By: Lauren Dooley
As my third year of college at UC Berkeley draws to a close, I have decided to use this final blog post to reflect on a rather unique experience I have had this semester. In the German department, there is a course offered every spring semester entitled “Advanced Language Practice: German Performance” (German 102A for those of you who might ever be interested in taking it). Essentially, the class consists of learning about the historical and cultural significance of cabaret in Germany, reading and memorizing German poetry, and putting together a cabaret show to perform at various venues in the Bay Area during the last couple of weeks of class.
Simply put, a cabaret is a type of variety show in which performers juxtapose a collection of songs, poems, skits, and more to create a larger production. Typically, cabaret performances take on the form of political satire, so, when the genre first arrived in Germany in the early 20th century, it was subject to severe censorship laws until the end of the World Wars. Today, due to the rise of television, cabaret is not as popular as it used to be, but it is still possible to see shows in cities such as Berlin.
While our show certainly wasn’t as elaborate as some of the ones in Germany can be, it was still fun to put together. The poems we selected, which ranged from classic Goethe to contemporary comical poetry, were interesting to read, analyze, and interpret on the stage. We also got to write some skits of our own, film a video, and, for those of us who are musically inclined, play our musical instruments. It was definitely a neat experience putting the show together and performing it in front of German-speaking audiences both on the Berkeley campus and in San Francisco.
Honestly, going into it, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I am shy by nature and do not like speaking in front of large crowds, so, at the beginning of the semester, I was pretty nervous. When I enrolled in the class, however, I told myself that it would be the perfect opportunity to improve my spoken German while trying something that I never thought in a million years I would ever do. Now that it’s over, I can proudly say that this is the best class I have taken so far during my time at Berkeley. I guess it goes to show that, sometimes, it’s okay to try something new. That’s what college is all about, right?