Alex Perry - Drama in Romania
My name is Alex Perry and I am a mid-career scientist from the United Kingdom. I was at a time of my life where I felt I would like to take a career break. Drama has always been my hobby and so I sought out opportunities to be a drama volunteer. I found the advertisement on the Projects Abroad website for a drama placement in Romania and I applied immediately.
First Impressions of Romania
I didn’t really know anything about Romania prior to arriving, except that it was the land of Dracula. I was also unsure if I would fit in, as I am a generation older than the typical gap-year teenager. Fortunately, I found that the children, my host family, the Projects Abroad staff, my fellow volunteers and the people of Romania to be very welcoming. They showed good humour, warmth and helpfulness and helped make Brasov a home from home for me. Brasov itself is a picturesque, medieval town that has a fascinating history and beautiful walks.
The Speak Out Contest
I became a Projects Abroad volunteer in Brasov in order to use drama to improve the spoken English of children. During my time in Romania I have been surprised by the high standard of English that the school kids have displayed. For example, it was my privilege to be invited to judge a ‘Speak Out’ contest. Speak Out is a national contest that encourages children of all ages to achieve a strong grasp of the English language. I judged a regional heat that was held at the Andrei Saguna School in Brasov.
Each child was challenged to produce a five minute monologue discussing their values and the values of their society. What I saw surpassed ‘textbook’ English. They showed a mastery of English slang and humour and expressed some very complex ideas. The kids did a lot more than simply speak well. They used drama, costumes, assistants and multi-media techniques to give exceptionally polished presentations.
I have seen teenagers in England (where I am from) perform similar exercises. All of the competitors in Brasov achieved a higher standard than their average English counterpart. In England, French and German are the most commonly taught second languages. I have never encountered a 16-year-old English child who could give a monologue in either French or German to the standard that these Romanian children achieved in English.
Teaching Drama to School Children
I taught drama classes at three secondary schools and one elementary school. Also I co-led Projects Abroad’s own drama group in the Projects Abroad Office. During my short time (three months) in Brasov, I have encountered children who are hungry to learn and teachers who are ambitious about what the kids can achieve. For example, I was pleasantly surprised when a group of 11 to 12-year-olds asked us to increase the number of drama sessions with us.
A typical drama class consisted of a warm-up game (‘Burn it’ was a perennial favourite), a focus on a specific drama skill, such as speech or movement, and the performance of a British or American piece of drama. For example, in one class the children re-enacted a whole episode of the British TV series Blackadder.
The other volunteers and I performed a short version of Aladdin for children from care centres. Since these children had limited English we used some Romanian dialogue; ‘cine este’ was my Romanian line. We also included games and music in the show. The kids loved the show.
Children from two of the schools took part in an ‘Oscar Night.’ The Projects Abroad Black Juice Group and the kids of School 27 (Junior Black Juice) performed scenes from the best Hollywood movies. The rich and varied film selection catered to all tastes. For lovers of fantasy we presented Harry Potter and Alice in Wonderland. Comedy fans were greatly amused by The Hangover and Mean Girls.
The romantics were heart warmed by Titanic. And for those of you who like simple yet meaningful drama, we presented Forrest Gump. The tastes of the younger movie fans were met by our presentations of The Three Little Pigs and Goldilocks. The show raised over 700 Romanian lei for a children’s centre.