Teaching Theatre Online – Resources for Your Classes
Suddenly teaching theatre online? Do you need resources for your classes that they can easily access? Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many teacher-directors are in the same position.
Theatre education, usually a live-and-in-person experience, now finds itself in the position of having to be available to students in recorded and distanced lessons.
Luckily, there are MANY resources online that can help you and your students continue their learning journeys.
The theatre industry – professional, educational, and community – has really stepped up to help each other in this unexpected situation.
Here’s my curated list of resources; some I’ve already been using for years. I’ve also included links to some of the lists of resources others have compiled over the last few weeks.
I’ll update this post as I discover new resources, re-discover ones that might help, or when more subscription-only services grant partial or full access.
In this section, I’ve compiled resources that you and your students can access easily. That is, you can link to the web page, video, or PDF on your preferred online teaching platform and your students will be able to open the link, usually without having to provide login information/email.
If there’s a donation button on a page you find useful, please give what you can. Theatre companies, museums, and libraries have had to cancel events and close their doors, and many are providing services despite the lack of in-person visitors.
Your Tax Dollars (and Donations!) at Work:
Before you use any of these, take a moment and consider how amazing it is that federal/national, state/provincial, and local governments support these resources, along with generous donors.
With their local public library cards, your students can digitally check out audio and video in addition to ebooks and access online databases. My public library uses Overdrive, Libby, and Hoopla – I’ve been able to find Broadway cast recordings on Hoopla that are unavailable on my subscription Spotify account!
Most of the divisions at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts have digital collections that are available online. For example, here’s a manuscript of Dion Boucicault’s Dot: A Domestic Picture in a Fairy Frame, which is a dramatization of Charles Dickens’ Christmas story The Cricket on the Hearth.
The Kennedy Center
You can search by subject, level, and a cross-curricular subject – here are the over 50 results for “Theatre.” You can adapt many of these lessons for online learning with just a few tweaks.
On PBS Learning Media, you can sign up for a free account and register students to access resources as well. If you teach subjects other than theatre, they have a wide variety of curricular content. (You will probably need to indicate your local PBS station when accessing the site.)
Their Theater section has recordings of full productions, lesson plans, videos on many theatre topics, and interactives that allow students to try their hands at being a lighting designer or playwright, among other theatrical professions.
There are even links to easily share content to your Google Classroom.
The Drama Arts Toolkit collection has videos sorted by subject.
The Lexington, Kentucky PBS affiliate has a page dedicated to the The Drama Toolkit.
The Smithsonian Institution has many resources to help theatre teachers transitioning to online learning.
Smithsonian Learning Lab
There’s an overview of the Smithsonian’s Distance Learning resources here, including a calendar of distance learning events.
Also, The National Museum of American History has a History Explorer page searchable by curricular connections; here are the results for “Performing Arts” The lesson plans have Common Core and History standards listed!
Smithsonian’s Open Access would be a great resource for students creating digital concept boards for future or hypothetical productions. Check out Jon Scieszka and Steven Weinberg’s How to Make a Collageasaurus for fun details!
Here’s a collage I made of some images of actors from various Smithsonian Museums:
OTHER FREE RESOURCES
The American Theatre Wing – the organization behind the Tony and Obie awards – has a YouTube channel with over 900 (!) videos, including playlists titled “Working in the Theatre,” “In the Wings,” and “Career Guides.” In addition, there are short interviews with actors, directors, and creators.
The United Kingdom’s National Theatre has Resource Packs for DOZENS of their productions. They also have a YouTube channel with over 350 videos, and every Thursday starting on April 2, they’ll be streaming one of their National Theatre Live productions (you may have seen one of them at a local movie theatre in the past few years). One Man, Two Guvnors with James Corden is the first one.
I used to be able to access ALL of the BBC’s resources here in the U.S.; they have now limited much of their content to England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.
You can still get to the BBC Sound Effects Library though!
The Royal Shakespeare Company’s Shakespeare Zone has materials – at three different levels of depth – for 14 of the Bard’s plays.
