INSTRUCTOR DOESN’T MISS A BEAT IN TRANSITION TO ONLINE WORKSHOPS
Theatre instructor Julia Cirillo likes to play the “popcorn game” as an icebreaker with her students. In this game, all the students become popcorn in a hot pan. Julia give the children a number between 1 and 10, to indicate how much energy to put into their popping. Level ten has the kids jumping around while Level 1 is barely rolling on the floor. “It’s a great game to get out some energy and to learn about what type of energy can be applied to acting, “says Cirillo. “And it’s so much fun!”
Cirillo feels her job is to create an environment where anything is possible. She believes that drama works best when kids let down their defences and can reveal their authentic selves.
As a Drama Outreach instructor for MTYP, Cirillo recently shifted from teaching in person classes to leading virtual workshops. For online workshops, Julia can use a variety of platforms (Zoom/Microsoft Teams/Google Meets) to project herself onto a white board or a wall through a Smart Board system.
MTYP’s Drama Outreach programs provide quality, in depth workshops taught by theatre professionals. The program reaches over 2,000 students annually through workshops, residencies and long-term weekly satellite programs in over 70 schools, daycares and community groups. This past summer, MTYP had great success conducting classes and workshops via online platforms. This new online experience can also give MTYP an opportunity to reach children and students in remote communities.
This new reality has changed her job, but Julia feels proud of how she has adapted. “Teaching online definitely has its challenges, you do have to work much harder to capture the kids’ attention,” she says. “I still feel I can create a fun and exciting workshop every time.”
“Teaching in person vs online is very different in the way that you format exercises and games, but I have found that there are different challenges in person too. Online teaching has really forced me to come up with more creative ways to teach a class.”
MTYP’s Drama Outreach Coordinator Matthew Armet recently watched Julia teach a class online. “I admire Julia’s ability to command the attention of the group as a whole for the entire class,” he says.
“She adapted quickly to changes on the fly, all while keeping the kids engaged and active,” adds Armet. “Her transition from being in the room physically to being there digitally has been flawless! This new form of bringing Drama Outreach into schools is just as playful, fun and exciting as having her physically in the room.”
Cirillo’s vocabulary of games is extensive, but one of the ones that she always comes back to is called “Build me a…” In it, one student covers their ears while Julia gives her students a specific location. Then they have fifteen seconds to create the location, by becoming something found there. For example, if the location was a beach, the students might become the sand, water, umbrella, sunscreen or a sunhat.
“Build me a… works so well because it challenges students to be silly right off the bat and commit to acting with their full bodies,” she says. “This helps shed some of the nerves. We all get to be silly and no one feels judged.”
One thing that is new is how she gets ready for each class. “To prepare myself for an online workshop, I go to my spare bedroom which has been named the Zen Den, because I have decorated it in twinkly lights, aroma diffusers, paintings and water fountains, with a table to plan and teach! I find it a good place to get my creativity flowing in the small space that I have in my home.”
Cirillo’s involvement in children’s theatre began when her mentor, Katie German (MTYP Artistic Associate) asked her to assist direct for Katie’s company, the Junior Musical Theatre Company (JMTC). “Julia is literally one of the most talented humans I know,” says German. “Aside from being a tough as nails human, an awesome educator and an advocate for kids and the LGBTQ2SIA* community, she is also a budding prop and makeup artist! And a spectacular performer and stage manager… like save some talent for the rest of us. I can not say enough about how cool of a human she is.”
Julia feels very fortunate to do what she does. “I love everything about teaching children’s theatre,” she says. “The amount of creativity that children have absolutely shocks me. Theatre allows for children to let loose and be anything they want to be, to adventure into these incredible stories and different tales and create a world of imagination.”
If your are interested in MTYP visiting your school or community either in person or virtually, please visit our website at mtyp.ca or reach out to our interim Drama Outreach Coordinator, Matt Armet at [email protected] for more information.
KUDOS FROM EDUCATORS
“Overall, the experience was fantastic and super awesome! The variety in games was the perfect amount for this energetic group.” — Kristen McAulay, Grade 4 Teacher, Warren Elementary School
“Our students enjoyed every moment!” – Shelley Candeais, Student Support Teacher, Westgrove School