A Swift Current teacher has been recognized for his contribution to the development of child and youth drama in the province.
Stefan Rumpel, the dramatic arts teacher at Swift Current Comprehensive High School since 2010, is the recipient of the Saskatchewan Drama Association (SDA) Outstanding Achievement Award.
The award presentation took place in Regina on May 11 during the SDA provincial festival. This award for outstanding achievement is presented annually to an individual for accumulated dedication or achievement as an adult member of the SDA.
The award recognizes a person’s sustained and significant contribution to the promotion of the growth and development of child and youth drama in Saskatchewan. It also gives recognition to this person’s promotion of drama through communication and drama development programs.
The award came as a big and pleasant surprise for Rumpel, who appreciates the award as a recognition of his passion for theatre and his desire to share it with others.
“It just reaffirms the good things that I knew I was doing with the team of people that I worked with over the last few years to really promote theatre as an outlet for kids to explore their creativity and grow and gain the skills that can help them later in life,” he said.
He enjoyed storytelling from a young age, and he views theatre as one of the most interesting and dynamic ways to tell stories.
“It allows kids to explore different ideas outside themselves, and probably the biggest, most powerful reason that I love the theatre is just because it promotes empathy and the ability to put yourself in somebody else’s shoes and feel what they’re feeling and think what they’re feeling,” he said. “I think theatre is a great way to break down barriers and move forward as people so that we can grow and become better.”
The theatre world provides participants with the opportunity to become part of a supportive group of individuals.
“Time and time again students come to me and they say that drama was one of the first places where they really felt like they fit and people accepted them for who they were,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for them to use that safe space to grow in their confidence and then they can take that growth and they can apply it to other areas of their life.”
Students can develop a variety of skills through their involvement with theatre productions. It can help them to become more confident, to improve their speaking skills, to work as a team and at the same time it is an outlet for their creativity.
“I think there is a really diverse skill set that theatre offers and it hits a lot of different areas,” he said. “I always joke that in the theatre class I can really be teaching some English content, some social studies content, and some construction, because all of those elements filter in.”
The drama program at Swift Current Comprehensive High School has grown significantly under his guidance. Last fall’s production of The Sound of Music involved over 130 students, staff and community members, which was a record. The school’s spring productions have achieved success at SDA regional and provincial festivals, and these plays have won awards in different festival categories, including best overall production.
“For the past nine years we’ve been taking the largest group in the province to these festivals,” he said. “Usually somewhere around 70-76 students have been travelling with us to compete in festivals, and sometimes moved on to provincials, and even go on to win provincials. … So it’s really grown and it hasn’t just been my efforts. I have been really lucky to have an amazing team. Shaun Spence, Scott Derksen, Riley Sharp, Jessie Hanna, Stacey Kohlman and many other people over the years in the administration have been so supportive.”
He felt more students are attracted to the program because it has a good reputation and they are trying to do something different and interesting each year.
“In my nine years we’ve done musicals, we’ve done Shakespeare, we’ve done children’s theatre,” he said. “We try to mix it up and keep it interesting for kids and challenge them in different ways.”
Rumpel’s involvement with theatre extends to beyond his activities at school. He was a founding member of Swift Current Improvisational Theatre.
“I love it because it’s off-the-cuff humour,” he said. “There’s no wrong answer in improvs, because it’s just made up on the spot and there’s a freedom in that. You don’t have the worry the audience is going to know you’ve made a mistake, because they know you’re making it up on the spot. So when you do make a mistake, they laugh with you about it and it’s just a very fun and open audience-performer relationship.”
He has been involved as an actor and director in various other productions in the community, including with Swift Current Little Theatre and with the Swift Current centennial celebrations. He considers his involvement as actor and co-director of the successful musical drama The Cypress Hills would Never be the Same to be a real highlight.
“It was just great to work with that team and to do a historical musical that is written in the area by Stew Tasche with such a great knowledge of the surrounding area,” Rumpel said. “That was a ton of fun to be a part of it. It was so well-supported by the community and it really was just a great bunch of people to be around. It never felt difficult. Sometimes when you get into tech rehearsal or show run there’s high tension or stress levels, but that group was just so well-coordinated and so kind. I was excited to do it every time we got to redo the show.”
He is excited to be part of the current preparations for the Western Canada Summer Games, which will take place in Swift Current and area in August. He has volunteered to be the associate producer for the opening and closing ceremonies, and he enjoys the opportunity to work with Gordon McCall, who is the Lyric Theatre’s artistic director.
“We want to show that Swift Current really has this amazing artistic legacy,” Rumpel said. “We have such a great history of amazing talented musical artists, and the theatre programs are growing strong. So we’re trying to pull from everywhere we can in Swift Current and in the surrounding southwest Saskatchewan so that we can really put on a show that people will be proud of and will feel represented Swift Current really well.”