“On my way to New Voices workshop one” by Ingeborg von Zadow

When I heard that being a member of the FAB-Community involved giving workshops, I thought it might be a good idea to look into someone else’s teaching methods beforehand to come across new ideas and approaches. I contacted a colleague of mine, Lorenz Hippe, who is widely known in Germany for his teaching abilities in theater pedagogics. This spring I was able to visit two of his seminars. One was a weeklong Easter vacation course in playwriting for 10–12-year-old children, organized by our local Theater, Theater Heidelberg. The other one was a two-day class for theater pedagogical students (ages 23 and up) at the Theaterwerkstatt Heidelberg.

I learned a lot from watching Lorenz work with both groups but I was especially amazed at his ability to work with 15 kids of such a young age and to keep them interested for five hours a day. For Hippe, “writing” means every possible method of inventing a story, not just with pen and paper. With young kids who can’t write that well yet, it seemed to be a good idea not to make them write sentences at all. Through a method in which the whole group was working together (“Theater Direkt”), a story was invented collectively. With practically all of the children involved, the process didn’t feel like work but rather like pure fun, at least for the kids. The exercise, which I will describe more detailed below, seems to be a good way to get young children interested in the field of theater, to empower them to trust their own ideas and to have them experience the joy of creating.

The whole group, sitting in a circle, sets out to invent a story together. The rules for this are: everyone is the author, so the story belongs to all mutually. Each person can contribute, but no one has to, everything is voluntary. Everything mentioned is valid, it is not discussed in the group, it is taken as a fact. The Animator will ask open questions to start (“Who is the main person?” “Is he or she male of female?”) and to continue the story (“And what happens next?” etc.). He repeats everything that he hears and connect the ideas to form a storyline. The Animator does not add any of his or her own ideas or words and he doesn’t suggest things. If something is not clear to him, he asks the group (“How can she do that, if she is doing this other thing at the same time?”). It is left to the group to solve any contradictions the story might have. Through the questions, the children are forced to find reasons for their character’s actions, which are then incorporated into the story. Through the constant repeating and summing up of the story by the Animator, the group stays focused, sees how their story is evolving and learns to think of the storyline as a whole. The kids have the right to decide everything, but they also have the responsibility for their story.

This invention process tends to go pretty quickly. All absurd elements and crazy ideas are incorporated, since the goal of this exercise is not a well-made play/story. It is far more important to take the suggestions and ideas seriously, to empower the children by giving them the experience of inventing stories, characters and places, and also to show them that what they do can be interesting and valuable to others. 

After Act One (three-act structure) has been invented, the next step is to act out the story in the group, asking the children to be everything mentioned – characters, props, places. This gives the children the chance of immersing themselves into the situations of their story and of trying it out. The same is done after Act Two. Again, participating in the acting is voluntary. The joy of the shared game is the focus. After the acting out of Act Two, the group can be divided into smaller groups, which then each come up with their own ending of the story (Act Three).

After the exercise, the Animator writes down the story exactly as it was invented, without adding any ideas of his own. This way everyone has a story to take home, to show around and be proud of. The group of kids are now authors. And although the children weren´t writing themselves in a classical sense in this exercise, they were nevertheless given the experience of the joy and power of inventing stories, which is the core of (play)writing.


1 This question technique is from R.G.Gregorys “Instant Theatre”, invented in the UK in 1968.
2 The German name is “Theater Direkt”.



Ingeborg von Zadow is a playwright from Germany. Her first NEW VOICES Workshop will be at the Bunsen-Gymnasium in Heidelberg in September 2023.
For more information on Instant Theater see „
Theater Direkt – das Theater der Zuschauer” by Lorenz und Eva Hippe, Deutscher Theaterverlag 2011, ISBN‎ 978-3769503302  or https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theater_Direkt  (Both in German.)