When local theaters were forced to cancel or postpone their rehearsals because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Severna Park resident and Theater in the Park (TITP) director Philip Kittiver wasn’t ready to give up.
Kittiver began teaching online acting workshops to keep his students entertained and social during their time away from TITP.
“I missed the kids and I saw the world around us adapt to use available technology and do what could still be done, even if it was different,” said Kittiver.
Before the shows were postponed, Kittiver was directing “15 Reasons Not To Be In A Play,” two casts of Disney's “Winnie the Pooh KIDS,” and a weekly storytelling class that was set to act out a children's picture book in March.
“All four of my casts had rehearsals canceled abruptly in March,” said Kittiver. “I held my last rehearsals on March 7 and March 11, and I left them saying, ‘See you in a week.’”
During April, TITP continued to hold rehearsals using the video communication app Zoom. With unknown performance dates, Kittiver found that these traditional rehearsals were not as productive virtually. Group choreography, large-scale scenes and musical numbers were near impossible to practice. In April, the decision was made to postpone all shows and rehearsals until the fall, but Kittiver knew that in-person meetings were making a difference for his students mentally and emotionally.
“I began to notice that seeing and hearing each other live was still a very positive thing to do, whether or not we made progress on our production,” said Kittiver.
Kittiver spoke to the other directors and the Online Sessions, a virtual acting and singing experience, was announced. The singing sessions are being led by TITP directors Kylie Sjolie and Trevor Greenfield, while Kittiver is teaching seven sessions of acting.
“I had just bought a new scene book for group scenes that I wanted to try out for a class,” said Kittiver. “This online group seemed like the right time.”
With 33 students signed up, Kittiver runs group scenes with the students in 20-minute sessions. He sends students a scene ahead of time and they spend their session working on voice, articulation and operative words.
“Some of my actors have decided to forego the online experience because it clearly isn't the same,” said Kittiver. “I totally understand it. It's only been a few actors and I'm sure I'll see them in the fall. For those that continue, I think it's more about staying social with the backdrop of doing a fun acting scene.”
Kittiver hopes that, in addition to fine-tuning their acting skills, his students will take away a sense of oneness with the world.
“Living in the time of an event or disaster is a memorable passage that will connect you to others experiencing the same thing,” said Kittiver. “It's ironic that this is an event of disconnection, but actors love irony.”
Kittiver said he is looking forward to the challenge of picking up where he left off, though he will miss the comfort of Zoom’s “mute” feature.