Arts & CultureTheater

Kevin Dempsey fills the musical theater void on campus



When Kevin Dempsey first came to the University of Oregon in 2014, he knew he wanted to follow a theatrical path. That led him straight to the School of Music and Dance.

Now only months away from graduation, Dempsey will surely leave behind a legacy. He is the mastermind behind the first student-run musical theater showcase on the University of Oregon campus. Last year’s Sondheim Showcase was an undeniable success, proving that musical theater does have a place on this campus.

After taking the stage as Hector the Nectar Inspector in the show “To Bee Or Not To Bee” at age nine, Dempsey knew that the theater world was one he belonged in. In the years leading up to his arrival on campus, Dempsey performed in many different school and professional shows. Eventually, he decided that his passion for theater deserved a degree to match. But, when Dempsey searched for musical theater opportunities at UO, all he seemed to find was a lack thereof. For his first few years on campus, Dempsey had to perform a balancing act between his love of music and theater. It simply wasn’t working.

“I felt disappointed that I had to give up one of them. The one that I chose was theater, but it didn’t feel right. I just needed more musical theater somewhere in my life and the showcase really felt like the right thing to do,” Dempsey said.

Once he had the idea, Dempsey knew he had to make it a reality. That process was an uphill battle.

“One of the initial challenges I faced was just finding interest from both students and staff — finding people who would commit. And also the personal challenge of wondering if the showcase would even turn out well,” Dempsey said. “Just because I wanted this didn’t mean that everyone else did.”

Dempsey overcame those personal challenges when tickets sold and Beall Hall filled. Musical theater had finally found a notable place on campus. When he couldn’t find an opportunity, Dempsey made one for himself.

Dempsey recently put together a cast for his second showcase. “Then and Now: Broadway’s Best” will take the stage of Beall Hall November 30 at 7:30 p.m. and December 2 at 3 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online and at the door. Dempsey will act as the showcase’s director for the last time, but he hopes the showcase will live on even after his graduation.

“I would love to make the showcase an annual thing. I can’t imagine a better legacy to leave behind,” he said.


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Courtney Simich

Courtney Simich