Celebrating 25 Years of English Language Theatre in Stuttgart: Gala Performance at Theaterhaus

NEAT stands for New English American Theatre. The idea was conceived in 1991 as a means of making English language plays more widely available to Stuttgart audiences.
Be a part of the 25th Anniversary Celebration at Theaterhaus on Saturday, June 18 at 20:15 hrs when we perform two essays by Mark Twain: THE AWFUL GERMAN LANGUAGE and SHOCKHEADED PETER (Twain’s translation of the German children’s book STRUWWELPETER!

The show will feature eight Actors, Live Music and Champagne for the audience in the intermission!
Ticket Reservations can be made here: http://www.theaterhaus.de/theaterhaus/index.php?id=1,3,19931
Mark Twain had an abiding fascination with Germany and at the age of 15, undertook a first attempt to learn the German language; he quickly capitulated and didn’t resume his studies of the language until 28 years later when he spent over a year in the country with his entire family.
In 1878, the great American author took up residence in Heidelberg.  His goal was to seek inspiration for the completion of several books and to learn German. He wanted to find “some German village where nobody knows my name”. At the time, Mark Twain was most famous for Innocents Abroad, a witty travelogue.  Americans were eager to know more about the world, especially through the humorous eyes and words of their favorite author.   Disappointed about the sales of an early fictional book, Tom Sawyer, Twain was determined to create a better sequel; A Tramp Abroad was his second travel book. In it, Twain wrote extensively about Heidelberg: the castle, the student life, a raft ride on the Neckar River, a visit to the opera, about being a stranger in a strange land and much more.
It was also during this time that he wrote one of his sharpest and funniest essays ever entitled THE AWFUL GERMAN LANGUAGE. In it, Twain gives a detailed account about his futile attempt to learn the confounded language with its incomparable grammar, the infamous “separable verb”, griping about the many noun and verb forms one must master in order to use German cases properly, the extreme length of compound nouns, and many other peculiarities.

“I can understand German as well as the maniac that invented it, but I talk it best through an interpreter.“ -Mark Twain

With this daily exposure to the German language while living and traveling throughout Germany, Austria and Switzerland, it can be conjectured that Mark Twain had quite a fair comprehension of the German language. So much so, that while living in Berlin, he actually translated the popular mid-1900 century German children’s book STRUWELPETER into English as a Christmas present for his daughters and read it aloud to them under the Christmas tree.
DER STRUWWELPETER is the most popular children’s book of all time. It is a short volume of verse for children three to six years of age, written and illustrated in 1844 by the German physician Dr. Heinrich Hoffmann. Setting out to buy a picture book suitable for his three year old son, as a Christmas present, Dr. Hoffmann found the psychology of the children’s literature for sale entirely wrongheaded and brought home an empty copy book to create a picture book of his own instead. His son was delighted and the surprised author was soon persuaded to have his book published. It was an instantaneous success and within weeks, the first edition of 1500 copies was sold out. By 1896, the 100th edition had been printed and this is the version that Twain translated; it contains rhymes and their accompanying illustrations depicting children in the act of misbehaving. In each rhyme the naughty child has to suffer the consequences of his disobedience; sometimes, as in the case of the girl who played with matches and the boy who would not eat his soup, the outcome is tragic.

Twain had hoped to duplicate the book’s success in the English-speaking world but because of copyright issues, his translation was not published until 25 years after his death in 1935.
We will be presenting Mark Twain’s original translation, SHOCKHEADED PETER along with newer, more modern versions of these classic morality tales for children, interspersed with an obscure song cycle from 1920 by the British composer Herbert Hughes.

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