Take the kids to the theater this holiday season

Take the kids to the theater this holiday season

by Karen Bradbury
Stripes Europe

When you look back on your own childhood experiences, what are some of the more pleasant memories that come to mind? Chances are, you remember events that stood out starkly from the everyday routine. A trip to the big city. Grandiose spectacles or sporting events. Affluently dressed strangers speaking in mysterious, foreign tongues.

If you’re currently living in Germany, there’s an easy way to treat your kids to an out-of-the-ordinary experience they’re bound to remember for years to come this holiday season. A professional performance in a state-of-the-art theater might be just the ticket to heretofore uncharted territory.

Parents might hesitate, wondering just how much their child would get out of a show performed or moderated in a foreign language. Consider, however, the impression it would make on a child to see dressed-to-the-nines young people and grown-ups taking their seats in an ultra-modern or Baroque, velvet-seated theater. Many of these spectacles feature characters who speak directly to their young audiences, asking questions the likes of “Where is the villain hiding?” or “Who stole the golden egg?” that encourage the highly engaged viewers to shout out the answers with glee.

You’ll be pleased to learn the costs of performances specifically geared toward children are kept affordable in order to make culture accessible to all walks of society. On the agenda are the old classic ballets such as Swan Lake or The Nutcracker (pay attention to the stature of the group performing and be warned: these tickets will not go for cheap!), as well as Germany’s holiday standards such as Hansel and Gretel or Drei Haselnüsse für Aschenbrödel (Three Wishes for Cinderella).

Into this mix comes a new production or two each year. Although the storyline might be unfamiliar, it will often be possible to prep your child in advance by going online and finding on the event website a plot summary or recommended reading material provided in German. Use an automated translation engine to put the text into English, then read it out loud together as a bedtime story. You might also find an old German cartoon on YouTube. Such preparations will both enhance comprehension and build anticipation for the event to come.

Here’s a quick peek at this season’s crop at some of the children’s holiday productions showing in cities near U.S. military installations in Germany:

Kaiserslautern: The Pfalztheater presents “The Little Witch,” the story of a young witch’s aspirations to gain acceptance from her older peers. To do so, she must pass her witch’s exam, for which she practices diligently, with the help of her good friend Abraxas the raven. There’s just one thing wrong with the magic she conjures—she only wants to make good things happen to the disdain of her elder colleagues. The play is based on the story written by Otfried Preussler.

Performances are offered on dates between Nov. 27 and Dec. 26. Tickets go for 11 euros.

Mainz: The Staatsteater Mainz presents “The Bremen Town Musicians,” based upon a tale compiled by the Brothers Grimm. According to the storyline, Harald the Donkey, Wolfgang the Dog, Annegret the Cat and Tobias the Rooster are getting along in years and no longer useful to their owner. To avoid a gruesome fate, the four strikeout to become musicians in the city of Bremen. En route to the big city, they’re forced to take shelter in a bandit’s hideaway. The city of Bremen offers up this version of the classic fairy tale.

The show is performed on various dates from Nov. 26 and Jan. 2, and ticket prices range from 10 to 15 euros.

Nuremberg: This city known for its children’s theater tradition offers many choices throughout the year, including Theater Salz+Pfeffer’s production of “Die Weihnachtsgans Auguste” (Auguste the Christmas Goose), based on the book by Friedrich Wolf. In this story, acted out by marionettes, a goose raised to be the centerpiece of the holiday table avoids the oven thanks to his friendship with his son Peter and the rest of the family.

The show is offered Dec. 8 through 22. Tickets go for 6 euros per seat.

Stuttgart: Staatsoper Stuttgart offers a production aimed at very young audiences—ages 3 to 6— titled “The Lamb Who Came to Dinner,” based on the book by Steve Smallman, Joëlle Dreidemy and Therese Hochhuth. The simple but touching story, portrayed by puppets, is about the dilemma faced by a big bad wolf when he realizes the little lamb he’d been planning to eat for dinner is a living being with needs and feelings much like his own. This is a so-called “pillow concert,” which lasts just half an hour and features a painting session prior to the show.

The production is offered on Nov. 15 and 22, along with various dates in January. Tickets go for 5 or 10 euros. These so-called pillow concerts are given throughout the year.

Older children might enjoy the theater’s more holiday-oriented production, “Holle,” based on the Frau Holle fairy tale as told by the Brothers Grimm.

Wiesbaden: The Wiesbaden Staatstheater offers “Kleiner König Kalle Wirsh,” based on a book by Tilde Michels. In this tale, Jenny and Max buy a garden gnome to give to their grandfather for Christmas, unaware that trapped within is the dwarf Kalle Wirsch, king of a diminutive inner-earth dwelling race. He’s been put there by the evil Zoppo Trump, who aims to topple him from his throne and seize his crown. The kids join forces to assist and embark upon a journey leading deep into the fantastical world of Kalle’s creatures. For more detail, read the Wikipedia entry about the tale.

The spectacle takes place on selected dates between Nov. 14 and Jan. 2, several showings of which are reserved for kindergartens, schools and other pedagogical institutions. Ticket prices run between 4.50 and 13 euros.   

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