The Victoria and Albert Museum has some amazing online exhibits in their Theatre & Performance collection.
Canada’s National Arts Center has study guides for plays they’ve produced (2002-2013) on their ArtsAlive website.
Theatre Museum Canada has a Legend Library with video interviews of performers and other theatre professionals. They also have many design images available online in their Collections section.
The California County Superintendents Arts Initiative has a webinar titled, “Distance Learning Through the Arts: Equal Access for All.” There are a lot of supplemental materials with the webinar (one of 21 modules available on their site!).
The following websites have videos, lesson plans, project ideas, curricular connections that can be adapted, or they have direct suggestions for teaching theatre online.
Rosalind Flynn has recently posted “Best Practices for Teacing Online via Videoconferencing” on her blog Dramatic Approaches to Teaching. Her “Simultaneous Solo Human Slide Shows” warm-up is a terrific online activity!
HowlRound Theatre Commons has many videos on their website archive, including seminars and full performances.
Theatrefolk has a list of technical and production design ideas that can be adapted for online projects.
Drama-Based Instruction at the University of Texas – Austin has many games, exercises, and resources for teacher-directors. It’s spearheaded by one of the authors of Drama-Based Pedagogy: Activating Learning Across the Curriculum.
The Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute has a large collection of unit plans; this subject area page includes ones tagged “Drama.” Here’s the subject area page with “Theatre;” there is some overlap with “Drama.”
BroadwayEducators.com has posts on a wide variety of theatre topics, including study guides for some well-known Broadway productions.
The teaching artists at New Victory Theater – “New York’s first and only performing arts venue for kids and families” – are designing weekly Arts Break activities for at-home enjoyment. So far, they’ve had Percussion Week and Just Move! week
Maryland’s Imagination Stage has several at-home ideas and videos on their blog.
The Institute for Arts Integration and STEAM’s Education Closet website has a series of free lesson plans (they also have a subscription program for professional development).
The Technology Enhanced Arts Learning Project (TEAL) has a list of resources for arts integration and several videos you may find useful.
Lincoln Center is doing Pop-up Classrooms on Facebook Live.
The Guild of Scenic Artists has “7 Scenic Design Projects to Try At Home” – both digital and physical.
USITT – The United States Institute for Theatre Technology – a professional association for performing arts and entertainment professionals – has a collection of lesson plans and syllabi for design and theatre tech classes in their Teaching Archive.
The Stage Managers’ Association of the United States has some videos available for public access.
The National Association for Music Education has several webinars available for teachers transitioning to online instruction, as well as a resource list.
TEMPORARILY FREE RESOURCES
In this section, I’ve included members-only resources that are allowing open access for a short time. The cut-off dates vary; there will likely be some changes as the pandemic develops.
The Educational Theatre Association – which runs the International Thespian Society – has terrific resources everywhere on its site, but especially the list of articles here. EdTA has also opened up its Theatre Educator Pro resources to everyone during the pandemic, and has a list of resources in addition to their own content.
DramaOnline.com is offering free access to academic institutions through May 2020.
Black Box Education is sharing links to their PDF worksheets – the ones for Live Theatre Review, and Exploring a Play have useful questions for your students. The Theatre Practitioner Research Workbook provides an outline for a project based on a theatre artist.
Folger Shakespeare Library Forsooth! Teacher Resources – for a $40 annual fee, members can access lessons, videos, seminars, and images from the Folger. The Folger has released its most recent production of The Scottish Play for free viewing until July 1.
I know there are a lot of spreadsheet resource lists being distributed in groups across our field at the moment, but here are some of the best I’ve found.
Theatrefolk has arranged their resources by category.
USITT has a list of online industry resources especially for theatre technology professionals and educators.
The Southeastern Theatre Conference’s list is wide-ranging, covering educational, professional, and amateur theatre needs.
Theatreish has a well-organized list of resources.
Texas Thespians has a list that includes Facebook groups.
The Association for Theatre in Higher Education has links especially for university-level work, but many are applicable to secondary school theatre as well.