Undead and Kicking: German-Speaking Theatre Group on Campus
Erol Boran, Senior Lecturer
“German Theatre DU Inspires with Vampire Play!” Thus ran the headline of the April 2012 edition of Deutsche Presse, a newspaper serving Toronto’s German community. “Staged with much love for detail,” the article stated, “the actors mesmerized their audience from the very first minute. It’s hard to believe that all of them were language students….”
Theatre DU, Toronto’s only German-speaking theatre group, emerged out of the undergraduate course, GER 340H: German Theatre Production. The course was originally developed to facilitate our students’ transition from language to content courses. By focusing on a full-length drama and engaging with it in depth, students use German creatively and deepen their understanding of German literature and culture.
When I first offered the course two years ago, we lacked a budget and had to make do with an improvised stage in an auditorium. But after ten weeks of intense preparation, students performed Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s Physicists to an enthusiastic audience of over 300 people.
Participants appreciated how much their German improved, the interactive and imaginative character of the class, and the profound sense of community they discovered.
This year, a Curriculum Renewal Grant (CRIF) provided funds for a professional stage and intricate light and sound technology. Inspired by feedback from colleagues and overwhelming student interest, I adapted Bram Stoker’s Dracula for the course. Since class enrolment was high, actors were selected by audition, while other students worked hard backstage designing posters and programs, creating sets and costumes, and procuring sponsorships.
At every turn, the students surprised me with their talent and initiative. Performers with no prior theatre experience became their characters (complete with black nail polish!); composers and film editors produced original music and promotional trailers; and savvy business gurus even filmed a video commercial for one of our sponsors. Students also attended a play at the Tarragon Theatre together, followed by a postmortem on staging and acting techniques. True to the title, Drakul(j)a consumed them!
Our efforts certainly paid off, with over 350 spectators attending four performances. Most importantly, both on stage and off, every aspect of the production process was developed exclusively in German! With just two productions under its belt, our theatre course has already had a major impact, enriching the lives of our students, attracting new ones to our program, and creating a valuable link with Toronto’s German-speaking community. GER 340H is exemplary for the intimate and creative learning environment available through the German Department. Like Dracula, our students are thirsty for more!
Rarely have I spent such an entertaining evening at the theatre. The play was skillfully crafted, with great sensitivity for dialogue, plot and timing. The actors were not only talented,
but also irresistibly likable. Stage, set and lighting were absolutely professional.
Watch the trailer