Thursday, September 3, 2009

Wilhelm Tell in New Glarus – Last Performance in German?

Every September for 72 years, the community of New Glarus, WI has performed Wilhelm Tell, Friedrich Schiller's play about Swiss independence. The play is presented on a natural outdoor stage in two versions: in English and in the original German. Now the Wisconsin State Journal reports that, due to dwindeling audience numbers, this year might be the last year the play is staged in German. Furthermore, the English show has been shortened from three to two hours. If you want to experience (maybe for the last time) a unique example of traditional German-language American community theatre come to the Wilhelm Tell Grounds on September 5 at 10am, and also join the weekend-long Wilhelm Tell Festival. More information is available at

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

German Word Blocks

Recently I visited the WELS (Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod) Historical Institute, which is located in the Salem Landmark Church in northwest Milwaukee. The institute is in the process of restoring this beautiful church. In the basement there are displayed a number of artifacts and documents related to WELS history, most of which were donated by individuals, congregations, and schools from the Milwaukee area. In a display devoted to early parochial schools, I was fascinated to see a collection of about 32 wooden blocks, each measuring about 10" x 10" x 10". On each face there was a German word or pair of words in Fraktur (and also punctuation marks), which were applied with black paint and (probably) stencils. The material is light plywood and each block is numbered. The blocks were stored in a folding cabinet about 5 feet tall. Two pictures of these blocks and the cabinet are given below:

The gentleman who gave me the tour through the collection said the blocks likely came from a WELS school in downtown Milwaukee. Their function was evidently to give children practice in composing German sentences. I have scoured the Internet for references to similar teaching aids and have not found anything comparable, which suggests that these blocks might have been the brainchild of one enterprising German teacher (with some good carpentry skills). I would be excited to hear whether any of our readers have seen or heard of anything similar!

Mark L.