Creative online learning options to feed your brain during COVID-19

From trying out a Shakespeare soliloquy to sprucing up your wardrobe, here are some suggestions on how to educate yourself during the coronavirus crisis

Sure, everything maybe closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, but that doesn’t mean learning and teaching can’t continue.

Many resourceful people are using this time to gain new skills or teach some to others. Whether it’s learning how to effectively deliver a Shakespeare soliloquy or getting tips on cleaning out your closet, here are some smart ways to pass your time (when you’re not binge-watching Tiger King, that is).

I’ll focus on a few teachers/students in the days to come, but here’s an overview.

Learn how to perform the classics

• Graham Abbey and Dylan Trowbridge, two of the country’s finest actors and directors, have just launched, a place for artists to come together and collaborate through mentorship, conversation and collective creation. They eventually want it to become an online theatre space where they can stream productions, but initially they’re going to allow senior artists to mentor younger or mid-career artists – in the form of free classes, town halls or informal “coffee chats” in a virtual green room. Confirmed mentors to date include: playwright Michael Healey, Stratford’s Seana McKenna, writer/director Kat Sandler, actor Dion Johnstone (who played Brutus to Abbey’s Marc Anthony in the recent Julius Caesar at Crow’s) and the multi-talented Jani Lauzon (who was also in that production).

Shakespeare BASH’d mounts some of the most refreshing productions of the Bard’s works, and now, in Quarantine BASH’d, co-artistic directors James Wallis and Julia Nish-Lapidus have invited everyone to email them a classical monologue (under two minutes). The two will have a look at your monologue and send you a paragraph of feedback.

Learn how to laugh about what’s going on

• Second City‘s revues have always been created through their “Yes, and” philosophy of improvisation. So in that spirit they’ve moved all their classics online. Now you can start your journey on becoming the next great sketch sensation from the privacy of your own home – and you might not even need to be wearing pants. If you want to check out some Second City alums (and quite possibly your next teachers) from across North America showing how it’s done, they’ve just launched Improv House Party, live Thursday (April 2) at 8 pm EST. The Toronto improvisers include Aurora Browne and Kris Siddiqi and Paul Bates and Christy Bruce, with donations going to the Second City Alumni Fund.

Bad Dog Theatre has migrated all of their comedy classes online: improv, sketch and writing, as well as their youth comedy offerings. Find out about them here.

Clean out your closet and perfect your personal style 

Just because you have nowhere exciting to go or places to shop for new clothes, that doesn’t mean you can’t give a boost to your existing wardrobe. That’s where Renna Reddie comes in. The fashion stylist/creative producer (and former theatre producer) would normally be readying clients for the Canadian Screen Awards red carpet instead she’s emphasizing the closet clean-out part of her business, Get Reddie Style. Through video conferencing, she’ll help you sort what’s in your closet and reconfigure pieces to create brand new looks. In a couple of hours, you could become the most stylish person at your next Zoom meeting.

Become a geography nerd 

Just because non-essential travel is a thing of the past (for now) doesn’t mean you can’t keep learning about other places from your couch or desk. The Royal Canadian Geographical Society has just launched Canadian Geographic Education’s #OnlineClassroom, offering free, bilingual learning tools to all Canadians. They began their initiative this week with The Anthropocene Education program, associated with The Anthropocene Project, the collaboration between photographer Edward Burtynsky and award-winning filmmakers Nicholas de Pencier and Jennifer Baichwal. 

Get your kids a dramatic math tutor 

One of the more unusual responses to the COVID-19 crisis has come from writer, actor and director Jovanni Sy. The former artistic director of Richmond, BC’s Gateway Theatre (and ace math student) tweeted out that if any of his friends with school-age children want it, he’s offering free math tutoring to kids to give parents a break from home schooling. That adds up to one generous offer.


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