The remote classroom is a learning curve for everyone, especially for teachers who instruct classes that are more on the interactive side.
Many teachers are struggling to teach their classes over the internet, but one class in particular is especially difficult to teach remotely. Theatre Arts is a class that is based purely on interaction with peers and an audience, which is very hard to simulate in a remote setting.
Andre Moss, a first year Theatre Arts teacher at Thomas Jefferson, has been doing his best to teach his students, despite the major roadblock that is remote learning. Last year, Moss taught freshman and sophomore English classes, but after the retirement of Michael Palmieri, the previous head of the Theatre Arts Department, Moss felt the need to step in because of his experience. “Though I have extensive experience as a performer, I had not spent the same amount of time and preparation thinking about theatre from a teaching perspective, so it was a step out of my comfort zone.” Moving from the Language Arts Department, which consists of ten teachers who collaborate to develop the curriculum, to being the only teacher in the Theatre Arts Department seemed like a daunting task, but Moss took this challenge in stride. “Losing that support was a bit scary for me. However, this last semester has proven to be a joy beyond measure.”
Moss had always planned to transition to teaching theatre, and, although it was a bit premature according to Moss, when the spot opened up, he ultimately decided to take it. “[My] fears took a back seat once I was in front of my students sharing my passion and seeing that passion and joy reflected back from so many of my students. This was my dream job and now that it’s reality…it’s lived up to all expectations!” As if switching positions wasn’t hard enough, Moss also had to figure out how to teach an interactive and ensemble based art form on a virtual platform. “It has definitely been a learning curve. Whereas every performance would usually be done live, we have been exploring camera work and the concept of screen tests, a relevant industry auditioning technique students are now more prepared for. We switch between performances and discussion, ensemble work and monologues to make sure that while they may not have the full experience with face to face human connection, they still are creating and responding to the art form in meaningful and hopefully fun ways.” When it comes time to return to school, Moss has big plans for student performances. “All my best memories are from the productive struggle of rehearsal and creating character to the thrill of performing in front of an audience. I am committed to giving students that same experience this year, whether we are performing in the auditorium or virtually, so stay tuned TJ!”
Senior Abby Mulligan has participated in the Theatre Arts program since her freshman year. Along with taking Theatre Arts classes, Mulligan participated in three auditorium performances, including Grease, Spamalot, and Nooses Off. This year, Mulligan is in Moss’ most advanced theatre class. “It’s definitely weird acting online but we get to work in front of a camera like we’re filming.” Adapting to a remote setting is hard for everyone, but Moss seems to have worked out a system that both involves acting and is applicable to the entertainment industry. We are all holding out hope that senior actors and actresses like Mulligan will be able to participate in a performance this year before they graduate from high school. By the sounds of it, the Theatre Arts program at TJ is in good hands with Andre Moss, and we should be expecting a school-wide performance at some point this year, no matter if we remain remote or return in-person.