Kate Benton on Theater, Improv, and Middle School – TSC045

Kate Benton just completed her 27th year at Harvard-Westlake, where she has served as a performing arts faculty member and most recently as Head of the Middle School Deans. In this episode, Kate explains how middle schoolers have adjusted back to “in-person” school academically, mentally, and socially, and how Kate and her colleagues start their advisory work with “listening.” Kate also describes her upbringing in New York City as the child of a theater producer and classically trained violinist, which spurred in her a passion for the arts. This carried through to her schooling at Chapin, Dana Hall, and Northwestern, before Kate ventured west to Los Angeles and joining the famed Groundlings improvisation and sketch comedy group where she later served as President. Following an acting career that included appearing on two episodes of Seinfeld (both are discussed), Kate discovered Harvard-Westlake and in 1995 accepted Tom Hudnut’s invitation to begin her career in education. In conclusion, Kate tells one of the most moving stories of the series, relating to the Broadway musical Mame, a fire, her father, and a time when Kate says, “Harvard-Westlake was listening.” Kate references her parents, Jeanne Armin of Dana Hall School, Nina Burtchaell of Harvard-Westlake, and actor Phil Hartman as profound life influences.