The New (Ab)Normal

School is back, baby! You’ve got your binders. Your planner. Your mask! Yes, it’s a strange year. Heck, strange years at this point. And while we all wish we could put this pandemic behind us, it’s still present in so many aspects of our lives. That includes schools. And while we do hope (and BELIEVE) we’ll be back to normal before the end of this school year, we think seeing how colleges and universities are handling this moment could be useful. The future is always uncertain and–while we can pray we won’t see something like COVID-19 again for a loooong time–there’s always the chance a different event will require similar reactions from government and school officials. So let’s take a look at just a few examples of how schools are reacting to the “new normal.”

The measures taken by schools around the country reflect the variation we’ve seen state-by-state throughout the pandemic. Take Juilliard, for example. Considering New York City has been actively establishing mandates, it shouldn’t be too surprising that Juilliard is requiring vaccination for its community. As is the case with most vaccination requirements, there are allowances for exemptions and secondary protocol for regular testing. If we jump all the way over to CalArts in California we’ll see similar measures. Like Juilliard, CalArts is requiring vaccination for all of its community. Both are also mandating masks in all campus buildings, with some exceptions for special circumstances. Again, not surprising when you consider the manner in which California leaders, and officials in Los Angeles county specifically (where CalArts is located), have dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now let’s scoot on over to Texas State University. TSU may fly somewhat under the radar for many of us, but their Musical Theatre BFA program has seen some strong success in recent years. Texas’ state government has outlawed vaccine and mask mandates altogether. No organization or institution is allowed to require proof of vaccination, or to mandate mask wearing. TSU is doing what it can by saying, in their official releases, that they “strongly urge” students, faculty, and staff to get the vaccine and wear masks. Texas is a bit of a special case in this regard: No other state has actually legislated against protective measures. 

Let’s stay south but head back to the east. Considering applying to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro? UNCG is a school with a very respectable BA program and a growing BFA track as well. UNCG, like TSU, exists outside of a major metropolitan area in a fairly conservative state. But UNCG requires vaccination or at least periodic testing. Auburn University (which also has BA and BFA tracks) is another school in a mid-sized area within a conservative state. Auburn has gone for the middle route: they are encouraging vaccination while not requiring it. But they are requiring masks for anyone inside a campus building.

And last, but certainly not least let’s hop across the pond and look at schools abroad in the UK. In Glasgow, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland isn’t mandating vaccines, but they are requiring masks in all RCS buildings. Early strict guidelines have been somewhat relaxed–they no longer officially require social-distancing–but they still have several measures in place to protect students’ safety, such as suggestions for ventilation in classrooms and restrictions that allow only RCS faculty, staff, and students at performances. If you look at larger schools with drama programs you’re likely to see more strict guidelines. Edinburgh College has stated that it plans on transitioning to in-person classes after starting virtual, but there’s not a lot of information beyond that. Things look slightly less cautious in two schools further south. Both the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and King’s College London are back to in person learning. Neither school is requiring vaccination but differ in their mask requirements. RADA is mandating masks on all of their grounds while King’s College only “recommends” masks in their buildings if the individual is not “exempt” (because of vaccination or other immunity). The UK might differ in overall approach compared to the US, but the internal differences are just as varied.

This is just a quick look at a few overall approaches. We encourage you to do some research on your own. You want to feel safe at the school you choose, and only you know what that means. Again, you can hope this will all be over by the time you’re entering college, but you can’t be sure. And how schools and states react this time around are fairly good predictors for how they’ll handle similar crises in the future. So be informed. If you have questions or just want to talk through your concerns, consider checking out our Wellness Wednesday on the Events page. This is a free weekly session (for Pro members) with our Mental Health Mentor, Magen Huntley.

Tim Giles

Tim Giles is a theatre artist who likes to make work capitalizing on risk, coming together, and a little chaos. He also makes music, bakes a mean loaf of bread, and runs around outside a lot. As a Southerner, he thinks everyone needs to recognize the beauty of one of the best words ever invented: y’all. It’s gender neutral! If y’all start to incorporate “y’all” into y’all’s everyday vocabulary, y’all’ll quickly understand its usefulness.

Don’t Let the Heat Slow You Down

Summer is here! And while you should definitely use some of it to relax, it would be silly not to take advantage of the extra time to do at least a little something for your future. So here are a few ideas of ways you can spend your summer vacation to set yourself up for success down the line.


