News from the U-M RC German Program
Updated in May 2003 from the RC Fall '02 Alumni Newsletter by Janet Hegman Shier

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Among the most exciting developments in the German Program in 2002 and 2003 were new opportunities for students to go abroad. In addition to the opportunity to travel to Berlin with RC German Lecturer Karein Goertz and Mick Kennedy (Architecture) new options exist for RC students to spend some time in Munich.

In Summer 2001, Professor Hans Soeder (the Munich Resident Director for the Munich Junior Year Abroad program that operates through Wayne State University) invited me to join the Advisory Board of that program. I immediately related to Soeder, an energetic director of the oldest study abroad program in Germany. He said that he had tracked me down because he wanted to discuss improvements he hoped to make to his program. Soeder had gotten to know several outstanding RC German students studying in Munich in recent years, liked their way of thinking and learning, and wanted to meet their teacher. We brainstormed ways to collaborate in order to expand students’ experience learning German, studying abroad, and studying theater. Enticed by the prospects for future collaboration, I spent Winter break in Munich making plans to pilot a theater and arts trip with students over Spring Break 2002. Four RC German students (three from Deutsches Theater and one from Intensive German I) joined me for the first nine-day Spring Break trip, which featured daily doses of theater (including a behind-the-scenes look at marionette theater) , visits to Munich’s art museums, a visit to a Waldorf school, and day trips to Regensburg, Dachau, and Salzburg (where former RC guest professor, Klaus Schmidt and his wife, Ingrid, led us on a tour of the city). In 2003, four students from Deutsches Theater traveled with me. We met up with a Dt. Theater alum, who found us free housing (Thanks, Carol!) and joined us at a couple of performances. We saw theater every night and sometimes even during the day. There was plenty of time to relax and check out places on our own, too. The weather cooperated beautifully, unlike last year when it rained and sleeted 9 days straight!

Ultimately, JYM Resident Director Soeder is interested in grooming students who study in Munich for Fulbright and DAAD scholarships to do graduate work in Germany. His hope is to identify excellent students and to connect them with a mentor in Germany in their field of interest. Soeder and JYM Director Mark Ferguson (Wayne State University) have already devised a Scholars program, which allows students who show promise in German to get to know Munich. As part of that program, a group of outstanding American students studying First Year German were selected to come to Munich for a week-long August stay with programs designed to improve their German and introduce them to Munich and student life in Germany. From ten strong students who began RC German in Winter 2002, we nominated Karen Holmes, a first year RC student from Plymouth-Canton, on the basis of her remarkable commitment to the program and her competence in German. Karen excelled in German I and is already capable of speaking and writing almost error-free German. She was one of ten students selected nationwide for the first annual Munich Scholars Program .

In May 2003, RC student Lauren Mitchell was announced as the first recipient of the Stroibel Award, which will provide Lauren with $4,000 towards her studies in Munich next year. Lauren was an important member of Deutsches Theater projects in 2002 and in 2003 and she was a participant on the first Spring Break Munich trip. Upon her return to Munich, she will already be very familiar with the contemporary German Theater scene and well-poised to take advantage of Munich's theater offerings.

The RC German Program’s Deutsches Theater continues to grow. Since Fall 2001, the program has received funding and support from the RC, RC Deutsches Theater alumnae, the Goethe Institut Chicago and Arts at Michigan. We were able to host the student cabaret troupe "Kabarett ROhrSTOCK" for a workshop and performance in 2002, we hosted the Anselm König Band in 2003, and we have sponsored a number of other workshops for students. These included a workshop with Augusto Boal, mask-making workshops, speech and accent reduction workshops with a German "Sprechkuenstlerin" (speech performance artist), and movement workshops with local artists Michael Lee and with Gayle E. Martin. These workshops and the Munich trips culminated in our 18th annual Deutsches Theater play, Blaubart, a contemporary version of the Bluebeard tale, staged in 2002 and in our 2003 performances of two plays, Die Eisprinzessin, and Nacht mit Gästen (which was presented as black light theater).

I look forward to continuing to develop connections with our new Munich friends. A long-time dream of mine has been to expand the RC Deutsches Theater experience by having students accompany me to Germany to see theater. In May 2003 JYM brought me back to Munich to give workshops to students studying abroad. Essentially, by providing American students in Germany with experience witnessing and doing foreign language theater, the RC German Program is taking the RC Arts Practicum experience abroad. Soeder and I have already met with local Munich professors, artists, and community members to begin discussing the potential for multi-lingual intercultural theater that explores issues of common interest between Germans and foreigners studying in Germany.

May 2003

© 2003 Janet Hegman Shier

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