Arts and Culture

“Princess Tim” Brings Queer Topics to Kindergartens

Wednesday, February 19, 2014
The queer Berlin children’s theatre play “Princess Tim” tells about the diversity of ways of life and gender-identities.
 
With the play, the queer theatre collective especially wants to reach small children aged between 2 and 6 years, but also older children, adults and educational institutions in order to make queer ways of life visible and in order to counteract discrimination. The play is about the young, self-assured Princess Tim, who lives with her father, the king, in a castle. To be a princess and at the same time to keep her “boyish name” is not a contradiction for the little princess, and she also finds it very normal that her favourite sport is football. For the king, who actually thought he had a little prince, all of that is very hard to understand at first: a prince who wants to be a princess, but then acts very ’un-princess-like’ by playing football... In the course of the play, Princess Tim has to teach her father that there is much more in this world than only football playing princes on one side and princesses who sit in front of a mirror on the other...
 
The theater collective, who brought the play on stage in 2010, consists of two people who both live in Berlin:
 
Malu is trained in music pedagogy, but currently works more artistically as a musician, actor and theatre maker. Yoan works as a social worker in a queer project in Berlin and avocationally works in the field of (queer) theatre. Their own experiences as trans*(gender) individuals have flown into the play, as well as their own experiences with (queer) parenting, for they are both “attachment figures” for little children aged between 5 and 7.
 
The play has only one actor, Malu. On stage she slips into a different costume for each role, which makes it easier for the audience to know who she just represents.
 
The duration of the play is only 30 minutes, so that also very small children can follow. The play works both with text and with music, sounds and images, which also makes it possible for children who cannot (yet) understand the text to follow the story. The play is very interactive, the children are repeatedly actively included and their contributions are being integrated into the play.
 
In an interview, the two theatre people talked about their experiences with their queer theatre play and the situation of queer pedagogy in Berlin.

Is the play connected with other queer pedagogic and educational activities or some kind of a supporting framework program?
We are working on this point right now. In the future we want to continue with the play and at the same time extend our work and combine the play with a pedagogic supporting program. To do so we are on one hand in search of co-operation partners from the pedagogic and educational field. At the same time we are ourselves currently developing an educational module for the play. We are planning to prepare a short input of about 1 ½ hours for the staff working in the kindergartens we play at, in order to give them a short introduction in queer topics. Furthermore, we are planning to make a longer workshop of 4 to 6 hours for people who work in the pedagogical field. In this workshop we would talk about queer issues as well as give a space to the participants to talk about their own experiences and to reflect their own questions and fears regarding the subject of gender diversity etc.
 
It is very important that pedagogical professionals in kindergartens are sensitized and aware of queer topics, because in the age-group they work with, gender and gender-conform norms of behaviour are being developed and manifested. The development of gender roles and norms is very much influenced by (pedagogic) role models, the offer of available games and the adult’s reactions (also sanctions) to the children’s behaviour regarding their gender-roles. In this sense, in the workshops we want to talk with the pedagogic professionals about the play and about their daily work. We are usually there for only one day, and the pedagogical employees will be the ones that continue to talk about the play with the children. That’s why we want them to be sensitized.
Regarding the children we have had good experiences with staying a little longer after the play. Children then often come to Princess Tim and ask her questions, they are often very curious and want to get to know her. It is also a good idea for the children to deal with the story of the play by painting pictures about it with the kindergarten teachers afterwards, or by re-enacting the play in their daily playing. We also have a CD with the music of the play, which we usually give to the kindergartens we play at. We often hear that the music is listened to together and by doing so that the children and kindergarten teachers remember the play and its contents.
 
How are the reactions? Do you get feedback about how the children (and adults) receive and handle the play? In your opinion, how is the impact of the play?
When the play starts, the children are usually very curious, surprised and fascinated. Sometimes there is a lot of giggling and excited comments such as “But that is a boy!”, especially from older children who are socialized as boys.
 
But in general, the kids follow the play and everything that Princess Tim tells about her life very attentively. Princess Tim involves the children directly in the play and the children react very well to that. For example, after the fight between Princess Tim and the king about Tim’s gender identity and hobby, Princess Tim asks the children directly about their opinion. During the play we sometimes have big discussions in the audience about the question if Princess Tim should be allowed to be a princess or not and if the king’s opinions are old-fashioned or not.
 
Altogether we can say that the children are often very much in favour of Princess Tim and support her ideas. We intentionally show Princess Tim as a self-conscious and positive heroine, because we want her to be a role-model for the children – and we can see that this works. For some kids in this age-group, gender identity is already an important topic. Especially these kids often react very positive to the play. For example, when we played at a camp that was about alternative ways of life for people with children, some kids kept coming to Malu the following days, asking him questions about the play. This showed us that the story about Princess Tim sometimes has a great impact on children.
 
From the adults that watch the play, we get different reactions. Sometimes, people ask us if this topic is really suitable for kids that are so small and some adults seem to project their own fears and insecurities on us. But others react very positive and tell us that we present this topic in a way that is very understandable and suitable for the children. Altogether, we get a lot of positive appreciation and acknowledgement for our work.
 
Is it hard to get gigs with a queer children’s theatre play? How is the situation of queer pedagogy in Germany in general? Is it popular, or still marginal?
Information about our play have gone around in queer circles in Berlin and people recommend us to kindergartens and other places which then invite us. In general there is some consciousness about queer pedagogy in Berlin. The city has conducted a so-called action plan for some years now, which explicitly tries to include queer contents in the pedagogical work in kindergartens and schools. There are some queer projects that work on the basis of this program, for example Queerformat, ABQueer and GLADT. Unfortunately, the work of the action plan is limited because relatively few money is being provided by the city. Regarding Germany as a whole, the situation of queer pedagogy differs a lot from place to place. Berlin is for sure the most modern and progressive.
 
Do you also offer other (queer) pedagogic and educational programs? Or do you plan to do so?
Other than the pedagogic expansions regarding the play that we mentioned above, we would like to make a children’s book. In this book we want to publish the story about Princess Tim with pictures, as well as the music notes and a CD of the songs that are sung during the play.
We also want to make more plays together. We would like to make a queer play for older children and teen-agers. We also would like to make a play that works without language, and therefore is more suited for international performances.
 
Right now we are working on networking different people to create a bigger queer children’s theater team. With such a network or team, we could put even more energy in queer pedagogical projects.
 
Contact
If you want to get in contact with Malu and Yoan about the play and their work, please write them a message: info@prinzessin-tim.de.
 
The story of “Princess Tim” is to be published in the March-April issue of Kaos GL Magazine on Queer Pedagogy. 
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