Puppeteer helps bring German culture alive at Montessori Kinder
by DELANEY WALKER Banner Staff Writer
Jan 28, 2014 | 2953 views | 0 0 comments | 25 25 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Banner photo, DELANEY WALKER
CHILDREN, teenagers and adults laugh as German puppeteer Uwe Spillmann’s pirate puppet unsuccessfully “scares” the audience with his black skull-and-crossbones flag.
view slideshow (4 images)
Bright smiles lit the faces of chubby cheeks and whiskered chins alike as children and adults fell under the spell of German puppeteer Uwe Spillmann at Montessori Kinder Monday afternoon.

The German Consulate General in Atlanta offered the local school the pleasure of Spillmann’s performance.

Constance Heery, director of communications, said the consulate covers six states: Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, North Carolina and South Carolina. Every year the consulate extends an invitation to German artists to perform in the United States. It is an opportunity to offer a glimpse of the culture tucked away in Europe on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

Heery said a special earmark of the project is to find artists who can help teach the German language.

Students at the Montessori Kinder had the opportunity to see a German magician perform last year.

Monday afternoon found them once again entranced, this time by Spillmann and his props — namely Kasper, a puppet with a personality about as long as his nose.

Engaged audience members eagerly helped Kasper as he entered a battle of wits with a pirate who had stolen his gong.

Everyone remained strong even as the pirate attempted to scare the information out of them.

“Boo!” he bellowed.

His shouts, yodels and howls were met with giggles. Children twisted and turned in their seats with laughter.

The pirate waved his black flag and demanded to know if the students were scared.

“Nein,” they responded.

Undeterred, the pirate continued, “Ein Bisschen?”

To which the children once again responded, “Nein.”

“A little bit?” the pirate asked in English.

“Nein,” the children said in German.

“Ein kleines bisschen?” the pirate tried again.

“Nein,” the children assured him.

“Ein klitzekleines bisschen?” the pirate asked, looking for even a smidgen of fear.

As one, the children shouted over the laughter of the adults, “Nein!”

Montessori Kinder Director Brigitta Hoeferle said only a portion of the students attending the puppet show speak German.

Spillmann kept a close eye on his audience to ensure amusement overpowered any confusion. He incorporated a mixture of English and German throughout the two shows.

Spillmann said the response and attention of the audience was good.

“It looks fun, but for those kids who learn German, it is hard work to follow and find the right words when they are asked a question,” Spillmann said. “I’m sure after a couple of minutes, they don’t realize if it is spoken in German or English.”

Continued Spillmann, “They want to help Kasper. They want to find his gong. They want to release him from being a pig.”

Hoeferle explained teaching students the language is only part of the German studies experience.

“There is so much more than the spoken word. There is so much more that I have a mission [in] maintaining for my children. For them to comprehend what it means to be a real German, not just speaking the language and understanding their grandparents, but understanding what it really means to be a German,” Hoeferle said. “What I enjoyed as a child, I want to pass on to my children.”

She said culture brings languages alive.

“That is the Montessori method. Everything we learn, all the academics come alive with all of our material,” Hoeferle said. “If it becomes tangible, then it becomes fun.”

Spillmann said the tradition of Kasper and puppeteering in general have begun to decline in Germany.

He said he counts himself as lucky to have made a living on the art for more than 25 years.

“In Germany, I am sort of proud when I have those kids who lack those [German language skills] ... those kids sit there and enjoy the show in a language that is completely different from their own,” Spillmann said. “They can understand the mechanisms, get engaged and it is great. I see the eyes of those kids, and I am very happy.”

More information on the Montessori Kinder school can be found at montessorikinder.com. Additional details about Uwe Spillmann and Kasper can be found in German at kiepenkasper.de.