Performing arts classes come to 4-H

Jared Ulsberger

L. William King has a performing arts dream to share with teens, and it’s happening with the Bonney Lake 4-H Dreamers.

The Parkland resident leads the enthusiastic group at Prairie Ridge Recreation Hall twice monthly. He shares lessons through theatrical and musical performances that form a foundation of confidence for each youth.

“My No. 1 objective is for them to have fun,” King, 54, said. “It’s not something they’re doing at school or have to do; it’s something they want to do. I want them to gain the confidence to get in front of people – whether it’s one-on-one for a job interview or to be in front of a group. Then, to learn how to work through a mistake – rather than cover it up – and to not be afraid.”

King is no stranger to the entertainment industry. He was involved with theater while attending Wenatchee Valley College and earned his bachelor’s degree in theater arts at Central Washington University. In 1996, he created 100 squirrel puppets and a miniature Mike Teavee for a Tacoma production company’s performance of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” He also presents “All the World’s a Stage…” to churches, camps and retreats. And if that’s not enough, King serves as artistic director for Espresso Drama in Orting.

One of the youths reaping from his knowledge is Jason Etheredge, a seventh-grader at Mountain View Middle School, who said he still remembers fainting in front of his third-grade class.

“Now I sometimes have a fear of performing,” he shared.

But Etheredge showed no inhibitions Nov. 19 when King asked the group to perform simple movements and simple sounds.

“If you could shrink down the motors of a car, what would the gears sound like?” King challenged the youths. “You’re going to shrink down and become a gear.”

Etheredge was at ease when he stretched out his arms and synched his moves with the rhythmic movements of thermo-nuclear absorption.

King used another technique to get his members warmed up by asking each to create a pom-pom for puppetry. His motives were two-fold.

“I want to teach them simple marionettes,” he said. “But also during the wrapping and cutting of the pom-poms there’s always conversation going on. A lot of times it’s school or family activities. It also helps me keep in touch with them socially without me saying, ‘what have you been doing lately?’ and they answer, ’not much.’”

With the group meeting only twice a month, King remains focused. “It’s time versus material,” he said. But he hopes to use that time to work up a possible puppet project for the Pierce County Fair. He also has his eyes set on the lighter side of performing.

“I enjoy comedy,” he said. “The first thing I would introduce to them would be “The 15-minute Hamlet,” he said.

The club is always open to new members and students through 19 are invited to join at $10 per year. Performing arts experience is not a prerequisite.

“I almost prefer they have no experience,” he said. “It’s easier to teach them and I can say, ‘here’s why we do it and how we do it.’”

Steve Ulsberger, the Bonney Lake Club’s director, was pleased with King’s guidance and ideas and has witnessed the benefits some students with disabilities have reaped from participating in the performing arts.

“We’re really wanting to tell kids with disabilities that (through the performing arts) there’s more; they can interact with society,” he said. “4-H has opened new doors you’d normally consider closed.”

As for King, he’s content to share his dream of performing with each student he meets.

“I enjoy it,” he said. “I love to watch kids get creative.”

The Bonney Lake 4-H Dreamers meets the first and third Wednesday of the month from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Prairie Ridge Recreation Hall, 14205 215th Ave. E. in Bonney Lake. For more information, call 253-359-4980 or e-mail King at theatreartsproject@hotmail.com.

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