Archive for Technology

Millennials in Theatre

I do not have a television in my house.  Some guests comment in disbelief, “How can you live without a television?” Television is not bad; too much television was bad for me. It was hypnotic and encouraged me to waste a lot of time, so I got rid of the machine.  I also got tired of the news and commercials telling me what to believe and what to purchase.  Similarly, I hate visiting friends and their entire living room is arranged around a television, which remains on. Hello; let’s look at each other and talk. Can you imagine growing up today? The relationship our students have with technology is beyond description.  My three-year-old niece operates her mom’s cell phone!  How has technology effected our students and what is our role in teaching theatre which is about people, not gadgets?

I grew up in rural Texas; our closet neighbors were the Sellars family, 3 miles away.  I grew up playing outdoors. Jan Sellars and I often rode our bikes for miles, but my favorite childhood game incorporated my chores and my imagination.  It was my job to feed our livestock. I had to cut down some of the maize or milo from the nearby field and wheel barrow it to feed the calves and pigs.  Instead of efficiently cutting down the green stalks from the nearest corner of the field, I sliced winding paths into the living greenness creating a meandering maze of trails and secret rooms and hidden passages.  I knew the paths.  I can still hear the wind gently vibrating the leaves sounding like a giant hand gliding across a rusted harp.  And each day I fed the animals, the maze got deeper and more complicated and the High Plains’ wind was my soundtrack.  When my city cousins came to visit, we would spend hours devising games and scenarios in the mysterious paths.

But today, many of our students only play indoors and they are attached to their devices, computers, and video games. Some of the games have great effects and soundtracks, but it’s all been designed and created for them.  I grew up with friends, real friends; I still visit with Jan Sellars Bates.  Our students have virtual friends. Today’s Millennial boosts his or her self-esteem by counting hundreds of Facebook friends.  But the truth is that they have never seen most of them and they only know them superficially and add friends from the invitation of an intrusive app suggesting, “You might also know…”. A teen today sends an average of 3,000 texts a month. I use to get one snail mail letter every two months from my pen pal in Minnesota.

There is much negative criticism of Millennials.  Many say they are tough to manage, narcissistic, unfocused, lazy, entitled.  I’m not quite that harsh but, I admit, I sometimes describe my students as so, until I need help with my computer or, sound system, or downloading something, or hooking up to Wi-Fi. Then I’m reminded that they are actually efficient, genius and skilled! Millennials grew up in a Facebook and Instagram world. They grew up with filters that only show the good and happy world.  Consequently, many are suffering from depression and low self-esteems. The trauma for young people to be unfriended is real.   It’s no fault of this generation; this is the time they were dealt.  They grew up with instant gratification and yet older people describe them as impatient and wanting everything now, now, now, with no understanding of having to work for it!  If they want information, it’s at their fingertips.  I had to plan for a week and drive 30 miles to see a movie. They don’t even have to worry about movie times; they just click and download.  Food? Click, order, pay, delivered, and not just pizza.  Same with shopping; Amazon order and it’s in your possession tomorrow.  And dating?  They did not have to go through the awkward humiliation of breaking the ice and stumbling out words that sounded more like soggy Jell-O than courting. They just swipe and bam, a hook-up.  They swipe and crash, a break-up.  They are failing at building meaningful relationships. They rarely practiced the skills.

But theatre teaches communication and relationships.  We teach the essential social coping skills. We teach that the process matters more than the immediate outcome.  Today’s kids do not have a realistic understanding of the journey.  They care more about the short term gains than the life-long lessons.  Through the rehearsal period, we model patience and teach that projects come to fruition with time, flexibility and persistence.  Theatre rewards with the fulfillment of working hard and seeing a project brought to fruition. Theatre teaches that we care about people rather than corporate gains, or profits, or brands, or how many likes your posting gets.

It’s always been tough teaching actors character development and relationships; it’s even harder now because of how alienated they have been raised.  It is even more difficult now to teach looking at one another in the eyes.  It’s more difficult to teach touching.  Remind yourself of when your students grew-up.  Discuss the humanity necessary for theatre and all art.

There should be no cell phones while your company is creating art and while you are teaching communication and relationships.  The presence of the phone invites distraction, and allows kids to surrender to the addiction of the cell phone, just like me and television. I believe it’s rude to have a cell phone out on a table when you are supposed to visit with family or friends. I believe it’s rude to have a cell phone out during a business meeting where you are supposed to be engaged and communicating.

Theatre directors teach art, but we also teach life-long skills.  Thank God I did not have an I Phone in my childhood maize field; I would have laid down on the cool dirt and played a video maze game, like Portal 2, rather than cultivating my own imagination. Instead I built my own life size magical world of green corridors and giant hands playing the High Plains harp.

APPlying Yourself: Embracing Technology to Promote Collaboration and Creativity in the Theatre Classroom

Students, Technology and Applications

Last week, one of my colleagues walked into my office and commented on the long list of “To Dos” on my white board. She suggested I check out a to-do app called Todoist that works on all your devices, has great features for monitoring your productivity, and lets you collaborate, so you can share your tasks and projects with others. Todoist is a cloud-based service, so all your tasks and notes from one app automatically sync to all the other places where you have Todoist installed. Projects can be color-coded to help you visually differentiate between them. Tasks can have subtasks, as well as due dates, reminders, flags noting the urgency of a task, and more. In exploring this option for organizing my tasks, I began to realize how helpful this tool would be not only to theatre teachers but also to students working to put together a project for class or a production.

Recently, I have seen teachers posting their “Phone Jails” and other creative strategies to distract students from using technology in class and in rehearsals. I have been vocal about the research that supports the need to incorporate personal technology in daily instruction. Our students are digital natives and their future will be one where technological proficiency and responsibility is essential for success. Yes, there are times where the phone must be put down to focus on the craft and setting expectations about when smartphones hinder focus are important lessons for students. However, a “No phones” environment may be limiting opportunities to help students practice using technology in a productive and responsible way.

By embracing technology in theatre instruction, students can connect and collaborate with playwrights and designers and work together to create better productions and projects. The following apps are some tools to explore as you expand the use of technology in class to promote the responsible and collaborative use of technology. Some of the apps are free and some have a cost to either upgrade or gain access to the app. These tools promote communication, collaboration, creativity, efficiency and innovation. Please share your “must have” apps for the theatre classroom at the forum on

 Stage: Interactive Whiteboard and Document Camera

Stage is a free teaching and demonstration tool that students and educators can use to share ideas and interact with curriculum. Use the iPad camera to display live video of objects, textbooks, student work, and other projects, and sketch, write, label, or laser point in real-time. With options like storing labels, recording, PDF import, and wireless connection to a projector via Airplay, Stage makes lessons fully interactive, collaborative, and engaging. The app allows you to sketch, take notes, and add labels over live video. You can record video and audio (feature available as an in-app purchase). You can save screens with one-click screen snapshot and recall from your photo library in the app.
The app allows you to dynamically present student work wirelessly using Airplay, or via a wired projector connection. You can store and share labels for later use—great for quizzes or whole-class review. You can annotate, mark-up and save existing photos, images and documents. You can easily switch backgrounds from video to picture to whiteboard/blackboard canvas.
The app is collaborative. Stage’s live video and interactive tools let you showcase real-time problem solving and experimentation. Paired with Airplay, Stage makes wireless sharing quick and easy. With the added flexibility to move around the room, educators can truly engage and involve students.
Unlike interactive whiteboards, Stage requires no additional training. Users familiar with touchscreens will be able to use the app instantly and efficiently.

Three Ring

This is a free and easy way to capture qualitative evidence of student learning. Three Ring for districts allows teachers, students and administrators to document anything, organize it in seconds, and have it seamlessly available at school and at home, both in the app AND on the web. This app can document classroom activity: speeches, performances and presentations, create multimedia portfolios: aligned to each student and standard and communicate with parents, administrators, and other teachers: share artifacts from your classroom in seconds.

DH Costume Lite

DH COSTUME is free for everyone in the Costume Department. Create and track CHANGES and CHARACTER CLOSETS. Create and print your TAG LABELS front and back, even your final book. Share photos and continuity notes with your entire department. Create and track budgets, inventory, sizing sheets, continuity, even shipping and receiving information all in one place – your iPad.
Take photos with your own digital camera or with your iPad and enter your continuity notes then sync with your Supervisor via email or Dropbox!

Theatre Blocking

Originally designed by a stage manager with performers in mind, Theater Blocking is an app that allows students to block their theater rehearsals or performances on the phone. Features include several stage layout options and multiple color selections. Students have the ability to move forward as well as backward between blockings. Theatre Blocking can be downloaded from Google and has a cost.

Dramatic Music App

Do you need sound effects? Try using the Dramatic Music app. Students can use the app to enhance scenes in class. The app has a variety of different sounds and themed-collections that can assist in creating mood for scenes or improvisation sessions.

Voice Coach

VoiceCoach helps students with their warm ups, vocal exercises, warm down, track practice time, and much more. For those that need a different tempo or vocal range, the app is totally customizable. VocalCoach can be downloaded at Apple and has a cost.


Scene Partner

Scene Partner is an app students can use to help them with memorization. Student actors can use their auditory learning skills to enhance line retention by read their lines from the app and hearing the lines from other characters read as well. The app features a variety of male and female voices to read the lines or students can actually record their cast mates reading the lines and play them back. Lines can be highlighted, broken down into smaller chunks for memory and given beats to make them easier to remember.


Help your students connect with the greatest dramatist of all time with technology. The Shakespeare app features the complete works accessible by keyword or by title. The app allows for highlighting the text and easy navigation. The random quote generator and other fun activities make this app a great addition to the classroom.

Technical Theatre Assistant

For set designers, stage crew members and construction crews, this app is a helpful tool. Students can create diagrams of set pieces and generate cut-out lists for organizing and creating set pieces. The app also comes with dimension, stair, triangle and rope strength calculators to provide technicians with the information they need to make their work safe and efficient. The app is free and can be downloaded from Google.

Sock Puppets

For mid-term or final exam review I would have Theatre I students design puppets and write a puppet show that would creatively review the material students learned in the class. Sock puppets are not exactly the highest form of theatre, I was always surprised at the way the students used the medium to demonstrate mastery of the skills we had learned and how well the other students were engaged in the review when it was presented in this form. Believe it or not, there is a sock puppet app! The Sock Puppets app allows you and your students to create your own sock puppet shows. Students can record dialogue between the sock puppets, add technical elements like props and scenery to create their puppet show. You can also use the app to teach students about improvisation or to get them to practice playwriting.


Most of us are so busy putting on our own seasons that we don’t have much time to stay updated on the happenings on the great white way. You and your students can keep up with the latest shows, news, reviews and other information on Broadway with iBroadway. The app allows access to general information about popular shows, video clips from shows and interviews with Broadway actors.