An insider look into virtual theatre and art classes

Emma Roncoroni, Staff Reporter

Sophomores Erin Tarpgaard and Matthew Bloss-Baum talk in a breakout room with freshman Alexis West and junior Hannah Helm during theatre class. (Photo courtesy of Erin Tarpgaard)

Electives, which were once an escape from the rigorous demands and monotonous requirements of high school, have called for unprecedented, innovative twists.

Doing any class online is tough, but doing theatre class virtually is even tougher,” sophomore Erin Tarpgaard said.

Theatre and art classes are designed to facilitate free expression, though they’ve been forced to transform into a virtual setting where students have to manually unmute themselves to speak. Mr. Robarge and Mr. Northrip, Mason’s art and theatre teachers respectively, have been tasked with using their creativity in completely unexpected ways.

Although students aren’t in the studio, Mr. Robarge has been able to create a collaborative learning atmosphere. Since staring at the same wall next to your desk all day doesn’t exactly spark the imagination, some classes have included scavenger hunts for students to find different elements of art.

“I think this was definitely a positive addition to class, because we get to get up out of our seats and do something more interactive than virtual class usually allows for,” sophomore Julia Bonilla said.

Artists are being provided with the educational side of class, but students say the virtual time with fellow classmates leaves something to be desired. 

Interacting with classmates is an important part of art class,” Bonilla said, “It lets us share inspiration with other students, and just makes class a more enjoyable and social time that we can’t exactly have during lectures.”

While Mason’s young artists seek balance in their new online format, Mr. Northrip is working to guide his theatere students through the disorienting transition as well.

For the past couple of weeks, Theatre II students have been working in groups to make a podcast inspired by an old Greek play. With a virtual setting, it has been hard for students to connect face-to-face with their classmates.

Breakout room sessions, where I get to spend a long time with my classmates, have been a nice release from the normal pressures of the online school day,” sophomore Erin Tarpgaard said. 

Even with the innovative adjustments, students miss the adored, in-person theatre games where everyone can display their talents in a non-judgemental and free way. 

Tarpgaard said, “There’s something special about being together in Mr. Northrip’s big, white, messy classroom that you just can’t replicate in a Schoology conference.”