Joel Smith, theatre teacher in Ft. Collins Colorado discusses teaching drama during a pandemic

Pandemic Teaching Tip #6: Monologues

How do I teach theatre during a pandemic? *sigh*

We can help! We've been gathering pandemic teaching success stories from teachers and directors all over the country. Whether you're teaching over Zoom or socially distanced in a classroom, we have ideas for you!

Teaching Theatre during a Pandemic with Bryce McWilliams


Teaching idea from Joel Smith, drama teacher from Fort Collins, Colorado.

How have you had to adapt your theatre teaching during the pandemic?

Monologues! Way more monologues! This has been a real challenge: I knew that our classes and program used a lot of group work and exercises, but I didn’t really appreciate how collaborative theatre is until I had to keep students separated! 

One of the things that has worked really well for me has been to ask the students for help in making things work. Several times I have gone over the lesson or activity, and asked them how we can modify it to follow our safety protocols. They come up with really creative solutions, and I think they appreciate that I don’t have all the answers either. We are all adapting to this together, and when we are all involved in the problem-solving, it helps bring us together as a company and creates awesome activities and processes I never would have come up with on my own!

We just closed our fall production. We were going to do “Romeo & Juliet” but all the fighting and kissing and killing just isn’t Covid-friendly, so we did “Spoon River Anthology” instead. It’s a show with a small cast, they all speak monologues and there is very little interaction. And we could spread them out across a large area. We got a license to record the show and stream the recording for 4 shows. And we filmed outside so the actors could take their masks off for their monologues.

It turned out really well! We rehearsed online as individuals and in groups (online rehearsals are...weird) until tech week, when we moved outdoors. My tech crew worked with our district Communications department to learn how to film and edit the show. Our costume crew did all the designs from home and then we had to try and find things that matched their designs. Even though it was challenging, I think the students really appreciated being able to put on a show (without Zoom!)

Have your own pandemic teaching tip? Share it with us so we can pass it on! Email

Check out some of our other pandemic teaching tips:

#4 - Pivoting and Adapting

#5 - Check In and Appreciation Circle

Read more from Joel in our Theatre People series!

More about Joel

Joel Smith has been working in theatre for over twenty-five years. He has a BA in Psychology from the University of Redlands, CA, and a Masters of Theatre Studies from Southern Oregon University. He worked at the Magic Theater in San Francisco, the Cedu School in Southern California, and Rim of the World High School in Lake Arrowhead, CA, where he taught theatre and produced productions for 10 years.

This is his 11th year at Poudre High School, in Ft. Collins, CO. Joel has appeared in numerous productions, including What the Butler Saw, You Can’t Take it with You, Accomplice, and Richard III. He has directed numerous plays and musicals, including The Fantasticks, Man of La Mancha, The Laramie Project, and more recently, Avenue Q, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and James & the Giant Peach. He has designed sets and lighting for various productions, including The Crucible, Camelot, Annie, Twelfth Night, and Into the Woods. In his very limited off-time, Mr. Smith enjoys skiing, reading, and relaxing with his wife, Melanie, and his children, Jackson and Taryn.

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.