For a while now, I have been working on a pet project: online coursework for high school performing arts classrooms. It would reverse the classroom model: Students would take the core part of the class on their own time and online, but would use scheduled class time to work with the teacher and each other on projects that would reinforce what they were learning.
Coming up with projects has forced me to face the reality that in spite of the timeliness of online coursework, I have been relying on outdated models for the assignments.
But. I have been preaching to my niece that it is her generation who will innovate, who will see the possibilities between old theatre and what will be. She is the future, I tell her. My role, I tell her, is to help her see the possibilities.
So. I read about a new television network in The New Yorker in an article by Emily Nussbaum, the television critic who I like a lot. Pivot the network is called. It’s supposed to be for the younger generation and even though the likes of me watches it, I guess it is. I’m hoping it will get me to see things differently. Explore the possibilities.
I now have an idea to include in assignments where students make performance works of art using the internet and all the production tools available to almost everyone. And to do it through collaboration with each other in one theatre class, or several in one school, or – what-the-heck- students in other schools all around the country. Each class would contribute part of the whole project. It would be managed and directed by the teachers – or even me – who would help students put the project together into a unified and exciting whole.
Guess what? Joseph Gordon-Levitt is already doing it, though on a professional level. On Pivot. He has a production studio called HitRECord that draws from contributors all over the world. His studio puts it together and the results are new, fresh, innovative, and fascinating.
So there you have it. The future is already here and why couldn’t this online class of ours do something innovative? Or maybe something that brings together live performance mixed with technology?
One of the modules I’m developing introduces the designers who work in the theatre to the students and one of these designers is a Media or Digital Media designer. Who knew? In my day there was no media to design and theatre people made the sets by putting pieces of lumber together, covering them with heavy canvas, and painting these pieces to look like what they were supposed to be. Back in the day (don’t you love that expression?) the only time I saw media on stage was in a new play by Grace McKeaney at a theatre near Chicago. She had video playing on screens behind the live actors and it was exciting. But it didn’t become a trend.
But now, whole sets are digital or have digital accompaniments. Happens all the time. Can we do this? Is it something anyone out there would like to work on? Can it be something that we would need a Digital Media designer for? Or do you know a student or two who would know exactly what to do?
Any thoughts or observations?