O, Social distancing, how thou art a thorn in my side!
For the past seven years, I’ve been running a two week drama camp as one of the many activities my library offers during our summer reading program. It is, typically, my biggest and most involved program each year. I’m used to parents and campers rushing into the library to sign up for camp on the first day registration opens. It is usually filled with a full wait list in just a matter of a day or two.
Campers are rising 3rd-8th graders; counselors are high school and college students. We do Shakespeare in Elizabethan English. The campers put on a full (albeit abridged) production on the last day of camp. The camp has steadily grown over the years. The past two years we have been on a real stage, with theater lighting, sound, and av effects. We’ve done comedies and tragedies. This year’s play was selected by January : the campers will be studying and performing The Tempest. I’ve written about Drama Camp in the past, including an article in Children and Libraries.
This year, Drama Camp will be completely virtual. To be candid, I’m pretty terrified of trying to engage and hold the interest of 24 campers on Zoom. Learning to act is extremely physical, and thespians come to depend on each other, “feed” off each others energy, and usually a very close camaraderie develops between the campers. This element of shared energy won’t be possible in a virtual environment.
Questions that are plaguing me:
- Will I be able to hold their interest for two weeks?
- How do I translate acting exercises that rely on physical interaction to an online format?
- What do we do for stage directions, sets, etc.?
- Will they learn their lines, away from the feedback usually shared in close physical proximity by the cast?
- Will they have a sense of accomplishment at having created and performed in a play onstage for their families and friends?
- Will they develop friendships?
- Will they have fun?
There are two options: be defeatist and decide it’s going to tank before it’s even started. Or, look at it as a challenge to be met, to try something revolutionary and new (at least to me and the campers!) We are going to accept the challenge and go for it.
We’ve already addressed the question of technology – ensuring that all campers have will access to tablets and wifi so they can attend camp. I’ve been researching augmented reality and green screen technology to try and make our “stage” and “scenery”.
Carefully curated lesson plans are being turned upside down. I was so lucky to stumble across a webinar offered by the National Summer Learning Association. The webinar called The Art of Online Teaching, addressed how to ensure campers not only engage, but remain engaged in virtual literacy activities.
Drama Camp this year will have team building exercises that place bigger focus on small rehearsal groups. There will be creative challenge exercises and team building activities. Campers will pick up a physical script and bag of exercise props at the library, so we can “share” experiences with same items at the same time.
My hope is that the campers and counselors will rise to the challenge and make this the most memorable year in the history of Drama Camp.
As they say, the show must go on!