The creative arts have been one of the most hard-hit industries during this pandemic, so it’s no surprise that creative courses are facing a lot of challenges too. That being said, I think that a lot of ARU's creative course leaders have been proactive in trying to ensure that practical work can remain possible.
It means that as students, actors and creatives, we have had to get used to some pretty strange learning experiences, but I know that I personally would take 'strange' over not doing any practical at all. And hey, there’s nothing wrong with learning to be flexible and adaptable in this day and age!
With the majority of our learning moving online, drama students only go onto campus once a week, for one or two practical sessions, to keep our visits to campus as few as they can be. Our timetables are created to help keep everyone safe while maintaining our university experience. Our large class has also been broken up into bubbles to help us maintain two-metre distances.
Maintaining a distance can be hard for a course like drama, which incorporates a lot of physicality. Art/illustration/photography/graphic design students can still have group critiquing sessions and workshops online or at a distance, while a lot of their practise is done alone. I’m fortunate enough to be taking a module on TV Production this semester, so we have been able to maintain distance while casting the illusion that we aren’t.
Studying drama also includes extra work outside of our contact hours; booking rooms for editing, and rehearsal spaces has become somewhat challenging due to social distancing regulations. Right now, we’re all adjusting and I know that as with everything else, the challenge will help me to think both critically and creatively to find a solution.
While wearing a mask also poses problems for us performers, I have enjoyed the challenge of ‘acting with my eyes’ and it’s a skill I might not have developed without this opportunity. It’s surprising how much you can show just through your eyes and eyebrows!
There’s a very wide scope for learning as online sessions can often provide convenient opportunities that I might not have received in a face-to-face class. For example, in one of my modules we are looking at building a portfolio for the future, and one of the elements of the portfolio is a LinkedIn profile. Having an online session made it easier to share that profile over the virtual space, and work on it collaboratively as we went through it.
Yes, there are lots of challenges with trying to be a creative at this point in time, but ARU is helping us as best they can, by making access available to the TV studio, editing suites, workshops, gallery, theatre and studios whenever possible.
If there’s anything that this pandemic has taught us, it is that art is essential in our society. This has been a year where we have got through lockdowns with online theatre performances, documentaries and binge-worthy Netflix series, so it’s clear more than ever that creative people who can think outside the box will be needed.