Paper Mill now accepting registrations for high school competition

MILLBURN, NJ — Paper Mill Playhouse is now accepting registrations for the Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards for Excellence in High School Musical Theater program, presented by the Investors Foundation. Since their inception in 1996, the Rising Star Awards have ignited the careers of many notable performers including Academy Award winner Anne Hathaway, Tony Award winners Laura Benanti and Nikki M. James, Tony nominee Rob McClure, NBC’s “The Wiz Live!” star Shanice Williams, and Olivier Award nominee Jared Gertner.

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on area high schools, causing rolling school building closures, split attendance schedules and social distancing restrictions, leaving many New Jersey high schools unable to produce a traditional musical with a live audience. Theater educators, however, are finding new ways to teach students remotely and are exploring how to create musical products through virtual rehearsals and performances.

With this in mind, Paper Mill is launching an abridged Rising Star Awards program that preserves essential elements that serve both students and teachers and will continue to provide a meaningful recognition platform for the school community. Paper Mill will welcome video submissions of student performances for a shorter list of categories: Outstanding Performance by an Actor, Actress, Small Ensemble and Large Ensemble; the Student Achievement Awards for non-performance contributions; the Rising Star Scholarships for graduating seniors; and the “Theater for Everyone” Inclusion and Access Award. A new honor, the Outstanding Educator Award, has been added. More details about the 2021 Rising Star program are available at

To participate in the program and submit students for awards, New Jersey high schools must first complete the registration process. