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Fixing poor performance habits quickly and tactfully

theater spotlightIt’s difficult for theater students to become aware of their habits and quirks until they can clearly see them. Kirby Wahl, Assistant Professor of Performing Arts, uses Kodak Playtouch video cameras to take easy shots of his students that help them identify their strengths and weaknesses on stage.

Wahl teaches an introductory voice and movement class to freshmen called The Dynamic Instrument, which aims to build physical awareness in order to release tensions that can impede vocal production and the use of the body. On the first day of class, Wahl videotapes students performing a two- to three-minute piece, then posts the videos on Blackboard so students can watch themselves perform.

“It’s the first day of class, so all their usual tensions are raised,” Wahl says. “They say, ‘I saw I was doing this and I never realized this.’ Other times it affirms things they already knew.”

Before technology was incorporated into his classroom, Wahl had his students observe a “secret friend.” Students would be randomly assigned to surreptitiously watch a classmate and, after some time, would have to impersonate them in front of the class. Often, the impersonations were immediately recognizable.

“That’s fun, but it’s a little riskier too,” Wahl says. “It can hurt to see someone encapsulate your quirks and have the whole class be amused by it. Videos are more private.”

Later on in students’ college careers, videos can serve as records of the progress they’ve made. Videos are also quicker than the “secret friend” assignment, which requires weeks of observation, and students need to identify their bodily tensions early on in order to make progress in the course and in their acting careers.

“Any physical holding in the body is going to have an effect on how the body vibrates in the sound you’re making,” Wahl says. “It’s that vibration that becomes the resonation of your voice.”

Additional Resources

  • To learn more about reserving or checking out a Kodak Playtouch camera, visit the Technology wiki or Media Services in Belk Library 101.
  • For more information about incorporating Kodak Playtouch cameras or other technology into your classroom, visit Teaching and Learning Technologies in Belk Library 115.
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