With the longtime local presence of the Christian Drama School, we wanted to take some time to get to know Rev. Kim Padfield Urbanik and learn about what she does. Read on for what this youth music and drama school is all about.
The Christian Drama School is such a great creative outlet for our youth—what inspired you to start it?
Christian Drama School grew as a continuation of something I had been doing my whole life. I grew up as a dancer in the Ballet Guild of the Lehigh Valley where I learned to perform heroic stories through music and dance with no words. I also learned how to teach. After Penn State, I used my plays and choreography to teach church youth groups and campers about God. Upon graduation from Princeton Theological Seminary, I received a grant to do a TV show reaching youth through drama and dance, but I chose to work at the Community Church of Mountain Lakes with actual youth instead of actors. I worked as the Associate Pastor from 1991 to 2000. A larger community of families formed when people from other churches came to participate in our youth program. When I resigned as a pastor to raise my sons, the community of families inspired me to start the school to continue doing plays with their children.
For me, life has always been about bringing a story to life—and making it part of your own faith journey. My experiences as a camp counselor, educator, probation/parole officer, and pastor led me to believe and teach that faith in God is “caught not taught.” I believe one way to know God is to act-out or dance-out stories of faithful people who believe in God and take action to love others more than they love themselves. I also learn more from my students than they learn from me. So, I am inspired by all of my students who teach me more about love and God than I could ever teach them.
How have you had to pivot the school to meet our changing world?
In March 2020, Christian Drama School closed. I cleared off the stage in my basement and learned how to use Zoom so that classes could continue. In June 2020, we practiced and performed all the scenes and dances on stage platforms in my backyard, no audience, just cameras. Then, we led Vacation Bible School with our popular “Veggie Tales—Scripture Skit Players” at the Denville Community Church outside with cameras rolling. We closed in the Fall and Winter but held Youth Group outside in October.
In March 2021, we learned dances in my driveway to get ready for our annual Good Friday Worship & Cross Carry. On April 1st, teens led worship in 20 degree weather beside the Rockaway River, and then carried a 12 foot long cross 2 miles to the Denville Community Church (usually we walk 4 miles). Over the summer, we did two sessions of Summer Drama Camp, our version of “The Three Trees” held at the Rockaway Valley United Methodist Church. Classes started outside in September 2021. We held 2 performances of our crazy fun version of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” at Morris Knolls High School, capping off 21 years of Christian Drama School.
What do you have planned for CDS this year?
We kicked off 2022 with our 24 Hour Charity Dance Marathon to benefit Christian Drama School and the five schools we partner with in Uganda, Africa. Seven dancers, including me (age 58!), danced from 5pm on January 14th to 5pm on January 15th. A group of 40 teens and children on Seven Teams took turns dancing with us during the 24 hours with 16 adults who led 8 three hour shifts to make it happen. Usually, we have about 80 dancers.
You can count on Christian Drama School to do our Good Friday worship and Cross Carry every year. So, meet us at the Rockaway River Access Point, near Tourne Park, on Friday, April 15th.
Classes for our 2022 Spring Play will begin on Tuesday, February 15th. The show will happen at Morris Knolls High School on Mother’s Day Weekend, May 7th at 6pm and May 8th at 3pm. Beyond that, we have our 20th Summer Drama Camp the 2nd week of July and our 22nd year of Vacation Bible School at the Denville Community Church the 1st or 2nd week in August 2022.
What is the most rewarding aspect of the work you do?
I get to watch all the different ways that young people catch their own faith and start to grow in it! Sometimes, I get to see the actual “ah-ha” moment when the Spirit of God moves me-centeredness out of the way so that God-centeredness can temporarily come in. Then I get watch students grow up to do great things for others. Sometimes, I get to witness a whole audience feel God at the same time – like when our Pinocchio became a real boy. I don’t get paid, but I have the best job in the whole world.
As a teacher, it is also rewarding to have your students grow up to do incredible things—and then pull you into it. Christian Drama School is connected to 5 schools in Uganda because one CDS graduate, Cindy Garrison Donough, decided to go there in 2008. Cindy came back and asked me to write a play about what was happening in Uganda. I wrote the play “According to Africa” and CDS performed it in 2009. Funds raised by the play helped students in Uganda build their own high school and home.
And, of course, we have to know…what’s your favorite bite to eat in Boonton?
Roma Pizza on Main Street has fed Christian Drama School students for 21 years along with Denville Pizza and Dante’s Pizza. People say that if you cut off my arm, pizza will fall out!
Christian Drama School
44-48 Valley Rd, Boonton, NJ 07005