AiR stories

13 April 2021

In response to COVID-19 ISTA has had to adapt and innovate our previous ways of working to a more online environment. While these online experiences will not replace our face to face events in the future, it’s going to be an important part of our offer going forwards.

Below you’ll find some stories, images and videos exploring what our online Artist in Residency (AiR) experiences have been like so far, so check them out and get in touch ( if you’re keen to give it a go.

Keep checking back too – we’ll be updating this page regularly.

Singapore American School with Lian Sutton
April 2021
AiR focus: Movement and masks
Length of experience: 4 days
Type of AiR experience: Our first face to face AiR experience of the year!

A breath of fresh air and a bit of normalcy was restored this week, when Singapore American School was able to welcome guest artist Lian Sutton IN PERSON!  The middle school drama students explored the concept of Viewpoints and using the four elements to explore character and movement. 

Singapore American School with Bill Bowers
September 2020
AiR focus: Mime
Length of experience: 1 day (spread over 4 dates)
Type of AiR experience: Both fully online with students logging into the AiR from their homes and a hybrid model with students in the classroom and the artist projected on a screen/on iPads within the classroom.

I admit that the idea of a virtual guest artist didn’t originally appeal to me. However, the flexibility of this system really opened it up for me to tailor your guest artist experience to a specific curriculum or grade level. Rather than having an artist in for a day, I was able to hire Bill Bowers, a highly recognised expert in mime, to work with my grade 7 students once a week for a month. One of our classes was on Zoom, however, the next three classes were a digital hybrid model with the students back in the classroom and Bill up on the big screen. Some days we projected Bill to the front for group lessons and other days I had multiple iPads set up so he could work with small groups of students more individually. Bill was able to give the students assignments to prepare, watch their performances and give individualised feedback to each group. It was an amazing use of funds and the students are still buzzing from the experience.

Leanne Fulcher
Middle school drama teacher
Singapore American School

Dulwich College, Singapore and Marymount International School, London with Greg Ruhe
May 2020
AiR focus: Puppetry
Length of experience: 2 days & 1 day
Type of AiR experience: Online

When the pandemic hit, I thought I would have never work as a puppeteer again. Then, as luck would have it, ISTA called. Suddenly I found myself teaching an AiR for Dulwich College Singapore and presenting a master class at Marymount International School London, all from my home in Houston, USA. Fortunately I could still share my expertise and passion of puppetry even though it had to be virtually. I would have rather been face to face with the students and teachers but this virtual experience was rewarding and allowed for exciting new opportunities. I could at long last share with my ISTA family my giant puppets and puppetry possibilities that would normally not fit in my suitcase when physically travelling to events.

Dulwich College Singapore had originally scheduled me for a springtime 3-day face to face AiR that sadly had to be cancelled due to the pandemic. I could no longer make the journey from the United States to Asia but I could still share my expertise and passion for puppetry virtually. The teachers and I collaborated and decided to switch gears from our original plan of exploring shadow puppetry with 4th graders studying Greek mythology. With the students in lock down making Greek god and goddess puppets from things found around the student’s homes seemed a better option.

This opportunity taught me that it is much easier teaching a class live but – after I got over the shock of having to watch myself on video and learning how to edit out the worst of my bloopers – I really enjoyed the virtual experience. In a prerecorded video series the students were introduced to a variety of puppetry styles and given step by step instructions on how they themselves could create their own unique puppets. The students were also coached on puppet manipulation, vocalisation, characterisation, entrances and exits and storytelling. The AiR culminated with the students posting videos of their innovative puppets in dramatic action. I would much prefer travelling the world and doing hands-on puppetry with my students but life goes on for this puppeteer teaching artist.

I was then given the opportunity to share my passion for puppetry via a Zoom master class at Marymount International School in London, United Kingdom. I fretted over whether or not I could keep the student’s attention for a solid hour of interaction through a computer screen. As soon as everyone signed in and muted their microphones, I was introduced and — lights, camera, action! – I felt my old stage performer energy kick in but this time I was a video star!

I engaged the students through a series of puppeteer warm ups and imagination exercises. The students, seen through their Zoom window were actively engaged. It was thrilling to have the opportunity to share several puppets from my international collection as the students made insightful inquiries and excitedly suggested ways to include puppetry into their school curriculum. Before I knew, it our hour was up and I was wishing for more time to share my passion with these incredibly interested students. This brief experience in London did not allow me the opportunity to have tea with the queen but Marymount International School made me feel like the Prince of Puppeteers.

Greg Ruhe
ISTA artist

Marymount International School, London with Bill Bowers
May 2020
AiR Focus: Mime
Length of experience: 1 day
Type of AiR experience: Online

I was amazed how well an online AiR worked. Over the course of lockdown and online theatre learning I booked two AiRS and my students thoroughly enjoyed them and were actively engaged throughout. This supported further independent and collaborative learning as the artists linked ideas with their specialities and also to our class work.

Helen Szymczak

Tanglin Trust School, Singapore with Louise Clark
Various in 2019 & 2020
AiR focus: Curriculum
Length of experience: 7 days
Type of AiR experience: Online

During this AiR experience I worked closely with Theresa (the Junior school drama teacher) over a number of weeks looking at the curriculum of several year groups. Where the classes were working with a text I was able to take on the role of a character either within the text or I would create a character who sat alongside the fictional world who could add another perspective or start to create a world beyond that so the student’s imaginations could take flight. As these were for drama lessons, the short films I created were used as examples for the students to watch and then make their own character and then write and film a short performance. This structure would work just as well as an example or stimulus for a written task.

In cases where the year groups were working with a theme or historical period I was able to research the area and create characters within that framework to provide historically accurate information about living in the times but also add a ‘real life’ element and an emotional response allowing students to create their own version or to create something in response to my film. The possibilities for this sort of work are endless, including allowing me to step into classrooms virtually, in role, and speak directly with students to really grab their attention and inspire their imaginations.

As we were sometimes working with text, I would record an audio version of me reading extracts from or, in some cases, the full texts in order that students could access the story regardless of their reading levels. I also created ‘how to’ videos about creating role play spaces at home based on the previous work I have done at TTS over the years working on the role play space in Year 3.

Louise Clark
ISTA artist