In the fall I received a production of The Pregnancy Project from this school in Germany. I was intrigued – we get quite a few productions in International Schools, where there is a base of English speaking students. But this was most definitely a German school learning English as a second language. Given my rudimentary french from high school I can’t even imagine putting up a play in another language! I contacted the teacher and asked if I could ask the students a few questions. Stephan, Philipp and Robin were kind enough to answer, again with amazing English. Here’s what they said.
1. What type of school are you at?
We go to a typical German grammar school. It starts at the age of ten and, depending on whether you want to pass your A-levels or not you either stay until you are 16 or 19. Our school has a bilingual branch, which offers subjects like geography, history and social sciences in English from grade 7 onwards, and which is also the reason why we have drama in English in year 12. Most of the pupils in the drama class have taken part in the bilingual branch, some do not.
2. How often do you put up plays in English?
Every year the bilingual drama class in year 12 presents a play in English. In the past few years, the classes presented a range of productions from Agatha Christie’s Black Coffee (2006), Alan Ayckbourn’s Man of the Moment (2008) and Confusions (2010) as well as Ben Elton’s Popcorn (2009) and an adaptation of Sleepy Hollow (2011). There are also drama clubs for the little ones as part of the extracurricular programme of the school, depending if there are enough volunteers.
3. What is the level of English do you understand?
We have been learning English for about eight years. In years 5 and 6, 6 lessons a week are English lessons, preparing for the subjects taught in English from year 7 onwards. We will also take bilingual A-levels in an English Advanced Course and in Social Sciences or History next year in 2013.
4. Why did you choose The Pregnancy Project?
Why did we choose the play? Firstly, we thought it is a funny play with a serious topic that affects us personally in a mixture that might appeal to an audience of fellow pupils and parents. Secondly, there is a majority of girls in our course which is also the case in ‘The pregnancy project’ and which makes a casting of roles easier. Everybody should have a part to play onstage if he or she wants to. Another aspect is that it is possible to put up the play especially in terms of setting and props without being a drain on a very tight budget.
5. What did you think of the play?
A large majority of the pupils in our course preferred ‘The Pregnancy Project’ to other plays: At the beginning of the term, everybody in class suggested a play after a thorough search on the relevant websites and databases. The then five most popular plays made it to a play-reading of selected scenes, and finally a class vote decided on The Pregnancy Projected with an overwhelming majority.
6. How long does it take to rehearse a play in a second language? Is it a longer process than doing something in German?
From our limited experience of nearly a year of rehearsals, the process of a rehearsal does not take much more than it would take if it would be a German play. As we are a bilingual course we are used to and confident in speaking English and using English as a language of communication rather than learning it only in classes of English. This makes rehearsing and playing all the more appealing and fun!
7. What’s the rehearsal process like? Do you discuss the play in German or in English?
This depends on the situation. Sometimes it is easier to discuss scenes in German but we also do it in English. It is also funny to see that if we discuss it in German we most likely use a lot of English terms in between because it somehow comes along.
8. What is the audience response to English plays?
Generally, the audiences’ responses are quite positive (at least in the last few years), mainly because plays in English are very unusual. Nevertheless, it developed to be a normal project at our school, which takes place once a year, because the people in Recklinghausen tend to like them a lot.