The Choice of the Play

There are many criteria to consider when choosing a play for a language course:  teacher’s familiarity with the author,  the number of students,  their language proficiency,  the linguistic and cultural focuses of the class,  previous.

The choice of the play to stage depends on a number of factors related both to the practical and material aspects typical of each stage production and to the linguistic-cultural aspects of the chosen text. Obviously,  this choice will be determined primarily by the teacher’s familiarity with the work and its author. However,  the teacher does not need to have previous knowledge of theater. The ultimate success will depend rather on the creative collaboration between the teacher and his students,  on the common efforts,  and on the personal interpretation that students and teachers will give the opera and its more or less complex meanings.

Another criterion that should guide the choice is the number of students who do not require having prior experience in theater. The number of students is crucial. A sufficient number of students allows not only the enactment of more complex plays,  but also a more rational subdivision of the responsibilities regarding the practical aspects of the staging:  the translation of the play,  the production of subtitles,  the design of costumes,  the scene setting,  the publicity and the raising of funds,  the realization of programs and posters. It is important that students be involved in all cultural and practical aspects of the play,  the performing and the producing ones. This ensures that you create the sense of community that is important for the final result. A cohesive community is achieved by the teacher encouraging the students to use the language they are learning,  not only in the classroom when they analyze and read the text,  or on the stage when they rehearse their roles,  but also when they address all the issues related to the production, thus creating ongoing opportunities to use language in communication. Language is the strongest bond for cementing a community. Thus,  the target language becomes a means of communication for the execution of the play,  which is the final and ultimate goal of the project.

The level of the language proficiency for the students involved in the project is important in the selection of the play;  contemporary works or works that reflect a standard and living use of the language are preferable. In fact,  the final goal of teaching a language through theater is to closely examine the psychodynamic aspects of colloquial speech,  of the language as a moment of encounter among different individuals and cultures. The primary purpose of a project like this is to enhance the language skills of students with vocabulary and expressions that they can really use in everyday communicative practice. In this perspective,  non-contemporary or dialectic texts may present additional difficulties, as they are far from the language actually spoken. However,  if the teacher is interested in a particular historical period, in a minority language or in a certain geographical area,  and if the language level of the students allows it,  such plays can represent an interesting challenge both in the language learning process and in the translation activity.

Any previous theatrical or cinematographic performance of the chosen play can facilitate its understanding and interpretation,  providing suggestions and ideas on its staging. However,  this condition should not be a discriminating factor in the choice of text to represent.

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