The past year has been rough for live theatre, but there is one benefit that comes from it: streaming theatre! All you need is a device connected to the internet and you have digital access to more shows than ever before. Seattle Rep, Playwrights Horizons, and the RSC are just three of the theatrical powerhouses releasing old and/or new content for the digital realm. The folks over at What’s On Stage have helped us out by compiling this handy list.


Summer is a great time to get some extra training, and there are so many options out there both online and in person. If you live in a city with a professional or amateur theater, chances are they offer summer training. Colleges and universities are another smart place to look, locally or further afield. See if the college you are considering offers any summer training. This can be a great way to get a little preview of the school and investigate whether it might be a good fit for you. And while many of these opportunities will come with tuition or fees, there are almost always scholarships. Never be afraid to ask if there’s financial assistance available. Our New York Teen Shakespeare Summer Intensive is online again this year and it’s not too late to register click HERE for details!

P.S. If you’ve already spent some time training you should also consider seeing if you can work as a teaching assistant at a camp or workshop you’ve already attended. I can tell you from experience that teaching is the best way to truly learn something.


Summer is a great time to start thinking about what you might be doing after you graduate from high school. The time for applying to colleges will sneak up on you, so get an early start. Here are a few easy things you can do:

  1. Contact a program for more info. – Most theatre departments are going to have brochures and information packets about their programs. Go to the websites of the programs that interest you and find a way to request more information. 
  2. Reach out to people who have gone through programs you’re curious about. – Know someone who’s gone through a BFA program? Reach out to them! Have a teacher who’s sent students to a few different colleges? Ask the teacher if they could put you in touch! Don’t have either of these? Reach out directly to a school and ask if you can talk to a current student or recent graduate! 
  3. See where the jobs are. – Cast a wide net and see where people are working. Go to and scroll through the auditions. Where are the theaters? Where are the film production houses shooting? New York and LA aren’t your only options for building a career, so see if there’s something more attractive out there.
  4. Take full advantage of your Stagepunch Membership and use our quizzes and database to guide your search.


Is there a local theatre in your area doing summer work? See if they need ushers, ticket takers, interns, whatever! If you can afford to give your time to something, this is a great option for the budding professional theatre artist. It will probably give you the chance to see a show or two and get some insight into how theaters operate. 

I want to include this, because volunteering can be fraught. Sometimes your financial situation doesn’t support it. There’s no shame in having to sacrifice a good opportunity so that you can make a little cash. And when I say “work!” I don’t just mean in a theater. Just work! Having money saved up before you go off to college is never a bad thing (especially if you end up going to a BFA program). And if your job stops you from training or working in an established venue, then produce yourself! Get some friends together! Write a script! Perform outside! Most theatre artists will produce their own work at some point, so why not start now?

These are just a few ideas, but there are so many ways to spend your summer that can help you prepare for the future. My last piece of advice: Don’t let it overwhelm you. Bite off only what you can chew. An hour a week researching college programs is better than no hours a week. Find the options that make you excited. And if it scares you a little, chances are you’re headed in the right direction.

Tim Giles

Tim Giles is a theatre artist who likes to make work capitalizing on risk, coming together, and a little chaos. He also makes music, bakes a mean loaf of bread, and runs around outside a lot. As a Southerner, he thinks everyone needs to recognize the beauty of one of the best words ever invented: y’all. It’s gender neutral! If y’all start to incorporate “y’all” into y’all’s everyday vocabulary, y’all’ll quickly understand its usefulness.

Theatre Outside the Classroom: UK Edition

University in the UK is not merely about gaining an academic degree; it’s about gaining life experience and nurturing your passions! It is one of the most exciting places to pick up or continue your involvement in theatre. I went to Edinburgh University and I was surrounded by a vibrant student theatre scene, the Edinburgh Fringe and a network of young creative people, many of whom, like myself, have chosen to pursue a career in theatre. I am grateful for the experiences and life lessons I gained from being a part of student theatre, so, I decided to interview some of my peers from Edinburgh and other UK universities to inspire and encourage our readers to get involved in the theatre scene at their current or prospective future universities.

I asked my interviewees about the top lessons they learned from being a part of theatre societies. In no particular order below, I have listed my favourite points raised by current students and recent graduates of UK universities.  

Prioritize Your Time

‘As an actor, you learn to establish your character early on in the process. Our student drama calendar (pre-COVID) moves quickly, so you have to find ways to access your character quickly as you might only have a four-week-long rehearsal process’ – Anna, Edinburgh University.

‘Don’t procrastinate until the last minute. Starting early by doing small bits is infinitely more useful and way better for your mental health’ – Harry, Edinburgh University.

