Drama Workshop, or: the best part of my student life

The Drama Workshop

             Originally posted in June 2016

Even before launching my first website, I was beyond certain that I’m going to mention the Drama Workshop a lot. So I challenged myself to write a post that would briefly but concisely summarise what this thing is and why it has played such an important role in shaping my life.

Drama Workshop, The:
(n.); refers to the English-language theatre group founded in 2007 at the CFG,
Jay’s secondary school in Schwandorf, Bavaria, Germany.

I attended the initial meeting when the project began under the patronage of Mrs Viorika Fröhlich, my English teacher at the time. She thought that doing theatre would be a great way for students to improve their language skills, and her idea paid off. It also took on a life of its own very, very soon.

Imagine a group of thrown-together students between the ages of 12 and 14 tasked with performing Tom Stoppard’s “A Separate Peace”. The play is about Mr Brown who takes up residence at a nursing home despite being in perfect health. I haven’t read the play in ages, but I still remember a lot, mostly from the interactions between Mr Brown and Nurse Maggie, whom I portrayed.

So the group of students is studiously rehearsing for a performance in the school’s Theaterraum (too small to be called an auditorium, really)… until they realise they might need some props, some stage design elements, or heck, costumes!

Our teacher, albeit incredibly passionate about this project, had zero theatre experience but she did give us free reign with our ideas. We pulled of a complicated set design – Mr Brown paints the walls of his room over the course of the play, which we mimicked bloody brilliantly – and laid the foundation for years of do-it-yourself student creativity.

Each year, we’d perform a play and each year anew we’d take charge of the production, organising financial support from the school’s sponsors, designing and printing posters, asking for newspaper coverage, and so much more.

It was the Drama Workshop that showed me the power of collective creativity, that introduced me first to acting, then to directing and writing for the stage.

It was through the Drama Workshop that I developed my organisational skills, that taught me to lead a team of creative individuals and navigate the difficulties that arise from so many great minds under one umbrella. It was the Drama Workshop that gave me an opportunity to grow, to form and deepen friendships, and that enabled me to truly enjoy going to school. I spent more time in the theatre room than in class, if you add up rehearsals, weekends spent working on the productions, or just enjoying some free time within that safe haven that I was able to visit even after passing my A-levels.

I stayed on as a sort of interim creative director of the Drama Workshop, helping a younger teacher learn the ropes of student theatre. When I eventually had to leave for real due to my move to Berlin for my Bachelor degree, I delayed returning the key to the theatre room until the last possible moment. And yes, I sat down on the edge of the stage in the empty room before handing the key over, and mourned that the best part of my student life had come to its inevitable end.

I still remember so many things from this time, and the lessons the Drama Workshop taught me will forever resonate within my work ethic and my work. I hope thinking of our time together, painting set pieces and giving each other slogans for our Drama Workshop t-shirts or going to London as a group, is just as bright a beacon in everyone else’s mind as it is in mine.

PS: In case you’re wondering, my t-shirt reads ‘control freak’. My nickname as creative director uses to be ‘dictator’, though I believe the latter was more ironic and fond than serious…