Madame Marie-Laure DeFrate continues to expose her students to the culture, arts and society of France.Last month, DeFrate, a French teacher at Avon Grove High School, took her French level II and IV students to see "Cyrano de Bergerac" at the Wilmington Music School in Delaware.
"Theater brings to students the reality of the language, spoken at different times during the play, and exposure to classic French literature other than in books. The actors had such a good time playing Cyrano that some students will look at the language as another way to enjoy oneself," DeFrate said.
Theater is a medium to expose students to French culture.
"Students going to theater learn to listen, reflect and appreciate the power of language and acting," she said. "They learn to behave as a group and represent their school. As a matter of fact there were some cadets from Wilmington Military School in the audience, one of the characters in the play is a French cadet, and it shows that theater touches all sorts of people and helps make connections of all sorts."
The play also evokes similarities between the French and American cultures.
"The message of the play is universal: what matters is not what you look like but what's inside your heart," DeFrate said.
A modern version of the play is the movie "Cyrano" staring Steve Martin, DeFrate said.
Freshman Mark Gallagher, a second level French student, compared the interconnected plot of "Cryano de Bergerac" to every day American society.
"I believe that 'Cyrano de Bergerac' has a broad enough plot that many of the themes fit naturally into the American way of life while still providing an insight into a different culture," Gallagher said. "The story of an unlikely romance could very easily occur in any of the small towns that dot the American countryside."
Gallagher also observed the role of two languages in the "Cyrano de Bergerac."
"The play provided exposure to the French language and culture that simply cannot be taught by a teacher directly. Being that almost every scene of the play that was spoken in English had a counterpart in which French was spoken, the dialogue was easy to comprehend and recognize. The play also depicted French culture in the past, whereas the majority of the culture I learn in class now focuses on the present," he said.
The French language itself has a unique relationship to theater, Gallagher said.
"In theater, the French language creates a certain ambiance sophistication that complements the theatre experience."
Upon returning from winter break, DeFrate's students were asked to research the historical elements between France and Spain in the 1800s, during which war and border conflicts were a central theme.
In the fall, DeFrate took her students to visit the Pierre-Auguste Renoir exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.