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Press Release



September 30, 2014

Cara Kem joins the Theatre team



Hired as the dance instructor and choreographer at Cowley College, Cara Kem brings a great deal of experience to the Cowley College Theatre Department. She will hit the ground running as the theatre troupe kicks off its 2014-2015 season with the production of Little Shop of Horrors Oct. 30-Nov. 1.

“It’s an absolute dream,” Kem said. “John (Sefel) and I bring different gifts to this department. Those in the arts never stop learning. Because we work together so well, it has opened so many doors to new ideas in building this show. Jamison’s (Rhoads) sets are smartly constructed and give me an array of props on which to play. I’ve already learned so much from being here. I just want to be a sponge and soak up as much knowledge as I am allowed. The kids are being pushed just the right amount and are rising to the occasion. I’m very proud of each and every one of them. I feel so fortunate to be a part of such an incredible collaboration.”

Kem, an Oklahoma native, received her BS from the University of Central Oklahoma. She started her professional career at 13 at the Music Theatre of Wichita and Horsefeathers and Applesauce before performing leading roles in many other regional theaters across the county. She has been seen in multiple off-Broadway shows in New York City, has been involved in commercials, movies, TV, and voice-over work, and was in the Broadway 1st National Tour of Shrek.

CaraShe spent two summers at the Broadway Theater Project working under the direction of Ann Reinking, where she had the privilege to study with acclaimed professionals as Gwen Vernon, Gregory Hines, and Stanley Donen, to name a few. 

She is most proud of her work on the ground floor in the world premiere of High School Musical where she created the role of “Mrs. Wilson”, the moderator, and originated the role of “Cyndra” as well as many others. 

“Cara is an absolute dream,” said John Sefel, Cowley’s Director of Theatre. “Honestly, I had my fears—while her dance resume was extremely impressive, being a great dancer doesn’t automatically make someone a great choreographer and teacher. In Cara’s case, she’s truly all three. Her choreography so clearly communicates character and story that I’ve ended up having far more of Little Shop of Horrors done through dance than I had originally imagined, and I am impressed on a daily basis with the heights she’s encouraging our students to reach.”

Kem is thrilled to be returning close to home, bringing her knowledge and experience to the next generation of young artists. 

“This school is unbelievable friendly- like 1950’s movie friendly,” Kem said. “I’ve never been a part of a team that is more positive and friendly. I never feel like I’m going to work. Everyday Cowley allows me to enter their campus and play.”

Kem’s career in theatre began when she auditioned for Tulsa Ballet’s Nutcracker when she was was three and got the role of the Baby Mouse. Then when she was four, her brother and babysitter were in a play at the Ponca Playhouse. The director asked if Kem would like to join.

When she was six she met Richard Darby, who owned a musical theater school for kids in Oklahoma City.
“I found a kindred spirit in him, and he was the first person outside of my family that really saw something special,” Kem said. “His encouragement filled me with such joy. My lessons with him never felt like work. He was an incredible influence in my career, and I give so much credit for my success. I got a taste of the surreal, fun experiences that can be had while in the spotlight. I was hooked.”

Kem attended Ponca City High School and then at the age of 16 went to Northern Oklahoma College and auditioned for ‘Bye Bye Birdie’, which led to her landing the lead role.

“I continued to be involved with their shows for the remainder of my high school years,” Kem said. “NOC also hired me to choreograph my first musical during my Junior year.”

She went on to attend the University of Central Oklahoma. While at the school, she was enrolled as a musical theater major and was required to be involved in each musical and opera.

Kem also stayed busy as a member of the Kaleidoscope Dance Company all four years of college. 
After college, Kem moved to New York City and auditioned for off-Broadway shows.

Kem and her husband knew after the Broadway 1st National Tour of Shrek they could move home and start a family. The couple returned to her hometown of Ponca City, OK, so they could help Kem’s mother with her dance studio.

Then, a month later, Kem got a call from a former voice teacher, who was now working at Northern Oklahoma College and wanted Kem to teach dance at the school. Kem was added to the voice faculty as well and helped choreograph the musical at the school. Eventually she added teaching Pilates for the Physical Health department at NOC and became the choreographer for the Roustabouts, a performance show troupe. 

“My dad always said, “The more things you can do, the more opportunities you’ll have for employment.” Boy was he right,” Kem said.

Outside of her work at Cowley, Kem still teaches Pilates and does all the choreography for NOC, as well as help teach dance at her mother’s studio.

Kem hopes to pass on her knowledge and experience to the students in Cowley College’s Theatre Department.

“I believe my background and real world experience gives me a strong combination for teaching. More than that, though, is my love for people,” Kem said. “These kids are amazing and absolutely shine. They burn with the same passion for the arts that I did. I love getting to share my experiences and knowledge with them.  I want to be a part of their support team. I want to rejoice with them in even the smallest of successes. I want to help them grow stronger during the failures and encourage them keep moving forward. The arts is such an important part of the human experience, and I feel privileged to get to help shape the next generation of young artists.”

Kem joins John Sefel as the newest members of the theatre program at Cowley College. Sefel was brought on as Director of Theatre this fall, filling the vacancy left by beloved director Scott MacLaughlin, who passed away in 2013.  Sefel is a multi-award winning director, actor, and playwright from New England who spent the past three years teaching and creating theatre in Texas. Along with Kem and Sefel, Technical Director Jamison Rhoads and Director of Vocal Music Connie Donatelli make up the passionate team of individuals currently helming Little Shop of Horrors.