Think Outside the Box

‘Try new things. I came to university as an actor and singer, but I got involved in other aspects like producing, directing and being a committee member. And it was so much fun! Producing and being the president/secretary especially taught me so many new skills that are relevant even if you don’t go on to a theatre job later. My current drama school loved the fact that I wasn’t just an actress and knew it would see me in good stead further on in my career, as these days being proactive is crucial if you want to make theatre. I’d really recommend getting involved in a production capacity’ – Georgie, Edinburgh University

‘Rigging/Stage Electrics/Lighting Skills. I arrived at uni convinced I was going to be a musical theatre actor, but after a couple of terrible auditions, I gave up on that and fell into tech almost by accident. I had zero experience at that point but have spent the last three years learning as much as I can’ – Emma, Edinburgh University.

‘There are so many different acting styles and mediums to explore. Some you will love and be great at, some not as much. It’s important to be versatile, but it’s not the end of the world if your voice isn’t good enough to perform in a stage musical as that’s only one acting medium’ – Sarah, Bristol University.

‘At Oxford you get a lot of responsibility, so I learnt the basics for how to put on a play from start to finish. i.e., the process of pitching to a theatre/for funding, making a budget, explaining artistic intentions etc.’ – Alex, Oxford University.

Face Your Fears

‘I think rejection and learning to deal with rejection is such an important skill to learn whilst doing university theatre, it builds up resilience for the future when you take that step into the theatre industry after uni. The theatre community at university acts as a microcosm of the theatre industry so you sort of have a trial run of the audition and rejection process’ – Maya, Edinburgh University.

‘You may not always be the best at everything but you’re the best at something. I can’t sing, so I would get so nervy in singing rehearsals – but I found it’s so important to remember that I was cast for a reason. Believe in yourself!’ – Charlie, Exeter University.

Please leave a comment below if you have any thoughts on this piece or any personal experiences of theatre societies at university in the UK you’d like to share! We’d love to keep the conversation going!

Izzy Parriss

Izzy is a producer and director. She graduated from Edinburgh University in 2020 where she directed, produced and stage-managed multiple plays and operas alongside running Candlewasters, a new writing theatre company, in her final year. In addition to being the producing intern for Yonder Window, Izzy produces and directs for the Bomb Factory Theatre, which is an emerging women-led theatre company based in North London. She also produces theatre independently and has worked freelance for a number of theatre companies such as Wessex Grove and the Birmingham Rep.

Let’s Get to Work

Let’s get to work

This year has been painful. We’ve struggled through loss, fear, and hardship. In the arts, we’ve watched theaters close. Stages have been dark. Our collaborative art has suffered under our isolation. This year has reminded us of many things. How far we have to go towards true equity and racial justice. How fragile our trusted systems are. And, maybe most of all, how much we need each other. As young theatre artists, you’ve had setbacks. You’ve taken some serious punches. But real strength is about getting back up and continuing the fight. We all long to be back with our friends, back in the theatre. That longing builds energy. What if, like a volcano, this unspent energy is building up pressure? What happens when it erupts?

YOU, THE NEXT GENERATION OF ARTISTS, will direct that energy into shaping the future of theatre. And we want to be with you on that journey

The light at the end of the tunnel–the end of this isolation, this pandemic–it’s all in sight. All over the world, people are hungry to gather with each other. AND HEY, that’s exactly what we do. People will want to return to the theatre. And people who have never seen a show in their lives could come through those doors just to experience the beauty of a group of strangers sharing a space, shoulder to shoulder, witnessing a story. We’re facing the opportunity for a theatrical renaissance. And it’s not simply about 2021 or 2022, it’s about using this opportunity to create a movement that will last beyond this decade. What that means will be up to you. You are the next generation of movers and shakers.

It seems like the future is uncertain because it is. But that is what’s exciting. Gear up for transformation. We are standing at a crossroads and we get to choose our path. What direction will we go? What will we keep? What will we change? How will we contribute to the bold, vibrant, and innovative future that WE have the opportunity to make? What is your place in this revolution? Because it’s coming.

Let’s get to work.

Tim Giles

Tim Giles is a theatre artist who likes to make work capitalizing on risk, coming together, and a little chaos. He also makes music, bakes a mean loaf of bread, and runs around outside a lot. As a Southerner, he thinks everyone needs to recognize the beauty of one of the best words ever invented: y’all. It’s gender-neutral! If y’all start to incorporate “y’all” into y’all’s everyday vocabulary, y’all’ll quickly understand its usefulness.