Gateway Theatre Box Office & Admin Office: Temporarily closed to the public. Find our COVID-19 Health and Safety plans here.
Gateway Academy: Summer Camp registration is now open. Fall/Winter registration is now open.

Donate Now

Gateway Academy students singing in Musical Theatre class

Virtual Academy: Q & A with Ruth McIntosh, Gateway’s Education Manager

Virtual Academy: Q & A with Ruth McIntosh, Gateway’s Education Manager

At Gateway Academy, we provide process-based learning in the safe, supportive environment in which our students will grow and strengthen vital skills for vibrant self-expression. All classes are taught by professional working artists. By the beginning of April 2020, Gateway Academy made the rapid shift from in-person classes to remote education via Zoom due to the ongoing pandemic. Gateway’s Education Manager Ruth McIntosh sat down with our Marketing Coordinator Jamie Hill to share what she has learned from this experience.  

Jamie [J]: What were your initial concerns about the move to online classes? 
Ruth [R]: What can we translate from one medium (in person) to an online medium? How do we continue to provide the shared energy, spatial awareness, peripheral vision, gut feeling, impulse work–and all of that which we are teaching students in person? I do believe that energy can be felt through this online medium, but that’s a discovery I made afterward.

J: Was there anything that you were looking to resolve off the bat?
R: Time. One of our classes was for students six and seven-years-old. In order to keep them engaged, we shortened our 1.5 hour long class to a 45-minute class online. Interestingly enough, some things took longer than we anticipated, and the class went back to their original 1.5 hour runtime.

J: What were the things that took up time? 
R: Part of it was orientation. Initially, we dedicated 10 minutes to get everyone oriented to the platform (Zoom) but it took longer consistently with every class. Throughout each class, we were learning about this platform and how technical factors affected whether we suddenly lost a student, or the sound was poor, or their video cut out. For example, once one of the students had no sound. While troubleshooting, we discovered that she had her computer on her bed and it was covering her microphone! All these funny little anomalies.

J: Were there any specific concerns from instructors?
R: We were coming to the end of our year, and the task of April is typically observing the students’ work and giving notes, to be ready for presentations. The instructors were asking, what matters at this point?  How do we carry some aspects of our students’ experience in the class over to this new platform and way of learning? Should we adjust to new goals for the remaining classes?
J: What ended up working well in this new online format?
R: It was a gift to be able to share the screen: in one class’ final project, the students came up with these beautiful self-initiated projects that didn’t have to be theatre-related. It could be anything, a drawing or cartoon, a poem, a song. One of our Musical Theatre classes invited guest artists - who performed on Broadway. We were able to connect with professional artists with whom we would have never connected with otherwise. Some younger students were excited to share by bringing their cats, dogs and birds into online class. They could share and show things they otherwise could not if we were in-person.

J: What did not work, what did you have to move away from? 
R: Group singing. There was an unreasonable amount of delay and distortion. What did not work was teaching technique, any sort of measurement. There’s impulse work that does not translate, ensemble work that doesn’t translate, making eye contact—and all those interpersonal forms of communication that we’re training our students in as actors.

J: If you could go back and address this exact situation again, having the information you have now, what would you do differently?
R: We would have known how Zoom works, its limitations, and would have been better able to help parents in setting their kids up as best as possible. I would have been bolder in using the word ‘experiment’ while communicating with parents and setting up expectations. Theatrical elements can be applied to non-theatrical forms. A concept I recently came across was “virtual theatre”; it was used in the context of embracing theatre with a new online existence. And I guess that is the answer to ‘this is not theatre’—we have to redefine in order to move forward.