An Interview with Sabine Rimmele

Sabine, you are a drama and theatre teacher at the Werner von Siemens Gymnasium. Do you teach other subjects there as well?  

Actually, my subject expertise is not theatre at all. I studied mathematics, German and psychology, so those are the classes I teach. I am also a school psychologist, helping the kids, talking to the parents and teachers, and to whomever needs my help. I guess you could say I just slipped into teaching theatre topics because it is my love and I so enjoy showing the students the fun of it. I teach a theatre class, a theatre group, and a P-seminar, but my primary responsibilities are mathematics and German and, sometimes, psychology.

What is a P-seminar?

They are project oriented seminars that are practical oriented or more science focused. Students in the Oberstufe must take one course of each for which they receive a grade. They can choose to satisfy the practical seminar requirement through a theatre project. This year, for example, they wrote, managed, acted and filmed a corona-conforming play which was really great. It’s the only theatre-oriented course where the students can get a grade that counts for their Abitur.

Sabine Rimmele, assistant director

It seems like a long journey from math, language and psychology to drama. How did you discover your passion for theatre?

I first discovered my love of theatre while I was in a theatre group in school. I was backstage at first and I’ve been hooked on theatre ever since. I was acting in school and then again when I was working in the US as an au pair. Then, after a ten-year gap, I joined Entity (in 2010), attended their workshops, and rediscovered my passion for English speaking theatre.

I was able to get a small part in a play that first year, which I really enjoyed. It was so much fun, and I was immediately hooked with Entity! In subsequent years I had another small part in Cinderella and a bigger part in The Women. I loved the feeling of people working as a team. They were all so creative, so it was a lot of fun. I love acting in English. I love meeting people from other countries because it is so rewarding and it just adds so much to your life.

You have also been involved with the production side of theatre. What was your motivation to explore that aspect of theatre projects? What did you learn from those projects?

When I became a teacher at the Gymnasium, there was already a theatre group. Since I love acting so much and know what a great feeling it gives you when you are on stage, I wanted to get immediately involved with supporting it. I wanted to be part of giving the kids the opportunity to experience that same joy. I guess I got involved in Entity backstage activities for various productions so that I could do a better job on the production side for kids in our theatre group. I worked as part of the set-build crew for Memory of Water and assistant stage manager for Masquerade and enjoyed both of those productions so much.

My experience is that acting gives the kids so much and that’s why I love doing it. It’s not that producing is my favourite thing – I really would rather be on stage – but for the kids it is so worth it. To see the look in their faces and to see them blossoming – it’s so great because they learn so much and grow so much from it.

I was personally fortunate enough to be part of the Entity team that supported your production of Jungle Book last year. That was really a big, well-done production. Was that your biggest theatre project?

Actually, no. We had done many workshops and full productions prior to Jungle Book because that’s what theatre groups do. We did our biggest production a couple of years ago. It was a musical version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that got the whole school involved. All of the school theatre groups were involved: different musical groups, the choirs, and the instrumental groups. Jungle Book was also a big production and it was done as part of my first theatre class.

Full productions require, I presume, a lot more time, money and organization than smaller ones. What do you see as the value of this larger investment for the kids?

Will, I should begin by saying that I love doing smaller productions (perhaps 30 minutes or so) like those we do for the fifth-graders. Usually the kids write the play themselves! Nevertheless, the larger productions are more fun for the kids. More can be done with the stage and costumes so that it is more satisfying to show to the parents (and, of course, more entertaining for them as well).

Involving the kids in all the creative processes lets them see all sides of a theatre project, which is really important. I think the kids need to learn that it is not just acting. Most kids (and many adults for that matter) simply don’t really understand what it means to do theatre. They think it is “well, I go on stage, I act, and that’s my part.” Of course, that’s important – but that is actually the reward, not the part. The real work is the backstage work – and that is really a lot of work. I want the kids to experience how much work it really is, but that it is also fun – it’s fun to set the stage up, it’s fun to help people backstage, it’s fun to run sound and light and all the other technical stuff.

Obviously a bigger production gives you more opportunity and variety of tasks for the kids to work on. With Jungle Book, for example, we had tasks like creating masks, painting the kids’ faces, and so on. That was all so much fun.

Werner von Siemens Gymnasium signed a cooperation agreement this year with Entity Theatre. How will that contribute to your future goals to support theatre for young people.

As I said, we have been working with Entity for years. There were people coming for our “English Day”, leading good workshops, telling the kids about their lives in other countries. We had the tech guys coming every year to teach my tech kids what is possible with our equipment and how to do that.

So we have been working together successfully for many years and finally formalized it just this year with our cooperation agreement. I love it so much that is finally there because now we will do even more. There have already been so many Entity people coming to me and saying how much fun it was going to be, that they wanted to be involved and hoped to brainstorm new ideas together.

It also gives me the opportunity to have Entity in the school. Now I’m allowed to hang up posters and things, put things on the homepage of our website (and on Entity’s) and make what we are doing more visible to everyone.  

We already have a cooperation agreement with Schauburg München. This is quite nice because the kids can see what a big theatre is like. This new agreement with Entity, however, means that the kids can see that it is not just the big theatres that contribute to the theatre community in Munich. Now they can also see what amateur theatre is like – where there are people who are not getting paid for anything but do it anyway just because it is fun and satisfying. That has to be the main motivation for the kids as well because they are also part of an amateur theatre group. When they can see adults participating in this way, they can see that it doesn’t have to be about getting paid money for acting! It can also be something perhaps even more important: something that contributes to the enrichment of your life and teaches you how to live more fully.

So this year you stepped forward and took on the role of assistant director as well as providing facilities where we could safely record the radio play Miracle on 34th Street while observing all the safety rules because of the pandemic. Was this project different from past productions with Entity?

Our new cooperation agreement was what legally allowed us to do this. I am sure that it is only the first step toward huge possibilities for working cooperatively together. It was truly a pleasure!

Two of kids from one of the theatre classes got parts in the play. Some families who are all involved in one way or another with theatre at our school got the chance to attend the recordings.  It was such a wonderful experience! The kids where so excited with being part of a “big” theatre group with adults and the parents  (normally there only as part of the audience) loved having a chance to participate by being part of the “Walla” – meaning the background noises.

All the kids involved just loved it. Theatre is really important for them, and as their teacher, I see the enormous benefit they have from being part of theatre, watching or taking part in it, every day.

What are the benefits you have seen? Why is it important to continue what you are doing?

It gives them more self-confidence. They learn to present themselves and to speak up loudly and clearly. This is so important, both now in school and also later as adults. Being able to be heard can be more important than one might think!

What students tell me, from the 5th grade up to adults, is that they love the feeling of connection in a theatre group. They learn the importance of both giving and accepting respect and the support to each other, especially between different age ranges. Kids from earlier theatre groups tend to keep in contact with each other as they grow up.  

Theatre teaches the kids to trust each other, to step in for each other, to be responsible and not let others down, to coordinate their time, be creative and spontaneous.

All the great things theatre gives everybody, especially kids while growing up, have even more impact when the kids are able to perform with different people.

The kids had the chance to see adults being there with the same passion and dedication they feel.

They have the chance to act using a foreign language. This provides both high motivation to learn English and shows them the beauty of the universal language of theatre – the creative art that connects people from all over the world and transcends cultural and language borders.

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