In celebration of 75 years of friendship between Düsseldorf and its Sister City, Reading UK, English Theatre Düsseldorf hosted a two-day Theatre Workshop, in English, from 24th-25th Sept 2022 with a group of students from Düsseldorf and a group of students from Reading.

This workshop, which had originally intended to bring a group of students from Reading UK, to Düsseldorf, its Sister City, was redesigned to accommodate each country’s current Corona regulations. Instead of meetings, presentations, exchanges and interactions in the form of theater games and discussions in person, workshops were prepared in each school’s home country and exchanges were shared between the two schools online with the help of a web camera and Zoom. The theatre weekend concentrated on the theme, “The future of Europe“.

Twenty five students ages 14- 16; half from the Goethe Gymnasium School, Düsseldorf, Germany, and half from the RABBLE Theatre's youth group "Young Company" in Reading, UK, were divided into 2 subgroups, in their home countries. ETD workshop leaders flew to London to work with the Reading students, and RABBLE workshop leaders flew to Düsseldorf to work with the Goethe Gym students. Each group chose it's own theme for the weekend, coming up with the themes; "Assumptions - Your assumptions don't define us" and "Change - Immigration, Climate change and Personal change". Over the two-day period, students participated in research, theatre exercises and games, scene work and improvisation, creating a 20-30 minute performance based on their groups’ topic. This was then shared across borders, online via Zoom, on the final afternoon. Each afternoon included a session where the groups came together online, participating in theater games and discussions altogether from afar. Students from both countries could also share short videos they had made to present their „home cities“ to the other students at their „sister city“ school. The anticipation and excitement of these sessions was thrilling to observe. Perhaps there was even a greater sense of freedom and openness, because there was also a feeling of safety with the cameras. The students could see each other, and hear each other, they could exchange with each other, but they could also jump out of view and quickly hide. This was an interesting element, that is not possible when all are in the same room.

Here is a trailer from our 2021 project, working with students from the Goethe Gymnasium and the Reading School.

The aim of this yearly workshop is to provide young people with a platform to collaborate with students from different cultural backgrounds and to express themselves through theatre on significant international themes. This has worked beautifully so far, even from afar. Students are given a “virtual stage” to express how they feel about current topics surrounding such as Brexit, and the possibility to express themselves on what Europe means to them. T-Shirts with the logo: „ALL OF EUROPE IS A STAGE“ were distributed, and each side had the chance to eat some typical snacks from the opposite countries.

It was a very positive weekend, with exchanges of chat groups and other social media platforms between the students. The students very much enjoyed themselves, as did we! These young people were very excited to make new friends in another Country and the wish was expressed from many members from both sides, for the chance to eventually meet in person one day as was originally planned. And although “the grass is always greener” on the other side, it seems the students also learned to appreciate their own Cities more, as seen through the eyes of their peers.

Photos: © English Theatre Düsseldorf