virtual methods have been an alternative for theater students during the pandemic. They have allowed learning and productions to continue. Virtual methods have also allowed recent graduates to have opportunities and continue their job searches.