Students on theater scholarships have faced challenges by the lack of performances and in-person classes.
The Department of Theatre, though, has been finding creative ways to keep such students on track virtually.
Kashi Johnson, chair of the Department of Theatre and acting professor, said COVID-19 has been a tough obstacle, especially for students on theater scholarships.
“We had to mourn the death of our season, try to figure out what was happening in the world just like everyone else and plan for next year not knowing what Lehigh was going to do,” Johnson said.
Elora Marvasi, ‘22, a theater scholarship recipient, said COVID-19 put a damper on her plans this past semester.
“I rearranged my schedule so I would have the opportunity to audition for a one-act play, but I never got the chance because the coronavirus hit and we had to go home,” Marvasi said.
Johnson said she is optimistic about the future of the department. She said there are around 10 students on theater scholarships and that students are still able to work toward their scholarship requirements this semester, just like any other year.
Johnson said the department is supporting their students through constant communication by creating a digital newsletter so students can be engaged and aware of opportunities to stay involved.
“As we’ve started developing new projects, more and more materials have come out,” Johnson said. “It’s kind of like an avalanche, starting small and slow at the beginning of the year, and we are going to keep on building momentum. People might think, ‘Oh, they’re not doing anything.’ Oh yes we are!”
Sam Thompson, ‘23, another theater scholarship recipient, said she is taking a hip-hop class this semester. She said her online experience has posed challenges, but she also recognizes the positives of online learning.
“It’s funny to be dancing in front of my computer,” Thompson said. “It may have been a better experience if it were in person, but I’m having so much fun. I can just dance like an idiot and no one is really watching me.”
Johnson also sees the silver lining to online learning as a professor. She said she spent numerous hours understanding the limitations of Zoom and figuring out how she can move past those limitations to change her mode of instruction.
“People assume that when COVID-19 hit, our field died,” Johnson said. “It did anything but that. My students are learning about camera training and on-camera acting techniques, and they would have never had that opportunity if we were still in Zoellner. We look for the wins where we can find them.”
Johnson said she is not worried about recruiting theater students for next semester. She said the department has projects in the works, and students will continue to recognize their dedication to virtual theater.
She said the theater department is going to look like the model for excellence during the pandemic, which will aid in their recruiting efforts.
She said she is focusing on giving students the best experience possible, and hopes to make theater meaningful and memorable for her students.
“Ten years from now, people can say, ‘What did you do in college?’ And hopefully, theater students will be able to remember one of these experiences, even if it’s on Zoom,” Johnson said.