“Delightfully Dramatic!” The Benefits to our kids of being involved in Theatre: an interview with Drama Teacher Carol Krueger

Carol FY HeaderBy Kirsteen McLay-Knopp

Our children have been involved in Carol Krueger’s plays for about four years now and my eldest son has recently begun formal drama lessons with her once a week.  Carol, mother of eight and grandmother of eight more, exudes warmth and energy… kids love her!  She also has a magical, quirky imagination and a delightful sense of humour.  As well as being a drama teacher for over 40 years with Trinity College, Carol is a published children’s author with over 100 books to her name, including novels, plays and short stories.  As well as this, Carol is an actress herself, having performed (both in person and with puppets) on two TV shows whose characters she created, “Grub’s Up” and “Fish Willipee”.  She has also done voice overs for TV and Radio New Zealand.  I spoke with Carol Krueger recently about what she believes, in her years of experience working with children in theatre, the benefits of being involved in drama are for our kids.

Knopp5

Children (ranging down to two years old) on stage in a recent production by Carol Krueger of “The Snow Queen”

“A number of parents have sent their children to my drama classes in order to help improve their confidence,” Carol says.  “Being involved in drama helps them to cope with situations such as speaking up or reading in class and doing speeches.  It also stimulates their imagination, as I encourage them to think up their own plays and stories.  I’ve had parents who have even said that they have seen an improvement in their child’s school reports after they have started drama lessons.”

“Drama creates ‘freedom of expression’ and is similar, in many ways, to the freedom kids feel when they first have an opportunity to paint.  It’s a chance for children to be ‘out of themselves’ through becoming other characters and creating stories.”

Carol says that, in the case of very shy children, she works with puppets first.  “I find they forget about themselves and about being nervous or shy when they’re using the puppets,” she explains.  “Characters and dialogues then emerge, other facets of their personality.”

At times, she says, she has worked with children who have been so shy that, “they can’t even stand up and tell me a bit about themselves.  Some of these have, after a year or two, ended up playing lead roles… it’s lovely to see them blossom in this way.  It doesn’t happen overnight, but little by little, with time.”

Every year Carol organises community plays, which children can join free of charge, to “have a go” at being on the stage.  “Some of the kids, especially the little ones, just appear on the stage and join in with the songs, but don’t have to say anything,” she says.  “It’s a great experience for them, even at that level they’re wearing a costume and being part of a team– in a similar way to kids who play sports.  They all get to know each other and make new friends (or meet some old ones if they join a play for a second or third time) and have fun.

Joseph & Carol

Joseph, aged 9, as “Carl” and Carol Krueger as “The Snow Queen” in a recent production.

I spoke to Nicolas, age 11, who has been a student of Carol’s since he was nine, and his mother, Amanda.  Nicolas says he likes doing role plays and poems best and that “Carol is a really nice person and teacher.”  “We love Carol,” Amanda adds. Nicolas, who operated puppets in Carol’s recent production of The Snow Queen says he likes doing this as well as being on stage.  He is looking forward to the next play, which will be The Wizard of Oz, in which he will be the “tin man”.

Nicholas has now done two Trinity College drama examinations and was awarded distinction in both.  Another of Carol’s students recently gained the highest grades for her age group.

“Carol is always positive and affirming,” Amanda says.  “She has such a good manner with children.”

I agree, I’ve seen plays where all manner of things have gone “wrong”, but Carol manages to pull things off and the audience never know that certain events were not part of the original plan.  She is also very patient, I’ve never seen her get angry or “lose it” during any of the sometimes stressful situations that can arise during a production.

Our four children absolutely love being part of the “worlds” Carol creates on the stage.

For those living in Dunedin who wish to enrol children in Carol’s drama classes or involve them in one of her plays, please call 455-7804.  Classes are $10 for a half hour lesson and participating in a production, as I mentioned above, is free.

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