News • October 29, 2020

Theatre program at CBU turns classes into multi-camera production

Theatre program at CBU turns classes into multi-camera production

Riverside, Calif. (Oct. 29, 2020) – Professors in the theatre program at California Baptist University had to improvise this semester to teach their stage classes remotely.

Frank Mihelich, associate professor of theatre, would usually teach alone. Now he has at least one camera operator, a teacher’s assistant and someone in the control booth switching between the program’s three broadcast video cameras. One camera is focused on the professor sitting at a table, another is aimed at documents on the table and the third one is directed at the stage, where Mihelich’s assistant helps illustrate techniques and exercises.

“It’s like having your own little TV show every class,” Mihelich said.

Mihelich is teaching all acting classes this semester. Normally, his students would be rehearsing and interacting together on the stage in scenes. Now they are doing solo performance work.

“They are doing monologues from previously published plays or excerpts from novels. Some in the advance class are writing their own 10-minute show,” Mihelich said.

One of the classes is Acting IV: Departures from Realism (THE483), or avant-garde theatre.

“What is more avant-garde and weird than having to do it online?” Mihelich said. “One of the genres is site-specific theatre. I’ve had kids do monologues in their bathtubs—appropriately clothed—or from their car. In the classroom they would have had to create something.”

Scott Rydelski, a junior who is a comedic arts and theatre double major, is taking Departures from Realism.

“With that, there are many wacky movement principles that we must learn and exercise to allow the actor to train in that style,” Rydelski said. “Having the multi-camera set up and having the opportunity to do exercises and necessary physical training virtually alongside my professor and peers is very helpful.”

Lee Lyons, a professor of theatre who teaches a makeup class, said the theatre program’s camera equipment provided more options for teaching this semester. For his class, makeup kits were given to all the students to practice wherever they are. He demonstrates techniques with the help of a student model. Students take photos of their work and send it in for review.

“Our theatre kids want to do [things],” Lyons said. “We’ve taken what COVID’s given us and we’re trying to keep the kids cohesive.”

Eden Sides, a theatre sophomore, said she was anxious going into the semester, wondering if her two theatre classes would be productive.

“I'm so pleased with what they came up with to help us get the most out of the class,” Sides said. “Hands-on learning sticks the best in my brain. Reading about acting and doing all the text work for a play is great, but then getting up and experimenting with what it feels like in my own body and voice is where the magic happens.” 

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