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Transitioning from In-Person to Virtual Learning

September 18, 2020
  • Student in Library

Written by: Corinne McLoughlin

In early February, one of the members of my program asked our professor what he would do if everyone gets sent home because of COVID-19. I am a part of the BFA Acting Conservatory and we are a cohort of 18, meaning that we all take our classes together. All of us laughed in shock at the question, shrugging it off and dismissing it. It was still a distant threat then — COVID-19. It had just made its way to Seattle and maybe there were one or two cases in New Rochelle, a nearby city, but it was still in the period where it was at the same level of concern as a flu outbreak. “That will never happen…” and “What would that even look like?” we all thought. But our Professor listened — didn’t laugh, didn’t shrug it off, and had an answer: “We will figure it out and find a way to stay connected.” And although at that time, I had no clue what was coming, I knew this professor had our back. And that has been true for all of my professors through this scary time.

When we were in our last few days of in-person classes, most professors gave us space to express our fears and talk about the reality of the world we were living in. I cannot imagine what those few months would have been like without the compassion and patience we all received from them.

Once the school year was fully transitioned to online Zoom classes, that same thoughtful space was afforded as we worked out the kinks of our new reality. I also was surprised at how fulfilled I felt by the level of intimacy and work we were doing through the online platform. That would not have been possible without the dedication and loyalty of every professor and member of my company alike. I think it’s safe to say those technical difficulties are inevitable, but they were handled with as much grace and patience as a community possibly could during a pandemic.

The beginning of May, in the Acting Conservatory, was to be filled with excitement, creation, and promise of the first public performance of my Company cohort. But instead, it began filled with doubt and indecision, flipping and flopping between canceling or postponing this production until the following fall semester. All 18 of us were miserable, depressed, feeling hopeless, and just wanted it to be canceled.

In the middle of April, our acting professor, the fantastic Dennis Hilton-Reid, rallied the troops and convinced us that this production was exactly what needed to happen right then, if not for anyone else, then for us. We decided to perform the Tectonic Theatre Company’s, The Laramie Project. The production was in motion and in just three weeks, we recorded all of the scenes over zoom, with the help of three-stage managers who kept us on track. One of my company members and I edited all of the scenes together, and by the beginning of May, we had a three-hour show streaming on Vimeo.

I am so grateful to have had as positive an experience as possible through this scary time and I have the professionalism and the compassion shown by my professors at Purchase to thank for that.