Doing drama workshops on zoom with PAP: Zoom or doom?

I want you to picture the scene … take a moment to breathe in that early Wednesday morning smell. You know the smell. The one where you think, hey this week is almost over, things are going to pick up and everything is going to be OK. A scent that’ll change everything. It’ll help you swallow the world, burp it up and finally, transform it into a glittery rainbow of your dreams. You know that smell? No? Well, I do. I love that smell. And this moment was that smell; no in fact, it was the perfume of that first, fateful zoom training session. The aroma of my return to working with other talented and passionate individuals with a desire to make a difference for young people.

I’m sat, staring. Staring hard at a group of strangers and acquaintances all brought together to try and help make autistic girls experiences more known and understood. I’m armed with a smile, coffee and a slight smell of fear. And my lucky, holey red sock. Everything one might need to begin a fruitful relationship. Well, that is if you ignore the elephant in the room. The polka dot, frizzy wigged elephant in the room, trumpeting her trunk and stealing all the peanuts elephant in the room. You see, like many others… we’re not in the same room. We’re on zoom. Zoom, the greatest asset in this post-pandemic universe bar none! Well, maybe bar some, but life finds a way. It has to. So here we are.

Right, some context; I’m a professional actor, theatre-maker and drama facilitator who lives and breathes theatre … woo! By this point into lockdown, I’ve been running zoom drama workshops with professional actors and my youth theatre for a few months. I’ve seen countless theatre shows on zoom, comedy sketches, charity events, music festivals, a bloke juggling ping pong balls … all on zoom. And … I’m sick of zoom. Isn’t everyone? No. Because actually zoom is an unexplored medium for connecting with people and can open up access possibilities on a whole new level, which is honestly, so exciting and deeply needed. Not everyone thrives in big social gatherings. Zoom will allow us at PAP (Playing A/Part) to visit multiple schools, stay safe and connect with young people in a new and futuristic way.

I was excited to get stuck in on that chilly Wednesday morning; to share my knowledge and experience with the PAP team and be inspired. To wiggle my toes in my lucky, red holey sock and dive in. To begin. So, it does. A whirlwind day of creativity and ideas. All jam-packed into a Wednesday. An everyday, run of the mill Wednesday. Here, we are, renaming ourselves “poo” and “flying dino girl”, making zoom dens and discussing intently on the right tone and timbre for a ‘ding’ sound. We even laughed and jiggled as we all decided that being a one-eyed alien was by far the best virtual mask / zoom filter one could have and just … played. Really played to find the fun in zoom. To break the barrier of the screen and find the wonder and mischief that is there in the digital, blue-lit wonderland if you let it. And it was these discoveries, these moments of play and connection that we are taking with us to the schools. Ready to share and innovate as a team. Ready to prove that zoom isn’t done. Not by far. In fact, it’s just the beginning.

By Kirsty Blewett