As my time in Germany came to an end I had the perfect end to a wonderful 6 months abroad, with a play that I directed and produced at the school I was working at.
The best thing about doing a British Council Placement is the flexibility that comes with it. It’s well paid, you only work twelve hours a week and it’s up to you to encourage and help the students learn English, and this doesn’t just have to be in lesson time.
After a few weeks settling in and taking part in lessons I decided I wanted to encourage students in a different way, outside of lesson time doing something in English that they would find more fun than writing essays and learning vocab.
I tried to set up an English Theatre Club. I had intended we’d do a couple of improvisation lessons each week and I would ensure that the students were speaking English the entire time we were there. At best I’d hoped we’d perform a play, but I realised this was an unrealistic aim. I mean who would want to speak English in their free time when they could go home early?
10 students did show up to the introduction meeting, and there were 6 at our second meeting. So a relatively small turnout, but nonetheless a success.
However in the third week, 15 pupils came!! We then founded a theatre group and decided to perform the play ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ (in English of course!)
So from November to the end of February we rehearsed intensively for our production, which would take place on the second to last day of my assistantship. As the original Shakespearean script was far too complex (and long) to put on stage for a group of German parents, I spent my Christmas holidays editing and cutting it down and I sent it to the kids during the holidays to learn. I also provided a small booklet explaining what was happening in each scene in German to aid understanding (another opportunity to practice and improve my German).
Various problems did arise however, as expected:
– First of all, our stage went missing (the school had apparently let it out the day before our production…)
– Learning lines was also a big problem, the day before the production a couple of actors still hadn’t learnt their lines…
– Worst of all, our lighting professional (a student in year 13) cancelled the day before the production- meaning that I had to work out the lighting controls on the day of the play.
-Also, how do you build a set with very few materials available?
With a lot of support from my colleagues in the school, the headmaster (who went into a forest nearby and cut down trees for us for the set!!!) and especially the kids in my drama group, we put on the best production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream!! All lines were learnt, we had a fully functioning set of lights and scenery and the kids were absolutely amazing. They had found their own costumes, learnt all of their lines and really warmed to their roles.
In the end we had an audience of over 100 laughing parents, teachers and friends who loved the lively performance. Whilst leading the club completely in English, I drastically improved my German speaking through organising the set, lighting and props and collaborating with the teachers and headmaster to ensure things went ahead smoothly.
The icing on the cake for me, was that alongside the flowers, presents and thank you’s from my theatre team, the kids have decided to carry on the club after I’ve gone and will put on a production of Much Ado about Nothing in September, which without doubt, I will be attending.