Paper Mill recognizes theatrical achievement at N.J. high schools

MILLBURN, NJ — As one of the nation’s leading regional theaters and producing partners for Broadway, Paper Mill Playhouse has a well-earned reputation for launching both performers and shows for the Great White Way, according to a recent press release. Since their inception in 1996, the Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards for Excellence in High School Musical Theatre have ignited the careers of many notable performers, all of whom attended high school in New Jersey.

The 2016 Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards Presented by the Investors Foundation ceremony took place at Paper Mill Playhouse on June 7, featuring presenters from Broadway and beyond. The ceremony was broadcast live on television and online through Paper Mill Playhouse video partner, Hometowne Television of Summit.

“We are very excited to celebrate excellence in high school musical theater with the students of New Jersey,” Mark S. Hoebee, Paper Mill’s producing artistic director, said in the release. “For many New Jersey schools, the prestigious honor of a Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star nomination is the culmination of their hard work in a high school musical. Many of our Rising Star nominees and winners are now working professionally and have won esteemed industry awards while working in theater and film.”

“What’s happening in high school musical productions here in New Jersey and around the country is remarkable,” Paper Mill Director of Education Lisa Cooney said in the release. “Programs like the Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards raise the bar and create opportunities for student performers and theater technicians to be recognized for their achievements, while giving them access to thousands of dollars in scholarships and professional training. We consistently hear from top-tier colleges and casting directors that a Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Award is a significant accolade for an aspiring theater artist.”

The Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards Presented by the Investors Foundation are modeled after the Tony Awards, and Paper Mill Playhouse’s program serves the entire state of New Jersey, with nearly 100 entered productions from public, private and parochial high schools. Paper Mill Playhouse conceived and created the awards in 1996 to give schools the opportunity to showcase their musical arts programs on a statewide level. The musicals are adjudicated by Paper Mill Playhouse throughout the spring by a group of 70 evaluators, with each school receiving four independent evaluations. Schools nominated for Outstanding Overall Musical and Leading Actor/Actress nominees perform at the event, and award recipients are presented with an engraved crystal award from Tiffany & Co.

“We are proud to support the 2016 Rising Star Awards,” Investors Bank President and CEO Kevin Cummings said in the release. “All of the nominees put in a tremendous amount of time and hard work into their productions, and it has certainly shown with all the amazing shows put on this year.”

Paper Mill Playhouse also awards $5,000 in scholarships at the Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards Presented by the Investors Foundation. Five $1,000 cash scholarships are given to outstanding individual students who plan to continue studying theater performance or technical theater in college. Paper Mill Playhouse awards a prize of $500 to a school receiving the 2016 Educational Impact Award, which acknowledges a school that successfully connects the musical to the district’s curriculum, using the production as a teaching tool for the greater student body and local community. Through the Rising Star “Theatre for Everyone” Inclusion and Access Award and a partnership with The Cultural Access Network of New Jersey, a project of the New Jersey Theatre Alliance and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, Paper Mill Playhouse will present a cash award of $1,000 to a school to recognize excellence in the promotion and practice of creative inclusion of students and adults with disabilities as performers, designers, musicians and production staff. Additionally, this award seeks to recognize and reward a school that takes steps to ensure their performances are accessible to audiences with disabilities.

Lastly, students receiving final nominations in the lead and supporting acting categories receive a scholarship to Paper Mill Playhouse’s competitive Summer Musical Theatre Conservatory, a professional training program, which, along with advanced classes in singing, acting and dance, offers the nominees an opportunity to perform onstage on July 29 and 30 at Paper Mill Playhouse in the season finale concert, “New Voices of 2016: Everything Old is New Again!”

The 2016 Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards Winners are:

  • Outstanding Overall Production: Summit High School for “Mary Poppins”;
  • Outstanding Actress in a Leading Role: Summit High School’s Claire Fitzpatrick as Mary Poppins in “Mary Poppins”;
  • Outstanding Actor in a Leading Role: Fair Lawn High School’s Trevor Braun as Charlie Chaplin in “Chaplin the Musical”;
  • Outstanding Hair and Make-up Achievement: Clearview Regional High School’s Celine Lockman, Fiona Kniaz, Alex Salvitti, Angela Colo and Gina Freshcoln for “The Addams Family”;
  • Outstanding Costuming Achievement: Summit High School’s Katherine Winter for “Mary Poppins”;
  • Outstanding Lighting Achievement: Sharp Edge Lighting Design for Westfield High School’s “Into the Woods”;
  • Outstanding Scenic Achievement: Passaic County Technical Institute’s Robert Vendetti for “Man of La Mancha”;
  • Outstanding Choreography / Musical Staging: Union High School’s Jennifer Williams for “Mary Poppins”;
  • Outstanding Music Direction: Academy of the Holy Angels’ George Croom for “Children of Eden”;
  • Outstanding Direction: Academy of the Holy Angels’ Katie McSherry for “Children of Eden”;
  • Outstanding Orchestra: West Morris Central High School for “In the Heights”;
  • Outstanding Chorus: Academy of the Holy Angels for “Children of Eden”;
  • Outstanding Featured Ensemble Group: the silly girls in Columbia High School’s “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast”;
  • Outstanding Performance in a Featured Role: West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South’s Eric Judson as Paul in “A Chorus Line”;
  • Outstanding Performance by a Featured Ensemble Member: Bernards High School’s Greg Lobo as Big Jule in “Guys and Dolls”;
  • Outstanding Actress in a Supporting Role: Pingry School’s Jazmin Palmer as Fraulein Schneider in “Cabaret”;
  • Outstanding Actor in a Supporting Role: Montclair Kimberley Academy’s Ross Turkington as Cookie McGee in “Nice Work If You Can Get It”;
  • Educational Impact Award: St. Joseph Regional High School for “Urinetown”;
  • “Theatre for Everyone” Inclusion & Access Award: Morristown High School for “Once Upon a Mattress”;
  • Student Achievement Award: Cicely L. Tyson School of Performing and Fine Arts’ Darnisha Thomas, costume designer for “The Wiz”;
  • Student Achievement Award: David Brearley High School’s John Hartmann, assistant set designer for “Aida”;
  • Student Achievement Award: Morris County Schol of Technology’s Emma Nafz, stage manager for “Once On This Island”;
  • Student Achievement Award: Mount Olive High School’s Kara Byrnes, student choreographer for “Big Fish”;
  • Student Achievement Award: Mount Olive High School’s Dominic Hendrickson, student director for “Big Fish”;
  • Student Achievement Award: Summit High School’s Katherin Recio, student director for “Mary Poppins”;
  • Student Achievement Award: Summit High School’s costume crew for “Mary Poppins”;
  • Student Achievement Award: Westfield High School’s Devyn Tibbals, stage manager for “Into the Woods”;
  • Student Achievement Award: Westfield High School’s Madeline Kevelson, student costume designer for “Into the Woods”; and
  • Student Achievement Award: Westfield High School’s Sarah Morton, assistant technical director for “Into the Woods.”