Pittsburg High School Theatre's production of “The Little Mermaid,” the musical, has been nominated by Music Theatre Wichita for Jester Awards in 17 categories.
During the past eight months, MTWichita judges reviewed 127 performances by 41 Kansas schools. The Jester Awards program is designed to celebrate excellence in high school musical theater. Each year, trained volunteer judges attend and evaluate dozens of performances.
This year, 102 judges viewed 127 performances of 41 productions, involving more than 2,800 students and 41 schools across Kansas.
“Being involved in the Jester's organization is great for our program, and to be recognized in 17 categories for one show is a huge honor,” Shaw said. “It’s certainly humbling that they think highly of what we're doing here.”
It's been another in a string of successes by PHS Theatre this year; the fall musical, "Urinetown," was chosen for State in January, and then qualified as one of only 11 schools in the nation to be performed at the International Thespian Festival in June. The Jester Awards Ceremony — a red carpet, black tie affair — will be held in Wichita in May.
“It's always nice to get feedback, especially from people who see lots and lots of theater, that you're doing things at a high level,” Shaw said. “Our kids being featured on stage at Jester’s is a feather in their cap and something they will always remember.”
This is the third year in a row PHS has participated in being judged by the Jester Awards program and the third year in a row PHS has earned nominations, although this year is special: it’s the highest number of nominations yet for a single production.
In 2017, PHS earned 17 nominations for two shows (“Seussical” and “The Addams Family”), coming home from the awards ceremony with 11 Jester Awards. In 2016, PHS earned 18 nominations for two shows (“Shrek” and “Band Geeks”), coming home with 15 awards.
This year, rules stipulated that each school could be judged on just one production. PHS opted to have “The Little Mermaid,” performed in February at Memorial Auditorium, judged for consideration.
The nominations PHS earned for “The Little Mermaid” are:
direction of show (Greg Shaw)
leading actress (McKenna Shaw for Arial and Cassie Hurt-McLarty for Ursula)
supporting actor (Matt Buck for Flounder)
cameo performer (Gabe Anderson for Chef Louise)
orchestra direction (Cooper Neil)
vocal music direction (Susan Laushman)
artistic guest (Maggie Stephens and Mollie Stephens, choreography)
technical achievement (Hazel Harper, hair/makeup)
scenic design (Chuck Boyles/Greg Shaw)
design guest (Todd Hoover-Holthus and Phillip Hoover-Holthus, costume design; Jason Huffman, sound design; and Kyle Newby, lighting design)
graphic design (Anita White).
The Jester Awards Ceremony will take place at Century II Performing Arts Center’s Convention Hall in Wichita on Sunday, May 6, at 4 p.m. Honorees in 25 categories will be announced during the ceremony, and several of the honorees — including the full ensemble of Little Mermaid, Cassie Hurt-McLarty, and McKenna Shaw — will perform. The crew and pit band also will attend.
“Theater provides so many young people with a sense of community. Together, they learn the value of work, collaboration, creativity, and dedication,” said MTWichita Board President Michelle Moe Witte. “Their work is inclusive and so are the Jester Awards. Whether they belted out a tune on stage, ran the sound board, or created the program – this is their night to shine. It is our opportunity to celebrate all that they have accomplished and to honor the community they have created.” Scholarship awards also will be presented to three students, lead male and female honorees and a technical theater recipient.
Tickets to the ceremony are $10 each and may be purchased at the door, online atmtwichita.org, or by calling the Music Theatre Wichita box office at 316-265-3107. Alumni of the Jester Awards program can be seen onstage and backstage at Music Theatre Wichita this summer, as well as on Broadway and in regional theaters across the country.