One by one, local students from grades three–10 pop into a Zoom video meeting. They’re eager to connect with their peers and engage in self-expression, a much needed outlet during these times of sheltering in place. On the other end of the feed, students from UC Davis’ Department of Theatre and Dance are ready to lead theatre games and other activities to keep these young minds inspired and engaged.
These free online theatre classes, a collaboration between Theatre and Dance and the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts’ ArtsBridge program, launched in late March while local schools were closed due to COVID-19. The classes are the brainchild of Mindy Cooper, professor of theatre and dance, and Lara Downes, a concert pianist and Mondavi Center Artist-in-Residence.
“Arts are such a healing place,” Cooper said. “Theatre games can be such an amazing way to get through these emotionally challenging times.”
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The hourlong classes start with movements like stretching and twisting before moving into word games and other verbal exercises. For older students, classes will extend to memoirs and monologue writing.
“There’s been a beautiful spirit of community,” Downes said. “These kids are getting a chance to move around and just seeing each other in a small group is a huge thing.”
They credit the eagerness of UC Davis students for keeping these budding young thespians inspired and active.
“There was a huge outpouring quickly,” said Cooper. “I reached out to a good number of students that I worked closely with and they jumped up and down and said, ‘Yes!’