“Struggle & Joy:” Student Perspective on the Move to Virtual Classes Part 1

Apr

19

Contributed in quarantine by Emma Welch

Part 1 in a series of 6


 

As most of you probably know, Terry Knickerbocker Studio has joined the fold of many schools, and universities, in taking our training online. Since March 23rd, all classes – Acting, Movement, Voice, On-Camera Technique, Clowning & more – have been transferred to the Zoom platform.

 

On first hearing this news, my response was…..“HOW?!” As a graduate of the Two-Year Program at TK, I know firsthand just how intimate, personal, energetic and physical the work can be. I know the magic of being in the room – the use of all your senses – the impulses that come from the bodies around you.

 

Like a lot of the teachers, students, and faculty, I was very skeptical. I thought, “That’s just impossible.” But as the news continued to evolve and the shelter-in-place orders continued to extend, the hard choice was inevitable: take the work online or shut down indefinitely. 

 

And in a field that is grounded on improvisation and adaptability, the Studio decided to take the plunge, thinking, “If anyone can do it, we certainly can.”

 

So for the last 4 weeks, the faculty and students have been diving into the virtual unknown.

 

I put on my journalist hat and “sat down” with 18 TKS students of all years to hear just how it’s been going. 

We chatted on the phone, Facetime, Zoom, and even Instagram video chat! I got a window into their many different worlds, realities, and experiences in this transition.

 

In a six part series, we want to share just a snippet of these many wonderful conversations full of vulnerability, insight, and love.

 



SETTING UP FOR THE WORK

 

Since the ‘Classroom’ has now become a screen of 20 or so grids – I asked the students what it’s been like to create a classroom, to make a space to do the work fully.

Ideally, you need basic privacy, space, connection and uninterrupted time. But those things are never guaranteed. Especially in a moment when all of our daily lives have so drastically shifted.

 

Rules have changed. Kim tries out class at the pool

Working actors rarely have that control either. And so this moment has called on everyone to put their patience, resilience and inventiveness up to task.

 

To those who relocated to be with family, there’s a lot of juggling to be done. We spoke to 2nd-Year Gianna Collier-Pittswho’s now with her mom and  grandma in Massachusetts, and 2nd-Year Kim Fuller who’s with her family in San Diego.

Both spoke to constant change in their environment. They are taking multiple classes and playing a bit of mix and match to find the right environments, accounting for multiple schedules and necessary resources.

The spacious basement room with shifty wifi is better for Voice & Movement where you need to make noise and move around.

But for Acting Class, you need to stay connected with your partner so you have to sacrifice a little privacy for the great wifi in the centrally located office – learning to tune out the self-consciousness that family members are right outside the door listening as they make dinner or wait to use the room.

 

2nd-Year Victoria Ré Milien who is at home with loooots of siblings sounded like a Samsung spokesperson as she described the wonder of plugging in her wireless headphones and being able to tune out all the background noise. They’ve been helping her recreate the privacy of the studio.

 

A few students also spoke to a deeper feeling of self-consciousness. In their case, the loved-ones who could overhear from the next room hold a very significant role in their life as an artist. For some, that person is an artistic mentor – one of the reasons they are pursuing their acting. For others, that person is an actor themselves – a role model in the work. The knowledge of them witnessing the work in its messy, unclear stages poses a particular difficulty in staying focused.

 

And they are debating: Do I push through that to help me grow as an artist? Or do I focus on the fact that I am still training and make a request of my loved one to give me space to do my work more fully?”

 

 


 

THE INEVITABLE TECHNOLOGY ISSUES

 

3rd-Year Deonna Dolac had just moved with her boyfriend into his father’s house in Connecticut. She thankfully had access to a corner desk that was private and well-lit, but the wifi was so horrible she couldn’t participate in scene work in class. She improvised and got an ethernet cable so that she could be involved. Same with 2nd-Year Daniel Klimek who was able to get a technician to come and fix his wifi that was making it virtually impossible to work from moment to moment.

 

2nd-Year Victoria Ré Milien told me about a class where her laptop kept logging her out of the virtual classroom. She tried several times and it wouldn’t work.

