Education column: Drama classes open doors for students

Sitting in on a couple of Clovis High School drama classes taught by long-time educator, Keith Ingram (who also happens to be a motivational speaker and published author), I was astonished by the skills and talent I had the privilege of observing.

The sketch was underway when I entered the elongated drama classroom. As the student actors emerged from behind their self-made sets, the first thing I noticed was the excellent enunciation and projection, as well as the bold and assured manner in which they delivered their lines.

In fact, for a moment I wondered if these were perhaps local college students who’d come in to work with our high school students. Ingram assured me they were a mix of CHS sophomores, juniors, and seniors.

Catching local references in the sketch, I realized that this seemed to be an original piece. Then, as the students proceeded to the choreographed portion, including singing along to ‘50s and ‘60s tunes, a couple of students simulated instruments.

Ingram, who’d been quietly and attentively watching the students, nodding from time to time, leaned over and explained, “Those are also band students who came up with the idea to actually play real instruments when they perform.” He explained that “of course” they wrote the play themselves; that, in fact, they almost always wrote their own plays.

Next period arrived, bringing a new group of aspiring actors. After some brief comments from Ingram, the students began their individual monologues. Each had chosen a famous individual from history, researched their chosen character, and written their own monologue.

The culmination of these students’ hard work were these surprise-ending dramatizations, performed one after the other, with unique flare and dramatic conviction. After scattering clues throughout, the identity of the historical character being portrayed was revealed only at the end. Goose bumps were my response at the end.

Chatting with both groups of students near the end of class, I learned to my amazement these were beginning drama classes. When asked what they learned from a drama class, all rushed to speak at once, and all agreed: It helped them a lot in their other classes.

After working on lines so much, they found it much easier to memorize math and chemistry formulas. They honed research, writing, and critical thinking skills.

All concurred that they developed highly improved communication and social skills, discipline, self-confidence, “how to feel comfortable being yourself.”

One young man came up as the bell rang, offered me a handshake, politely introduced himself, and described frankly how the class had changed his life. This same young man also shared, “As children are afraid of the dark, adults are often afraid of the light; Mr. Ingram shows us how not to be afraid.”

Don’t miss the opportunity to see these students perform their perfected work at the Clovis High School Lecture Hall on Oct. 28th at 7 p.m. No charge. From the quality of the rehearsals, it will be an evening well spent.

Also, watch for upcoming “old time” radio plays with students as actors, sound effects, and everything else, that will actually be broadcast on KCLV. For more information, contact keith.ingram@clovis-schools.org.

Cindy Kleyn-Kennedy is the Instructional Technology Coordinator for the Clovis Municipal Schools and can be reached at cindy.kleyn-kennedy@clovis-schools.org.