Creative drama program builds kids’ confidence

Despite its new roots in Kitsap County, the program has got some students already dreaming of being famous.

There’s nothing wrong with being a little dramatic.

At least not for the participants of Drama Kids of Kitsap, Edmonds and Shoreline, a new creative drama program for children that started this fall.

The three-month-old program focuses on building children’s confidence along with creative thinking and verbal skills. The local chapter is part of the larger Drama Kids International that has more than 45,000 students enrolled in 1,000 locations across 15 countries.

Despite its new roots in Kitsap County, the program has got some students already dreaming of being famous.

Fifth-grader Kyle Clearwater, 10, said that his favorite recent speaking parts have been in roles of a snowboarder and snorkeler. Each class is different, and he has new drama friends he looks forward to seeing each week, he said.

“It’s fun,” he said. “Everyone gets one (a speaking part) here. That’s what I like. It’s fair.”

Kyle hopes that the skills he is learning in his weekly class may one day shoot him to super stardom. For now, he’s taking it one day and role at a time with his new found skills.

“If I ever become an actor, I have to learn certain parts and be clear so the audience can hear me,” he said of why the classes are beneficial for him.

It’s the big dreaming and confidence that the franchise owners, Sue and Steve Pargman, like to see. While there’s a large focus on drama, it is not an acting class. It’s more about child development for students ages 6 through 8 years old, the couple said.

Usually, class participants sashay into the room, loudly announcing their arrival. Some quietly enter, barely whispering an audible hello before sitting down. The quiet ones are the students that the Pargmans hope to see scooting closer to the spotlight.

Sue Pargman remembers being a quiet child who had a hard time making herself known.

“I was personally a very, very shy child,” said Pargman. “I had a speech impediment. I didn’t really speak.”

Then, when she picked up drama as a child, her shyness blossomed into a love of the spotlight.

“It really changed my life,” she said.

She ended up majoring in creative writing and classical drama. Ever since, she’s been actively involved in the drama scene, whether as a screenwriter or an actress.

Now, as a Drama Kids International franchise owner, she hopes to pass along the skills that got her through life. The goal is not to push kids into roles for a production, but to naturally have them focus on clearly speaking through class exercises like structured improvisation or dialogue development.

“It’s just an outlet for her,” Laurie Kelly said of her daughter Teghan’s participation. “She once told me she wants to be a movie star. I asked why, and she said, ‘Because I can be dramatic.’”

Weekly, children gather in Poulsbo or Silverdale for a session focused on practicing skills needed to speak up. Sometimes that means dressing up as a famous person and making an introduction as that person.

The idea is for kids to be creative and uninhibited, ultimately, the Pargmans said.

Eric Tietje recently enrolled his daughter, Ollie, in the program. Each week, his daughter is excited by the program she attends at the Poulsbo location in a dance studio called InMotion.

“She seems to be enjoying the class,” he said, watching his daughter through the classroom’s glass door. “She wants to keep coming. I think that’s a testament to the class. It’s awesome for me to be able to peek through the window to watch her.”

The local chapter is accepting new students through Nov. 15 at both the Silverdale and Poulsbo locations. The Pargmans hope the program becomes popular enough that they can start programs at local schools as well, so students have the option to focus on drama if they wish.

“I just love to connect to the kids and just see them turn on,” said Sue Pargman. “I’m rewarded by their imaginations.”

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