 

“At that time I could have said you know what, I have no device to get into class, just fuck it, my scenes not going up, I’m just not gonna be here…..It’s hard but I was like ‘One way or another I need to be in class, so if that means I have to call and be on the phone the entire class then I guess that’s what I’m gonna do because I’ve already made that choice to be committed to it.’


 

KiYonna breaking it down in the TK Quarantine Challenge – moments before her mom joined in the background

 

1st-Year KiYonna Carr went to her mother’s one-bedroom condo for spring break and ended up staying long-term. Privacy is absolutely non-existent for her. She relegated to the public spaces in the condo complex.

She told me about a time being in contact with her partner and having an elderly couple sitting right next to her.

To those who know the Meisner work, you know that “being in contact” means potentially saying something like “You cocksucking piece of shit I’m so mad you fucked our dog!” And to her, it was more comfortable to risk that intimacy in front of strangers than in front of her mother – so she pushed through.

But now they’ve closed the public spaces, so she’s doing the work in a literal hallway. And when I spoke to her, she was telling me about getting ready to do an activity out there in her underwear, and laughing as her mom was overhearing and shaking her head.

Yara‘s homework layout. I spy a copy of “The Real Mother Goose” from the 2nd-Year nursery rhymes exercise being repurposed………

 

There is also more discipline involved in turning a space that, for most, is one of relaxation, rest & recuperation, into a space for productivity, creativity and work. 3rd-Year Yara Mendes who is still in her Brooklyn Lefferts Garden apartment has divided her space with intention: her bedroom is reserved to be her bedroom only, the kitchen counter is for class, and the living room couch is for homework:

“Creating that divide definitely makes things clearer, there’s more intention behind it. I want to maintain the same intentions I would in the classroom.”


Fern’s view of a cozy corner in the Catskills

 

2nd-Year Kitty Perrelli & 1st-Year Fern Hall spoke to their gratitude in bringing the work in Voice class into their private space. Kitty says of Voice class:

 

“I’ve wanted to bring more of [the voice work] home and into my life and finding out where in my space it works best for me.”

 

Fern echoed the sentiment saying it’s good to bring the voice work into her space because it gives her practice to do warm-ups alone before her acting class.

 


 

LIVING ALONE

 

Those who live alone have been dealing with isolation on a whole other level, craving the connection that class offers.

2nd-Year Berk Ilhan has got his cats Herkül and Hera keeping him company. 3rd-Year George Mayer  added, “I wish I had a fucking roommate,” but is focusing on gratitude for the resources he has.

Jorge takes in his promising new home in Red Hook

 

 

2nd-Year Jorge Felipe Guevara had just moved into a new apartment in Redhook when shit started hitting the fan.

For the first few weeks of class, he had nothing to sit on, which on the upside gave him tons of space for the Movement for Everybody classes he takes with TK Faculty Julia Crockett. He also spoke to the value of curating his own space.“I’m learning so much about myself by being here so much – it’s special.”

 

 

2nd-Year Joshua Craig, who’s alone in his apartment in Brooklyn after roommates left, spoke to the difficulty of discipline. On one hand, he feels “more playful and freer now in my own space.” But he misses the commute to the Studio.

He says: “There’s something about committing even your place of body,” that helps him remain disciplined. Shifting his body into a physical space for work helps him get into a mental state for the work. So he’s seeking to recreate that for himself.

 

Fernando and Hal 🙂

1st-Year Fernando Mateo Jr, who was on 2-week quarantine while he waits for his COVID-19 test results, was seeking the silver linings. “This is an introvert’s heaven!” he laughed to me. But he also pointed out maybe the biggest obstacle of all during class:

“Occasionally my dog kind of guilt trip stares at me. So I gotta give him his scratchies, pay him his dues”

 

 

 

This is Part 1 of a 6 Part series. To continue reading, please visit our Blog

 


Want to be more like the TK Tribe?

 

Terry Knickerbocker Studio offers comprehensive Two-Year Conservatory rooted in the Meisner technique, in a state of the art facility in Brooklyn, New York.

 

 

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