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British-french teacher brings Western drama to futian

Release time:2017-08-02    To share:  
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MARIE Chames, a 28-year-old British-French drama teacher, believes that no matter what kind of person you are, you can get something from drama. It is suitable for everyone.

Chames teaches children drama at UNI Whole Child Drama English, a branch of Prosen International Education Group in Futian District.

“Drama class is so popular in Europe that children, mostly from 6 years old, will take it,” said Chames, adding that she started taking drama once a week when she was 3 years old. “I feel extremely excited when I see or get on a stage,” said Chames.

Having taken drama classes for 15 years, drama has become not only a hobby for her, but instead a part of her identity. She said that “no matter what I do, it will always be here, even if I don’t practice.”

Drama education is unique

Since the drama class is in English, it is also welcomed by kids who are interested in learning English. Usually children aged 3 to 6 learn words and sentences by flash cards. Teachers will tell the kids a story and then ask them to act it out.

Simple story lines are given in English so kids aged 7 to 14 in a basic drama class can do the acting for short plays accordingly. For the 15 to 18-year-old students, the courses are planned to teach them more theatrical type of plays such as the classical plays of Shakespeare.

In order to write the script for a play, Chames starts by reading the books a number of times and watching various movie versions. The plays designed for children are mostly fairy tales, such as “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “Peter Pan” and “Treasure Island.”

Chames explains the story in the first lesson and allocates characters for the kids. The characters are distributed according to the understanding and skills of the children. Once students are familiar with their lines, they can start focusing on acting. At first, Chames lets the students act out their characters the way they imagine. She just helps them with some details such as intonation or specific movements and facial expressions. Then they start rehearsals, with no scripts allowed in the classroom. Once the students can act properly, the teacher will add the music and start choosing costumes and props. Before the performance, the last few rehearsals are just for improving details.

“For students, drama class is a very interesting and different way to practice their English. It is also a good way for them to breathe a little between their other classes,” said Chames, adding that Chinese students are even busier than an adult working full-time in Europe.

Happiness from teaching

Chames is really happy to see students so passionate by the end of a play that they will ask her what her plans are for the next play and are eager to discuss what they want to do next. After the performances, many parents told Chames that they were happy to see how drama was helping their child.

Marie has been really impressed by the students’ excellent performances. Three weeks before the “Peter Pan” performance, the student who played the main character could not make it, so an 8-year-old boy stepped up and did the character. At first he said that he couldn’t learn the lines in such a short time, but Chames encouraged him and said he could read the lines and she would explain the situation to the public. However, just five minutes before the performance, the boy decided not to bring his lines on stage and he didn’t make any mistakes.

It is really common to see students as young as 3 forgetting their lines, fighting or crying as there is no teacher on the stage during the performance.

“Everything went so smoothly that we couldn’t believe it. I enjoy my job even more than when I started,” said Chames.

Cultural differences

Chames likes new ideas and as absurd theater is popular in Europe, she wants students to learn this style instead of always repeating common stories.

“It’s a kind of humor that basically is everything happens but we don’t understand what’s going on,” said Chames. “For example, someone will say ‘I am hungry’ and the other will say ‘let’s go buy a phone.’ It feels like a big mess, but actually there is a structure in it.”

She then wrote a play following this rare style. “When my students read the lines, they are surprised and believe that the lines are crazy. But the key point of this kind of drama is to act as crazy as you can,” said Chames.

Other difficulties lie in that although her students are pretty good at English, they can’t understand the secondary meaning of the lines. Besides, many Chinese people cannot understand some of the European humor.

Settling down in Futian

Chames started to learn Chinese in high school. And in 2006 when she took a trip to Beijing, she then realized that she wanted to learn more about China, so she chose to study Chinese culture and civilization for her bachelor’s degree and then Chinese history for her master’s degree.

After graduating four years ago, Chames came to China with the goal of practicing her oral Chinese. At first, Chames was planning to stay in China for just one year before going back to London to continue her studies. However, the life here has been so comfortable that she hasn’t made any plans to leave.

Before coming to Shenzhen, she had lived in Huizhou and Changsha, where she found people were less open to different concepts. After moving to Futian District, Chames has made a lot of friends.

Chames has found inner peace here in Shenzhen. She said, “I feel people here are very open to ideas and friendly to expats. I have become more confident and less afraid of trying new things.”