If you have watched any Musical Theatre Nerd Alert videos put out by the MFA Musical Theatre Class of 2016 at San Diego State, you’ll know that that’s the traditional greeting at the top of every episode. These video podcast episodes started out as class assignment, but they have turned into a way to impact burgeoning musical theatre lovers and share our love of the genre with the next generation.
Our professor charged the class with finding a way to share the information we had gathered in the previous semester, mostly using the Musical Theatre Archive at SDSU, in a new, trendy way. After unsuccessfully attempting to build a website, our minds centered around trying to make a video for each of the composers we first presented in our musical theatre history class. Thankfully, one of our classmates had experience in video production and even created her own production company specifically for this project! She took the lead as production manager (an essential part of any project done by committee) and assigned tasks. First, scripts had to be created: two classmates took the original presentations, pulled out the highlights and peppered them with puns and jokes. Secondly, the theme song had to be written and recorded – which was my job! Then came the time to film the actual episodes. We all worked the 6 hours we had with the camera and sound guy as talent, PAs, boom op, assistant directors, etc. Everyone had the opportunity to have a say in what their episode would feel like and also contribute to the overall brand. It was a great learning experience for all involved.
We released the episodes on YouTube over the summer between our first and second year of graduate school. While it did not go viral, it has definitely made an impact. Just a few weeks ago we received an email from a high school teacher who has used the videos in her high school theatre class to give them a taste of musical theatre history. She says her students respond positively to the length of the videos and also to the information. On a personal note, I was happy to hear they love the theme song and run around singing it all the time.
Videos are a fantastic way to share new music, to give audiences a glimpse behind the curtain and into the rehearsal process, and to use as a marketing tool, but we also have to remember the profound effect videos can have in the classroom. This next generation is more visual than ever – if students can watch someone talk about a topic in an interesting way, rather than reading it in a textbook, it is more likely to stick. I believe we will see a significant rise of video being used in arts classrooms in the next decade and it is our responsibility to make sure that it is being handled in the most useful way possible. For example, I don’t believe that a student can learn to act or to sing or how to dance from a video, but I do believe that we can learn so much by watching performances of successful, talented actors and actresses that were captured on film. At SDSU, our hope is to share our wealth of information. Having one of the largest musical theatre archives in the country is a luxury, but also a responsibility. We are not doing the next generation any good by keeping all of it locked away in a small room in a basement; we have to share the information by using tools that students understand. These videos are a wonderful method of learning for students of all ages and a great learning experience for those of us desiring to be educators.
“Now you know all there is to know about Musical Theatre Nerd Alert!” I challenge you to watch one or two and tell me what you think. Who knows, it might inspire you to share your own nerdiness!
We're celebrating musical theatre videos all month long with #MusicalTube! Click here to learn more about how you could win free songbooks by entering the #MusicalTube video contest.