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The Arts Continue to Flourish Through Distance Learning
Posted 5/27/20

Zoom Screenshot

Mr. Joseph D'Aquino's IB Theater Distance Learning via Zoom with guest speaker Martin Benson.

Newport-Mesa Unified School District (NMUSD) is known for its commitment to all forms of visual and performing arts. As a strong proponent of creative expression, NMUSD offers visual and performing arts opportunities at all 32 schools, and hosts district-wide festivals in arts, music, theatre, and dance. Our schools have strong community and industry relationships to provide tangible opportunities for students, even through Distance Learning. 

One example is Newport Harbor High School (NHHS) teacher Mr. Joseph D’Aquino, who teaches International Baccalaureate theater and collaborates with the school television station, TAR TV. As he planned for Distance Learning he immediately began coordinating with possible guest speakers to continue to provide enriching opportunities for his students and connect them with professionals in the arts to learn and dialogue with them via their zoom classes. 

Mr. D’Aquino collaborated with his network of peers, which include actors, playwrights, art professors, voice over specialists, producers and production executives, talent managers, video editors, and more.

Guest speakers shared their background and insights into their particular industry and offered guidance and opportunities available for students' future goals in the arts, entertainment, film, production, and more. Students also had opportunities to ask questions and truly engage in dialogue. Some of the guests and unique experiences include:

  • Martin Benson, theater producer and director, who co-founded the South Coast Repertory and is a NHHS theater student’s grandfather.

  • Chris McLaughlin, production executive at NBC/Universal television, provided students a virtual tour of the television studios.

  • Chandler Reed, actor, most recently in The Book of Mormon Broadway production.

  • Heidi Skok, opera singer and vocal specialist, listened to students sing and offered feedback on their vocal performance.

“The guest speakers have been thrilled at the opportunity to share their profession with the next generation,” said Mr. Joseph D’Aquino. “Since productions nation-wide are on hold due to the pandemic, we’ve been able to provide opportunities that would not otherwise be accessible.”

Theater students also were assigned projects such as developing two playwright exercises, creating an artistic/professional resume, and creating an audition book, all related to their future professions, as they took into account information and feedback from guest speakers.

Mr. D’Aquino has been teaching in the Arts and English department at NHHS since 2016. He has more than 20 years of professional experience in theater and television and is still active in the industry, most recently writing and directing a play. As Distance Learning continues, he hopes to continue providing students with opportunities to learn and make connections to the real-world as students plan for their future.

For the last several years NHHS theater has grown their department; six student-managed productions were planned for the 2019-2020 school year but only four were completed due to school closures. Additionally, he incorporated professional actors into the school productions so students have the opportunity to include professional credits on their resumes upon graduation.