The White Horse Theatre@Goethe

4.3.2015. How can pouring custard into a bed, pretending to be a fanatical Christian missionary, and playing tricks on your grumpy, insane neighbor help you learn English?

The 5th and 6th graders at Goethe Gymnasium can tell you all about it! With the help of the White Horse Theatre company, these students explored the realm of performing arts and practiced their English in a whole new way. Classes worked for several weeks with the short play My Cousin Charles to prepare for a special performance put on by actors from the UK. My Cousin Charles is one of many educational plays written for non-native speakers performed all across Germany; the productions are all carried out by White Horse Theatre, Europe’s largest educational touring theatre. The play centers on Dottie and Charles, two cousins who can’t stand each other, but must work together to recover their football from the ir strange, grouchy, and possibly crazy neighbor, Mr. Swother. The story features countless tricks, mishaps, and close-calls.

The students enjoyed acting these moments out in class as well as watching them happen on stage; many even had their own silly prank stories to share with their peers! The classes were also given the opportunity to talk to the actors themselves after the performance during a Question and Answer panel. Students expressed that they enjoyed the play, especially the clever visual effects used to make props come to life. They also found it encouraging that they understood an English play put on by native speakers. As Goethe Gymnasium has an impressive theater initiative in its own right, the addition of theater as a way to learn English was a natural fit for our students.

The Q1 and Q2 students were also able to take advantage of this unique opportunity. They attended a performance of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice put on by the same company later that afternoon. As Shakespeare’s texts are part of the Abitur curriculum, the performance served as an entertaining and important tool to help deepen the students` understanding of his work. For students and teachers alike, the chance to explore, play with, and speak English during this theater project was a delight.