A hush falls over the room as the cast of “Der Gast ist König” gathers in a circle for their pre-performance ritual: vowels, singing, stomping, yelling and counts in German.
German on Stage is an upper-level course taught by German coordinator Valentina Glajar. Throughout the semester, a select few students memorize a play, almost entirely in German, and perform it for an audience at the end. This year’s play took place last Thursday in Centennial G02.
The play set for 2019, “Der Gast is König,” is a contemporary comedy written by Sonja Buchholz. It follows a series of guests at Pension Schmidt, a hotel about to change family ownership. Each character has a completely unique storyline with romance, jealousy, betrayal and secrecy.
German on Stage started nine years ago when Glajar’s class was reading a play and decided it would be more fun to act it out. The tradition has continued every spring semester since, except once when she was on leave.
Glajar said on top of learning German dialogue, German on Stage is a great way to create long-lasting friendships. In fact, two students from a past class grew so close they were recently married.
“One of the actresses from last year said it’s like group therapy, and it is that way because you need to really know each other and feel safe and comfortable with one another,” Glajar said. “They really form friendships for life sometimes.”
Though the play is mostly in German, there were select lines in English to pull the audience back in. The program outlined the play in English as well.
Glajar said what makes her most happy is how the students bring their parents, siblings and friends to the production to showcase their German.
“This group is an inspiration just looking at them,” Glajar said. “They all speak German all the time for one hour and a half, which is amazing.”
Students must be interviewed personally by Glajar before they are allowed to register for the course. She conducts interviews to make sure students are committed, work well with others, have good attendance and are punctual.
Glajar said this year is particularly special because the group started from scratch. In the past, each play usually had veterans from previous classes.
“Some of them had anxiety and stage fright and they were terrified of having to perform,” Glajar said. “I get them every year and by the end of the process they’re all good to go.”
Production of the play is a student effort; students choose their own costumes, help design sets and illustrate the poster.
Hataway, double major in biology and German, illustrated the playbill. He does not relate to his character at all, which is the main reason he likes her.
“She’s loud, crazy and has a good time,” Hataway said. “I mean, we have that in common.”
Rosa Bergman, a foreign exchange student from France, played Elisabeth. She came into the course already speaking several languages, but chose to learn German because of its economic prominence in the EU.
“Auditions were really fun because we all got to discover how we act,” Bergman said. “There were a few surprises.”
Glajar, who was born and raised in Romania, was recently named the first American Council of Learned Societies Fellow at Texas State. She is one of 81 Fellows in the United States and the United Kingdom, and received a stipend to write a book over Romania’s secret police.
She said after attending a German school from a young age, teaching the language seemed like the right path for her. Her favorite part of the class is getting to work with the students while seeing them progress and come together in the end.
“As you can imagine, it’s a class where you cannot hide in the back,” Glajar said. “You need to come prepared every time because you’re front and center.”