Guest artists bring world of theatre to online class

Cornell College Assistant Professor of Theatre Caroline Price was ready to teach her final course of the year Block 8. Then the world changed, and so did her course.

Instead of Basic Acting, “which really isn’t possible online,” Price said, she developed a brand new course t0 cover the fine arts requirement. 

She tapped her network for practitioners who could bring the world of theatre to her virtual classroom. Ultimately students in her new Introduction to Theatre course met an actor on Broadway’s “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” a Cornell graduate who stage manages for a Chicago theatre company, and Cornell faculty who teach directing, lighting design, and costuming. 

Students sampled all aspects of theatre, including what happens when a global pandemic closes theatre doors.

“It was amazing to be able to hear from real individuals in the field because it offered a first-hand perspective on how designers, directors, actors, and stage managers actually perform their jobs,” said Maddie Huntzinger of Neosho, Missouri. 

Patrick Du Laney screenshot
Professor Caroline Price interviews Patrick Du Laney, an ensemble cast member of “Harry Potter and The Cursed Child.”

Price’s interview with Equity actor Patrick Du Laney, an ensemble cast member of “Harry Potter and The Cursed Child,” covered his career trajectory, the experience of closing the show, and his thoughts on how theatre will adapt post-pandemic.

He said there is nothing like the shared experience of a theatre performance. But right now that experience is considered “radioactive” and unsafe.

“I think the question on every theatre practitioner’s mind now is, when this is over, do we go back to business as usual? I don’t think so. Nobody knows how people are going to respond when the all-clear is given,” said Du Laney, who has taught several Cornell theatre classes. “We will be more starved for it and need it more than ever. So I think it will be up to directors and producers and theatre-makers to create experiences that can be both shared and safe and I don’t know what that looks like yet.”

Because of Cornell’s One Course At A Time block schedule, this was the only class Price taught and the only class the students took. Suddenly switching to an online format in this context helped students adjust because they had just one course to focus on.

“As someone who takes mainly politics and history classes, I thought that I would find the class to be overwhelming since that subject matter was so different from my prior classes, but the block plan truly alleviated that feeling,” said Huntzinger. “I was able to focus all of my attention on learning about theater in order to better understand the craft. 

“The block plan also allowed the coursework itself to remain manageable. The larger projects for the class were spaced out, allowing me to spend significant time on those projects, along with daily videos and responses.”

Senior Daniel Solomon Holland, of Kansas City, Kansas, took this as his final course and said several aspects he appreciates about the block plan translated online. 

“I’ve always loved the block plan for its opportunities to engage with the subject material in very in-depth ways and within a system that promotes close collaboration and individual learning,” he said.

Many Cornell College professors found new and unique ways to connect with students during distance learning classes Blocks 7 and 8. This is part of a series of stories about those courses.