Chicago Street Theatre adjusts, excels with online classes

Chicago Street Theatre adjusts, excels with online classes
By: Haley Alexander Last Updated: June 26, 2020

An adjustment in educational opportunities at Chicago Street has made it easier for theatre students, participants across the U.S., and even a hamster, to benefit from the online classes.

Chicago Street Theatre (CST), a popular performing arts theater in Valparaiso, had to adjust their 2020 summer classes because of the timing of COVID-19, transitioning their spring and summer semester classes to online.

“We continued after spring break and held our first-ever Zoom showcases during the week of May 18 to 22. The response from parents and students was very positive,” said Lisa Formosa-Parmigiano, Director of Education at CST. “One advantage was the distance no longer being a factor. For example, grandparents in California could now participate and watch the performances from the comfort and safety of their own homes.”

Programs were sent out digitally and all guests logged in with a password, protecting the security of CST students. It was important to CST to make the most out of this unexpected experience.

“As an educator, it was important to me to continue the spring classes and provide a sense of continuity, along with a social outlet, for our students,” she said. “Both of my instructors, Jenna Johnson and Gina Zieniewicz, along with our interns, Mallory Gall, Ione Calvin, and Ruby Parmigiano, dove in and adjusted. After a few Zoom meetings to learn the new format and discuss curriculum adjustments, we dove right in to complete the semester.”

Although the staff quickly learned the challenges of teaching through an online platform like Zoom, such as battling internet connections and school-issued Chromebooks that have Zoom limitations, they also discovered many positives from this year’s circumstances.

“I believe the best outcome of our spring semester was the wonderful opportunity to meet students’ pets, siblings, and wave to parents!” Formosa-Parmigiano said. “Since our classes were held online, we could share in each student’s home and that was truly engaging and delightful. Who knew a hamster would sit through the rehearsal of the play and actually seem like they were enjoying it!”

The online platform has made it possible for CST to reach a wider audience beyond Valparaiso.

“We are learning and moving forward. We hope to offer short, convenient workshops for adults that may accommodate their busy schedules and have a mix of offerings that will begin in September – a hybrid of online and in-person classes for new and continuing students,” she said.

In addition to these, CST is also holding a Teen Festival. The Teen Ensemble was originally scheduled to perform their annual Teen Festival in May. They have postponed, switched to online rehearsals, and will perform the first ever live-stream Teen Festival at 7 p.m. on June 27, and 2:30 p.m. on June 28. Updated information regarding tickets and description can be found here: https://chicagostreet.org/js_events/teenfest/.

To learn more about Chicago Street Theatre’s mission and their upcoming season, visit https://chicagostreet.org/.