At the time of his Hall of Fame induction, Ruben Van Kempen—or “VK,” as his students like to call him—had taught and directed the theatre program at Roosevelt High School in Seattle,for thirty-three years. Many former students have gone on to careers on Broadway and around the world, in theatre, opera, music, film, and television; his own work as a director has been seen at the Edinburgh Fringe, Gates Performing Arts Center in Hawaii, the Village Theatre, Seattle Civic Light Opera, the Thespian Festival in Nebraska, Western Washington University, and Seattle Pacific University, among other professional credits. Favorite past projects include And Then They Came For Me: Remembering the World of Anne Frank, Crazy For You, 42nd Street, On Your Toes, Me and My Girl (which received The Seattle Times’ Footlight Theatre Award for best musical revival in 1993), Thoroughly Modern Millie, The School for Scandal, The Children’s Hour, Watch on the Rhine, She Stoops to Conquer, and the Northwest premiere of Good News.
Mr. Van Kempen received an Outstanding Theatre Educator Award from Seattle’s 5 Avenue Theatre. In 2011 he was inducted into the Washington State Thespians Hall of Fame, and in 2007 he received the Gregory A. Falls Sustained Achievement Award, for devotion of time, energy, and talent to Seattle’s theatre community. He was also honored with the first annual Ruben Van Kempen Arts Educator Award from the prestigious Intiman Theatre.
Colleagues describe him as “a true professional,” “the ultimate team player,” and “the nicest guy on the planet.” Mr. Kempen, for his part, credits his wife Myrnie and his two talented young adult children for their support.