Improv Hits the Small Screen: Acalanes Drama Class Goes Online

By Liam McGlynn, News Editor

// “Once there was a penguin. And every day, he went for a walk…” And so it began, an improvised story in the first-ever Acalanes High School Zoom improvisation session.

   In a newly distanced world, teaching has never been harder than it is at the moment. Teachers all across the world had to alter their teaching strategies with the changing circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic.

   At Acalanes, many teachers had to come up with creative ways to educate their students. One Acalanes teacher, in particular, had a greater challenge than most: having to convert the physical nature of drama into the two-dimensional world of electronic media. 

   Drama teacher Ed Meehan introduced his students to a new type of acting: “Zoom improv.” 

   “Honestly, I didn’t really know what to expect,” senior Sabrina Lin said. “Although, I will say that [Meehan is] a creative guy and very experienced in improv, so I knew it was worth a try.”

   By hosting an optional improv practice session on April 16 through the web communications application, Zoom, Meehan provided his students with an opportunity to take their mind off of the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic in a positive and constructive way.

   “It was a great way to interact with people in a super fun way. I wanted to get my mind off of school and current issues, and it was the perfect gathering for that,” sophomore Mia Greif said.

   Not only did the session help bring some normality back into the lives of the students who participated, but Meehan felt like the session restored a part of his daily life too.

   “I have only been working with Zoom since the start of the pandemic, so it has been a steep learning curve. After this first improv Zoom though, I felt really great. I felt as though I was teaching again,” Meehan said.

   Although a Zoom performance might not deliver the same experience as a live performance, it provides a good alternative to a traditional improv session. 

   “I was very excited to find out that even though we are not in the same physical space, these new tools can provide an experience that comes close to what we do in the theatre,” Meehan said. “You can create a spontaneous connection between performers. Some things can’t be replicated, of course, but it’s surprising how much you can do.”

   Despite the setbacks, overall, students were grateful for the opportunity to perform.

   “The energy doesn’t come from a non-live audience and it’s hard to get into it when acting to a screen. But I’m grateful that we still have an opportunity to act, even with these restrictive boundaries,” Lin said. 

Watch the recap from the second session below!

By Keith Johnson, Head Videographer

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