Lipscomb announces Nashville High School Musical Theater Awards

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wagner, chuck woods
Wagner as Rapunzel's Prince in "Into the Woods"
wagner, chuck les mis
Wagner as Javert in "Les Miserables"

Local high school performers will get a taste of the red carpet in spring 2014 as Lipscomb University holds its first Nashville High School Musical Theater Awards, hosted by Chuck Wagner, a Middle Tennessee native and Broadway star of “Beauty and the Beast” and “Into the Woods.”

Lipscomb’s Department of Theatre, within the College of Arts and Sciences, is currently recruiting Middle Tennessee high schools to participate in the awards program, which will kick off in November with a “Les Miserables” talk-back, held exclusively for the participating high school students after one of Lipscomb’s Nov. 6-9 performances. The talk-back will feature Wagner, who will play Jean Valjean in November and will also serve as master of ceremonies at the spring on-campus workshop and awards ceremony concluding the program.

Local schools that have volunteered to participate in the first-year program include Harpeth Hall, Nashville School of the Arts, and Montgomery Bell Academy in Davidson County, Central Magnet School in Rutherford County and Ravenwood High School in Williamson County, among others. The goal in the first year is to have 10 schools from the Greater Nashville area participate, which will involve 300 to 500 students.

From November to March, evaluators including Lipscomb theatre faculty, a Lipscomb directing student and local theater professionals, will attend performances at the participating schools and write evaluations. These evaluations will be used to determine the first set of awards in 2014. Schools will have access to the data for future improvement, and the Lipscomb theatre department will offer a $1,000 scholarship to attend Lipscomb to two outstanding students at the awards reception, said Mike Fernandez, chair of the Lipscomb theatre department.

“We want to honor students doing innovative work to foster a spirit of creative musical theater in Nashville,” Fernandez said. “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 attend each other’s shows and learn from one another.”

The season-ending awards workshop will include seminars on various aspects of musical theater led by Lipscomb theatre faculty and local theater professionals. The workshop and awards reception will provide networking opportunities and encouragement for school theater teachers and students, said Deb Holloway, Lipscomb assistant professor of theatre who is coordinating the program.

“During my previous career as a high school theater director, I loved meeting with other teachers and sharing ideas and resources,” Holloway said. “Networking among teachers is really critical for enhanced theater programs. When the students get to know each other, it builds respect for the craft and for others with like-minded goals.”

Wagner, who began his career on the Broadway stage in 1985, will bring insight and inspiration to the students and teachers. He teaches master classes across the nation and has performed in Broadway and national touring productions of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” “Les Miserables,” “Into the Woods” and “Dracula the Musical.”

“Musical theater is one of the penultimate artistic expressions. Helping students express ideas at that level is important because they can use this art form to not only entertain, but to challenge as well,” Fernandez said. “This program will also make students more aware of the musical theater scene in Middle Tennessee.”

Lipscomb officials hope to eventually tie the Nashville High School Musical Theater Awards into the National High School Musical Theater Awards, or the Jimmy Awards.

For more information or to become involved in the Nashville High School Musical Theater Awards contact Holloway at