This school year, Greater Nashville’s high school stages have boasted theatrical legends from the Wizard and Willy Wonka to Jean Valjean and Ren McCormick, and Lipscomb University is honoring the work of these schools with the High School Musical Theatre Awards, an all-day workshop and awards ceremony hosted by Chuck Wagner, Middle Tennessee native and Broadway star.
Hundreds of kids from 12 high schools in Middle Tennessee will come to the Lipscomb campus Saturday, May 10, for the Department of Theatre’s first all-day seminar and awards program for high school musicals.
Photos: Lipscomb Academy's performance of "High School Musical"
Harpeth Hall and
Ensworth High School
Cookeville High School
Ravenwood High School
Franklin Road Academy
Wilson Central High School
Christ Presbyterian Academy
Station Camp High School
Beech High School
From August to April, trios of judges including Lipscomb theatre faculty, Lipscomb directing students and local theater professionals attended performances to judge the musicals at 12 participating schools. On Saturday, the university will host a master class by Wagner, a veteran of TV and stage; break-out sessions in areas such as auditions, dance, movement, set design and technology; and an awards ceremony where more than 30 honors will be handed out to groups and individuals.
Awards include Best Direction, Best Show, Best Actress, Best Actor, All Star Tech Crew, Best Design Student, Best Sets, Best Chorus or Ensemble and many more. The students nominated for best actress and best actor will perform and videos of the performances will be shown at the 6:30 p.m. awards ceremony in Collins Alumni Auditorium. Two winning students will be offered scholarships to attend Lipscomb in the fall.
“We want to honor students doing innovative work to foster a spirit of creative musical theater in Nashville,” said Mike Fernandez, chair of the theatre department. “The festival atmosphere will raise the bar for these schools. They’ll receive feedback on their specific performances from Lipscomb faculty members, and, over time, they’ll learn from one another.”
Learning from one another is exactly what makes Lipscomb’s High School Musical Theatre Awards valuable for students, said local theater teachers participating in the program.
“For a lot of my students, it’s their first year participating (in theater), so it is nice for them to get exposure to other theaters and students in the surrounding areas,” said Meredith Locke, a first-year theater teacher at Wilson Central High School in Lebanon.
The school is only 12 years old, so it’s almost sold out production of “Footloose” this year was a victory for the program, Locke said.
“This program will really give my students exposure on a different level than what I could give them at a high school program. They will have an opportunity to meet a lot of students who have been doing theater for a long time, and be exposed to a lot of professional artists whom I have been taught by and whom I respect,” she said.
Paula Flautt, long-time artistic director at Christ Presbyterian Academy, which performed “The Wizard of Oz,” said it was feedback provided by the judges that was valuable for her students to hear. “When you have three outsiders come and you get three different responses, the students start to see that not everyone sees things the same way,” she said. “That was very valuable to have that experience.”
Donnie Bryan, department chair of visual and performing arts at Ensworth High School, said his backstage crew is particularly excited to participate in the set design and technology workshops on Saturday. His school’s musical this year was “Anything Goes.”
Bryan said he appreciates the new program for providing acclaim for a group of students who do not always see a lot of public adoration. In sports, victories are immediately displayed on the scoreboard, he noted, but not so in the arts.
“It’s not so public. Many of our victories are very personal, in a class or backstage,” he said. “Lipscomb should be praised for providing such an opportunity for kids to get such recognition and acknowledgement. (High school theater) awards have been around for years, so it’s great to see it finally come to Nashville.”