THESPIANS THRIVE when working on productions. Though some prefer the heat of the spotlight while others welcome the cool darkness backstage, most Thespians agree they’re happiest when the countdown from the final applause of one show to the table read of the next is short.

However, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have forced artists everywhere to find new ways to connect to their love of theatre. Below are five suggestions for staying engaged when not working on a show. Bonus: Some of these options provide the potential for earning Thespian points. Check with your director to clarify your troupe’s guidelines.


The best theatre practitioners are highly literate about theatrical works. They’re familiar not only with topical contemporary plays but also with classic scripts that broke new ground when they debuted.

Use your time to discover a play or musical that’s new to you or to dive deeper into an old favorite. Need ideas about where to start? Check out these suggestions for 20 plays to read before college, then try 20 more once you’ve tackled the first set. Some are likely to be available digitally from your local library. Not sure how to peruse a script for more than its basic plot? Explore 30 approaches to reading and thinking about a play.

Platforms such as Spotify or Pandora allow you to listen to original cast recordings from musical theatre favorites. Or, for ways you can watch full-length plays or musicals at home, check out this list of ideas for streaming theatre productions.

Gabie Robinson, a junior from Jemicy School’s Troupe 8269 in Owings Mills, Maryland, has used several of these techniques. “I have read two scripts, listened to a ton of Broadway music, and have rewatched a few musicals on Netflix.”

Take a class

Many individual artists and theatre companies are offering free online classes for those looking to use their extra time to hone theatre skills. Lauren Gunderson, the country’s most produced playwright, is hosting tutorials via Facebook Live (all of which are archived on her Facebook page), including one targeted specifically at teen writers.

The Broadway Teaching Group provides free, 30-minute online classes featuring Broadway professionals. Classes are broadcast on Facebook Live and archived on the organization’s website. Presenters have included Hamilton music director Ian Weinberger, Frozen performer Alicia Albright, and playwright John Cariani, whose Almost, Maine has been the most produced high school play for the last five years.

Camp Broadway’s At this Stage offers lunchtime conversations with Broadway performers, designers, authors, career advisors, composers, and others. All sessions are free, but you must sign up to attend.

“The Broadway Collective is holding classes right now for free,” said Breyanna Ashley-White, a sophomore in Troupe 3183 at Hanford High School in West Richland, Washington. “Just sign up using the link in their Instagram bio.”

You can also lead your own online learning. Sophia Urban, a senior in Troupe 5981 at Champaign (Illinois) Central High School, says her peers are “having online dance rehearsals on Zoom,” while Naomi Zahn, a junior from Troupe 4146 at Ramstein High School in Ramstein-Miesenbach, Germany, said she is “singing all the time, recording and studying facial expressions in shows.”


You’ll find a wealth of video resources about the theatre industry online. Take this time to explore careers or artists you don’t know much about. The American Theatre Wing, the nonprofit organization that presents the Tony Awards, hosts a video series titled “Working in the Theatre.” Episodes cover onstage and backstage careers, from improv to playwriting to props.

For film and television fans, The Hollywood Reporter hosts the “Roundtables” series with producers, writers, directors, and actors from film and television, while the New York Times’ “Anatomy of a Scene” segments give directors the opportunity to explain their choices regarding specific details in one scene of their recent films.


Is your next show locked inside your imagination? Pick up a pen and add your masterpiece to the theatrical canon. If you’re not sure where to begin, check out playwright D.W. Gregory’s four-part series on writing a character-driven play. Gregory, best known as the author of Radium Girls, walks prospective playwrights through understanding character developmentdrafting exploratory scenesmapping major events, and advancing the play’s action.

Once your outline is in place, explore Stephen Gregg’s advice for writing realistic dialogue. Whether your idea is big or small, whether you’re a veteran writer or new to the craft, there’s a lot you can learn about all aspects of theatre by revisiting the basics of storytelling.

Gabi Garcia, a 2019 Thespian Playworks winner and alum of Troupe 5604 at Sunset High School in Portland, Oregon, has been using her time to start a new story. “I’m working on some long overdue writing projects,” said Garcia. “Sometimes I do writing exercises to get my brain going before I actually set to work on a play, like writing short poems or lists of ideas. One of my favorite collaborative writing exercises you can do at home with two or more friends and an internet connection. First, each person writes the first 10 lines of a five-minute, two-actor play. It can be about whatever you want — usually for this exercise, the weirder and funnier, the better. Next, swap your draft with another person. Read the first 10 lines and come up with a logical, 10-line climactic moment for the play you’ve been handed.

“After that, everyone swaps again — no one should have their original play yet. The third writer reads the two 10-line moments and wraps them up with a 10-line conclusion. Finally, everyone gets back the play they started and reads how people took inspiration from their writing to create a fully-fledged arc. The final step is to fill in any blanks between the three moments to create a full script. It’s a great way to get some social interaction and get your creative juices flowing!”

Not a writer? Try working on a design or directorial project instead. “I have found a play, and I’m creating a bunch of drawings and notes on what my vision would be for the show as a director,” said Amelia Smith, a junior in Troupe 577 at South Salem High School in Salem, Oregon. “Even though some of the technical aspects are out of my comfort zone, it is really interesting to explore how I would interpret all the aspects of a show. I am also writing a play with my friend through a shared document, phone calls, and video calls.”


If you’re interested in pursuing theatre after high school, either in college or in your community, you’ll benefit from a strong digital portfolio. Avoid the audition or college interview scramble by taking time now to build or revise your website to ensure you’ve put your best foot forward. Update your resume, add sample photos, and create video reels to showcase your work. Get started with these tips for building your personal brand online.

Finally, as you’re honing new skills, don’t forget to make time to socialize. Sometimes what’s most important is simply connecting with your troupe members. “I try to stay in touch with my troupe, and we have online chats about theatre,” said Nyeelah Brown from Troupe 8806 at Blanchet Catholic School in Salem, Oregon. “It really helps because we all are leaning on each other during this time.”

Positivity and flexibility are key as Thespians shine on during this difficult time. According to Johnica Spenneberg, a sophomore in Troupe 8704 at Carroll County High School in Carrollton, Kentucky, “Our troupe is staying connected by uplifting each other! Whether it be new plays to read or musicals to share, we inspire and encourage one another to try new things while at home.”

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