2007 Gregory A. Falls Award

Karen Gjelsteen & Ruben Van Kempen – Falls Sustained Achievement Award

Karen Gjelsteen and Ruben Van Kempen have been announced the dual recipients of the 2007 GregoryA. Falls Sustained Achievement Award, presented by Theatre Puget Sound (TPS).  This award honors an individual or individuals who have devoted time, energy and talent to Seattle’s theatre community, and whose careers have had an influence on theatre locally and beyond.

TPS will honor Ms. Gjelsteen and Mr. Van Kempen at a reception on Monday, June 4, 2007 in the Alki Room, Seattle Center. The public is invited to attend. Admission is $30 per person and reservations can be made by calling (206) 770-0370.  Additional information is also available at www.tpsonline.org.

This year, TPS celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Gregory A. Falls Sustained Achievement Award.  The award was initiated in 1997 through a generous donation by Jean Falls to honor the memory of Seattle theatre visionary Gregory Falls, a former chair of the UW School of Drama who is credited with creating Seattle’s vibrant theater scene. More than any other individual, Falls was “most responsible for the theater boom in this town,” says Arne Zaslove, former artistic director of the Bathhouse Theatre at Green Lake. “He was the impresario of bringing it all together.”  Falls founded one of Seattle’s mainstays, ACT Theatre (formerly A Contemporary Theatre), more than three decades ago. He was ACT’s artistic director for 23 years until his retirement in 1987.

Theatre Puget Sound is proud to honor the legacy of Mr. Falls by shining a light on two of Seattle’s most outstanding theatre educators, Ruben Van Kempen in secondary education and Karen Gjelsteen in post-secondary education. The Falls nomination committee, composed of Jean Falls, past award recipients and TPS Board members, felt compelled to honor the impact made by these educators, who not only cultivate new generations of theatre artists, but who nurture future audience members and supporters of the arts. Their generosity of spirit and their dedication to the field is a continued inspiration to their students and to the wider community.

Karen Gjelsteen, Professor and Scenic Design Area Head has taught for Cornish College of the Arts since 1981 and was one of the key visionaries for establishing the Performance Production Department, one of the few undergraduate independent theatre design programs of its kind in the country. As a professional scenic designer, Karen has designed for theaters throughout the Pacific Northwest and the nation. Her Seattle design credits include work for Intiman Theatre Company, A Contemporary Theatre, Seattle Repertory Theatre, and The Empty Space Theatre, where she served as Resident Scenic Designer for four years. Her national credits include productions for the Alaska Repertory Theatre, Anchorage Opera, the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, Portland Center Stage, Portland Repertory Theatre, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Honolulu Theatre for Youth, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival and the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, where her designs received several Drama Critics Awards. She received a National Endowment Teaching Fellowship and an Artist Residency Grant from the Centrum Foundation. In 1989 she was a member of a Seattle/Soviet Arts Exchange Program and participated in designing a production in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Her panel participation credits include panels on discussions on “Women in Theatre” for U.S.I.T.T. and discussions on “Greening Our Theatres.” Prior to designing scenery, Karen was Resident Costume Designer for Chimera Theatre in St. Paul, Minn. She earned an MFA graduate cum laude from the University of Minnesota.

Ruben Van Kempen is currently the director of Theatre at Roosevelt High School. In 2006 Ruben was awarded the inaugural biennial Ruben Van Kempen Arts Educator Award by Intiman Theatre for his contributions to theatre arts eduction.
He is also the recipient of the 2004 Butch Blum Award of Excellence, the 2000 Christa McAuliffe Washington Award for Excellence in Education Award and the 1986 Seattle Excellence in Education Award.

As a theatre director he recently directed You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown for Seattle Pacific University and for the Roosevelt High School Theatre Ensemble produced/directed Too Darn Hot, which played to full houses at the 2006 Edinburgh Fringe Festival.  Directing credits include Quilters and My Fair Ladyat Western Washington University, Leonardo the Learner, a play produced by Intiman Theatre and Seattle Children’s Museum and numerous shows for Seattle CLO, (receiving The Seattle Times Footlight Theatre Award for Me and My Girl  – best Musical Revival 1993), Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, Funny Pages, &Hans Christian Anderson at the Village Theatre, the Northwest premiere of Good News! and others.Along with Beth Orme and Kim Douglass, he co-directed Broadway’s Fabulous Century for the 2000 Hawaii tour, plus I Got Rhythm, which performed at the 1996 Edinburgh Fringe Festival.  Ruben is a graduate of the UW School of Drama where he studied with Greg Falls, Eve Roberts, Robert Loper and Joan White. As an actor he has performed extensively in regional theatre. Some performances include work with television actress Jean Smart (Designing Women, High Society, Style & Substance)), Broadway’s Harry Groener and as a back-up vocalist singing for Pat Boone, Debby Boone and T.V. personality, Kathie Lee Gifford.

A proud educator, he has seen former students perform on Broadway in Never Gonna Dance, Chicago, Into the Woods, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Oklahoma, Life With Albertine, A Chorus Line, Good Vibrations and Lennon. They have been in national tours of Fosse, Chicago, Sunset Boulevard, Evita, Swing and Civil War. Alums have found careers in television with roles in Friends, Felicity, The Practice and Spin City, and have performed at the Tony Awards and in many television commercials. International productions in London’s West End and Europe have seen grads in The King and I, Miss Saigon, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, West Side Story and Cats. His wife Myrnie teaches strings for the Edmonds School District and his children both play classical violin and cello. Basically, they have the arts covered in their household. Ruben is listed in the 2006, 1998, 1996 & 1992 editions of Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers.