The Friends of PHS Performing Arts is proud to announce that Pittsburg High School Theatre Teacher Greg Shaw was chosen for an honorable mention in the national Excellence in Theatre Education Award presented by the Tony Awards.
The Tony Awards announced the news today with higher education partner and award presenter Carnegie Mellon University.
He is one of just 20 teachers selected for the honor from hundreds of deserving nominations across the U.S. He was nominated for the award by the Friends group, which is comprised of parents who support the performing arts program financially and with human resources by volunteering. A parent and a student created a 3-minute video, while others, including a former student and an administrator, wrote letters of recommendation.
The Excellence in Theatre Education Award recognizes a K-12 theatre educator in the U.S. who has demonstrated monumental impact on the lives of students and who embodies the highest standards of the profession. A panel of judges was comprised of the American Theatre Wing, The Broadway League, Carnegie Mellon University and other leaders from the theatre industry.
Rachel Harry, a 30-year veteran theatre teacher of Hood River, Oregon, was named the recipient of the award and will receive the award at the 71st Annual Tony Awards on Sunday, June 11, at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Shaw’s name, along with the other finalists, will appear in the Playbill.
Harry will receive $10,000 for her theatre program, round-trip airfare and hotel accommodations for her and a guest to New York City, and tickets to the Tony Awards and Gala.
“I was honored to have been nominated for the award, but to receive honorable mention and be listed alongside such great theatre teachers across the country that create amazing theatre, innovate in the classroom, and aggressively advocate for the arts is humbling,” Shaw said Monday afternoon. “Needless to say, I am very proud of the award and I share it with all the many people who have had a hand in creating the Pittsburg High School Theatre Department.”
Shaw began teaching the program at PHS 10 years ago, collaborating with band teacher Cooper Neil and vocal teacher Susan Laushman on musical productions and expanding the annual production list. He partnered with Mt. Carmel Foundation to produce an annual gift to the community, “Breakfast With Santa,” each December. He has engaged former students to serve as choreographers, and worked with a professional playwright to create a series of annual social issues plays that have garnered national attention.
In recent years, the program has received some 40 nominations for Jester Awards from Music Theatre Wichita for shows like “Shrek” and “Seussical,” has been chosen for a main stage performance of “Band Geeks” at the Kansas Thespian Conference, and has produced numerous scholarship winners.
Shaw also serves on the board of directors at Pittsburg Community Theatre, where he has directed such hits as “Annie,” “Junie B. Jones,” and “13," and has directed 13 shows for Shawnee Mission's Theatre in the Park.
Shaw is a native of Gardner, Kansas, where he graduated from Gardner-Edgerton High School in 1987. He earned his master's of science in education with an emphasis in communication/theatre from Pittsburg State University in 2006.
PHS was honored to receive 11 Jester Awards from Music Theatre Wichita Friday night. They are:
• Direction of Show: Greg Shaw/Seussical
• Leading Actress: McKenna Shaw/Seussical/Gertrude McFuzz
• Leading Actor: Andrew Ortolani/Addams Family/Gomez Addams
• Supporting Actress: McKenna Shaw/Addams Family/Wednesday Addams
• Ensemble/Chorus: Seussical
• Choreography/Staging: Maggie Stephens and Molly Stephens/Seussical
• Stage Crew: Addams Family
• Scenic Design: Greg Shaw and Chuck Boyles/Addams Family
• Costumes: Todd and Philip Hoover-Holthus/Seussical
• Lighting: Kirsten Burke and Olivia Ellison/Seussical
• Sound: Jason Huffman, Miranda Madden, and Elisabeth Brown/Seussical
We'd like to also recognize the following for being nominated for Jester Awards, an honor in and of itself:
• Small Ensemble: The Wickershams (Gabe Abarca, Matt Buck, Griffin Cooper, Maddy Emerson, Chance Estes, Jazmin Havens, Journey Jaramillo, PJ Monsour, Dominic Stefanoni)/Seussical
• Outstanding Lead Actor: Sammy Jameson/Seussical/Horton
• Outstanding Musical Direction: Cooper Neil/Seussical
• Outstanding Orchestra: Seussical
• Instrumental Performer: Zach Uttley/Ukulele serenade/Addams Family
• Outstanding Vocal Direction: Susan Laushman/Seussical
• Outstanding Overall Production: Seussical
This year, 94 judges viewed 129 performances of 44 productions, involving more than 2,500 students and 38 schools across the state of Kansas.
PHS also was delighted to perform a montage from Seussical on stage during the ceremony, and to see Senior Andrew Ortolani, who received an Outstanding Lead Actor Award, perform a number as Gomez Addams from The Addams Family.
We also were impressed with the performances of our fellow nominees from across the state! Congratulations to all for a terrific season!
Music Theatre Wichita officially announced on Monday that Pittsburg High School was among the nominees for the 16th Annual Jester Awards, a program designed to celebrate excellence in high school musical theatre. Each year, trained volunteer judges attend and evaluate dozens of performances. Last year, PHS was nominated for 18 awards, receiving 14 plus a Jester scholarship.
This year, 94 judges viewed 129 performances of 44 productions, involving more than 2,500 students and 38 schools across the state of Kansas. The program began in Wichita, but now extends as far as Liberal, Hays, Salina, and Pittsburg, in addition to the greater Wichita area.
In total, PHS received 17 Jester nominations this year. They are:
The Jester Awards Ceremony will take place at the Orpheum Theatre in Wichita on Friday, May 12, at 7 p.m. Honorees in 24 categories will be announced during the ceremony, and several of the honorees will perform numbers from their shows, including Pittsburg High School. One leading male honoree and one leading female honoree will receive a scholarship award of $2,500, and one student will receive a scholarship for their achievements in technical theatre.
Tickets to the ceremony are $10 each. Parents or family members planning on attending with Pittsburg High School should contact Andra Stefanoni ASAP to put your name on the list; Director Greg Shaw is handling sign-up for cast, crew, band, and other students, who will ride busses to the event.
Alumni of the Jester Awards program can be seen onstage and backstage at Music Theatre Wichita this summer, as well as in regional theatres across the country and on Broadway, including in this year’s new Broadway musical Anastasia.
“The Jester Awards program has become one of the most gratifying aspects of Music Theatre Wichita," said Producing Artistic Director Wayne Bryan. "The dedication of these students and teachers is a vibrant reminder of the how powerful the arts can be in opening minds, unlocking potential, and enriching a community.”
Congratulations to all the nominees from our school and others!
When PHS junior Alexis Daniels learned she was cast as JoJo in “Seussical,” she immediately texted her family with the announcement: “News! News! News! We have another JoJo in the family!”
Alexis is the second from her family to play the role of the imaginative 11-year-old boy who longs to be valued and loved for himself, and finds a friend in Horton. She follows her older sister, Lacey Daniels, who was cast as JoJo in the first “Seussical” to be produced at PHS in 2007.
Greg Shaw, their director, says the sisters both have a strong sense of “the allusion of the first time” on stage.
“The entire story is taking place through the imagination of a young child, so the appearance this is the first time JoJo has had these ideas is very important,” he says. “It must seem original. Both Alexis and Lacey allow themselves to experience their environment and other characters as though they have zero idea where things will end up.”
But when Alexis auditioned for “Seussical,” she had her eye on the role of JoJo and actually had rehearsed the audition cut quite a bit. She didn’t consult Lacey, nor did Lacey offer advice.
“It’s caused me to figure everything out on my own and make it original,” Alexis says.
This is the second time in a year that Alexis has played the part of a young boy; in last fall’s “Addams Family” she was Pugsley, the ornery little brother of Wednesday Addams. But this role demands a much lighter approach, with curiosity and wonder.
“I did have quite an imagination when I was younger, so I’m trying to connect with that, but also remember that I’m a boy in this show and not little Alexis,” she says.
Lacey, who got her start in theatre as a child in church musicals and elementary school plays, portrayed JoJo as a sophomore.
Like Alexis, the previous fall she also had played the part of an 11-year-old boy, in a production at Pittsburg State. She went on to play Anne in “Anne Frank” and Sandy in “Grease” her senior year.
Lacey earned a degree in English and creative writing at the University of Kansas, where theatre continued to be a part of her life; she served as stage manager for several plays.
But “Seussical” will always occupy a special place in her heart.
“It was the first time we had athletes in productions at PHS, and the first time people began to take theatre seriously,” she says. “It was pretty amazing to see this huge football player, who played Horton, sitting on a plaster tree singing his heart out. ‘Seussical’ is when barriers really started breaking down. I think it was the show that opened it up to be cool for everyone.”
“There’s such a culture there that’s so unlike anything else, unlike any other group of people you spend time around.”
Lacey won't be able to make it to the 10-year reunion for former "Seussical" cast members and cast members of other PHS musicals during Shaw's tenure, but she plans to be in the audience Thursday night.
"I know she'll be terrific," she says of Alexis.
Thanks to the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce for allowing us to host the weekly Chamber coffee at PHS to share previews of "Seussical" and tell them about our performing arts program!
Here, a few sneak peeks of our promotional performances:
Today was a special day in the life of PHS junior Meghan Hess, who aspires to be a professional screenwriter or playwright. At the Kansas Thespian Festival, her play, "Tender is the Tell-Tale Heart: A Brief Odyssey of Love," was brought to life in a "world premier."
Meghan, who wrote the one-act in an independent study with PHS theatre teacher Greg Shaw, submitted it to the Kansas Thespian Playworks contest and it was chosen as the top entry in the state. Yesterday during the festival, auditions were held and a cast selected.
Today, the cast workshopped it and performed it to a sizable audience of fellow festival attendees. Story summary: F. Scott Fitzgerald (played by Ryan Leibold of Free State High School), Edgar Allen Poe (played by Austin Hancock of Field Kinley High School), and Homer (played by Chris Pendry of Free State High School), come to life as a figment of the imagination of a young poet (played by Katy Brown of PHS) attempting to craft the perfect poem for her true love (played by Alex Perkins of PHS).
Following a Standing O, Meghan fielded questions and suggestions for improving it before taking it to the International Thespian Festival this summer.
This year's annual Breakfast With Santa tradition by PHS Theatre, sponsored by Mount Carmel Foundation, was special: It featured an original script written by junior Meghan Hess, an aspiring playwright.
Directed by senior Coral VanBecelaere, who was assisted by Alexis Daniels, the show was presented free this morning to several hundred children and parents as a Christmas gift to the community.
The plot: Santa is ill and can’t deliver presents on Christmas Eve and his brother, Nickolai arrives to take over. But Mrs. Claus remains skeptical, as do four loyal elves. When they take it upon themselves to investigate, they uncover a shocking secret: Nickolai is planning on keeping the toys for himself. Mrs. Claus, who works hard to manage just about every other aspect of life at the North Pole, believes she can take Santa's place to deliver the toys.
Santa initially scoffs at the idea, but with the elves encouragement, Mrs. Claus stands firm, gets the toys delivered on her own, and helps Nickolai see the error of his ways. In the end, Santa and the elves realize she was capable all along and pamper Mrs. Claus with breakfast in bed for a job well done.
Following the show, the audience was treated to breakfast themselves, including muffins, fruit, cereal, milk and juice, all provided by Mount Carmel Foundation. They had a chance to greet the elves, write letters to Santa, make crafts, and sit on Santa's lap for photos.
On the last day of school, 14 members of the PHS Drama Club dressed as superheroes and joined parent Michael Dalton at George Nettels to welcome elementary students!
Dalton has been dressing as Disney, Marvel, and DC characters each Friday morning since the school year began, and contacted PHS Theatre teacher Greg Shaw for assistance with a mega-superhero welcome.
Theatre students were happy to help!