The Roosevelt High theater program ranks among the top schools for drama and musical theater in the United States, sending its students to per-form in festivals in the U.S. and abroad. Clas-ses at Roosevelt include acting, directing, theater tech, production, de-sign and musical theater.
Director Ruben Van Kempen, who is recognized as one of the best teachers in the nation, along with several of his students who made it big in the per-forming arts arenas, share with CGN the importance of supporting perform-ing arts in high schools.
CGN: What drew you to a career in teaching arts?
VK: My love for theatre, my love for youth, my passion for education to combine my worlds.
CGN: In this era of school budget cuts, how would you pitch RHS drama in particular to a skeptical parent who thinks money should be devoted to-wards traditional courses in reading, writing, and mathematics instead?
VK: I would talk to the issue that drama and theatre teach to; creative thinking, team work, collaboration, critical think-ing, creative – all the things that the business world is looking for in a candi-date for employment.
CGN: How would you pitch the importance of the school performing arts programs in general to a skeptical parent?
VK: It teaches a child discipline to the highest level. How to balance study with group dynamics – again, creativi-ty, team work, collaboration, critical thinking
CGN: What are some of your teaching highlights at RHS Drama?
VK: Interaction with students who have a passion for high standards in theatre. Seeing a novice rise to the level of an experienced artist, seeing students who have no other place in the school house and school life excel at a rate that keeps them growing and then see-ing that growth affect other subjects and their personal lives.
CGN: Where do you see RHS drama in 10 years?
VK: Off the charts, always on the cutting edge of the newest in theatre technology, technique in acting, social media advertising, live-streaming portfolios, leader of Arts standards!
CGN: How can you give to RHS Drama?
VK: Two ways: go to http://www.rooseveltdrama.org – there is a link that says SOAR, Standing Ovations at Roosevelt. This goes directly to stu-dent programs to the development of all our residency programs: Seattle Rep, Book-It Rep, Improv, teaching artists, designers.
Checks can be made to: Roosevelt High School Drama – goes into our Associat-ed Student Body account to help pay for field trips, supplies, support pro-grams, teaching artists. SOAR is through our Associated Friends of Roosevelt Drama – our parent booster club. It is a 501-(c) 3 account.
CGN: Are there any other ways you can contribute to RHS drama?
VK: Professional services in the following: Costuming (drafting, sewing), Millinery, Wig design – especially front lace, Catering for special events, Advertising – PR, Scenic Artist, Prop Master expertise. You can donate these gifts by contacting me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CGN: What are your most pressing needs at the moment?’
VK: Raising monies to enhance and sustain our operating budget. We are self supporting and run a unique full time theatre program within a public school system.
Ruben Van Kempen is a 30 year veteran of the Seattle Public Schools who was recently honored by the Educational Theater Association’s Hall of Fame as one of the top teachers in the nation. He resides in Seattle with his wife, Myrna, who is a musician.