“Struggle & Joy:” Student Perspective on the Move to Virtual Classes Part 3



Contributed in quarantine by Emma Welch

Part 3 in a series of 6 — Catch up on Part 1 & Part 2





Yara Mendes, Deonna Dolac and George Mayer walked me through how their On-Camera and Business of Acting classes have been going online:


Katie Flahive offered a mindset shift, which reassured and motivated students. In Yara‘s words:


“Guys, you have to understand, it sucks, yes, but you kinda get a leg up on future auditions. Oftentimes, this is how you’ll do a table read when the director’s on the other side of the world, and this is how self tapes will be.” 


Deonna described how they are able to get direct feedback on their set-up – helping them be more prepared for self-tapes, which is where so much of the industry is going.


One of their classmates was doing a scene in which his character was performing surgery. His first take was strong, but general. To recreate the environment of surgery, he brought his attention down to his hands. But his eye line was so low that those watching lost his face, and thus couldn’t connect to his work.

To lift his eye line and find specificity in the behavior, Katie guided him to set certain keys on his keyboard as points of reference: say key 7 is where an IV is inserted on the patient, and keys Z to M follow the line of incision.

Yara spoke to how that specificity made the work so clear and alive. It was a great example of how to be inventive in your use of space, even in this platform.


All 3 emphasized how grateful they are to have work they care about and to focus on in this time. As George put it, it’s “a good way to stay sharp; keeps me reading, keeps me engaged.”

George (bottom left corner) and fellow TKActors gathered for a virtual reading of Kill Bill: Volume 2

Kitty foreshadows the world’s current state of confusion at last year’s holiday party



Most of the students I spoke to were also in Voice, Movement, and a whole slew of other workshop classes. Here are some of their thoughts on how those classes have translated:

“I have to fight against the ‘Oh there’s a separation here, I’m just in my room. You start moving around and it’s less of a collective experience.’ It can be.

The benefits of this are you have to be more disciplined, you have to be more focused to stay with it in movement. But I don’t think there’s any way of making it so it’s as good as being in person, when it comes to movement. So there’s that give and take.

[Kana & Mac would tell] us: ‘Come now, close to the camera and show your face so that everyone can see each other’s faces. Ok, connect that way, then step back.’ So that’s a really cool way of approaching that…They do such a great job of [customizing the work]….and every class you feel it more.” – Gabe Rysdahl


Jorge Felipe Guevara spoke to an experience in the Movement for Everybody class: “There was a moment in class where Julia says ‘try to find synchronicity with someone.’ And again I’m on my phone so I can only choose one or two people. And I do. And in that moment where I see that we’re locked in together, it’s like ‘Oh I’m not alone. There’s someone in this with me and we’re moving and responding to each other.’


And there is this togetherness. There is that contact that yes isn’t the direct physical….but it reminds me of Movement III where it’s ‘Go off of someone’s impulse. Take what someone’s doing and make it your own.’ And that’s what the class is becoming. And Julia said ‘It’s wild to see the synchronicity with everyone when we’re all in separate locations around the country.’ It made me feel so moved that I was a part of this class just happening and we’re all going through our own experiences.”


“[This platform] calls for a lot more self-awareness. Because now we’re not relying on the teacher telling us whether we’re doing it right. We need to gauge whether we’re feeling it. So it is calling for a lot more insight into what we’re doing, a lot of curiosity, digging deep and seeing whether it’s actually working for us. It can be a bit passive when we’re doing it in person because we’ve got the teacher there. But in my room it’s just my vibrations. [Zoom is] forcing me into confidence.” Fern Hall


Kim searches for her character’s look

Movement Level II’s curriculum has had to change the most. They are taking the characters they made for the “Drunk Project”. Instead of planning for the big communal ‘party’ it usually ends in, the genius faculty Julia, Kana & Mac are redirecting the class towards a study of character physicality – something that is not usually touched on this fully in any level of movement at TK Studio so far.


The students reported that this translates so well to this platform, and is incredibly useful. So although, their curriculum has had to shift, they are gaining a new exercise that will be applicable to their work in Second Year, and growth as an actor.


Berk digs up some old activity costumes

Movement IV is a unique class that culminates in sharing pieces choreographed by the students. Solos, duets, full group pieces. The reality of that sharing has had to evolve. Before the pandemic hit, the class had several pieces “cooking.” In the transition, many of the pieces have been revamped or scrapped entirely.  


For those in this class, the online transition seems to hit home hardest here. It’s been “an uphill battle” (as Kim puts it) to maintain the faith – a few classmates have dropped. But those remaining are working together to regroup, use this platform to its fullest and stay committed to each other.


Grace said that Nate, Kana, & Mac have been “all hands on deck” – very available to talk, and each present at every class (when they would usually have to trade off). I felt a deep sorrow, but also deep love for the class from talking to these students.


We’ve also heard about ways students are going to use the new technology and environments to their advantage (Grace‘s roommate has a stripper pole that will make for some fun optical illusions if put out of frame….Jihoon spoke to being so inspired in their most recent class that he recorded a solo to share with the group after class….Daniel described an accidental masterpiece they improvised in a class exercise that they’ve been searching how to recreate.)


Berk doodles as a way to help stay focused in Zoom class. Here are his renderings of Terry & classmate Evan Rosen



Students have been speaking to the amazing ability of all of the teachers to give them incredibly specific and rich feedback in this platform:

“There’s a way that all the teachers have been implementing a firm but empathetic approach – the balance of being like ‘Look, this is life, this is hard, I’m here, I’m listening, I’m here for you, I see you, I feel you. This is our moment.’ ……They’ve been very powerful and supportive. And even in the times where I feel like I fall out of work, they find a very beautiful way, a very well-crafted way to kind of rearrange it to lead you back there…..Terry’s feedback has been able to sit with me more. I see it manifesting in front of me because there’s nothing in my life to distract me from it now” – Kitty Perrelli


“This week in both Voice class and Movement class, I got some very specific feedback from teachers. And they were able to hear and observe through the camera, through the screen. I thought, ‘Ok, I’m in my apartment by myself, and they can see me, they can see those little things that i do, and I have something to work on and I can actually work on these things.’ That gave me a big validation about what I’m doing” – Berk Ilhan


“I’m really impressed with Terry because he is still giving incredibly specific notes, and he’s seeing a lot through this process and in this format. That puts me at ease and that does keep me in the room more” –Kim Fuller


“I was actually really surprised at how in-tune Matthew [Dudley] was, with being able to give back feedback….We’re breathing and he can pick up ‘Oh this is so and so’s voice and you need to release this or that or try this’….I definitely don’t think it’s happening as often as it was in class……but the fact that he’s still very present, very active and looking for ways to give us feedback I think is super important.…I was going through my resonators and Matthew was able to pick up the pitch and tell me to shift the sound to the front of your mouth and I was trying to hit it and he was like ‘No not there yet. Keep going, keep going, almost there’ ” – Victoria Ré Milien


This is Part 3 of a 6 Part series. To continue reading, please visit our Blog


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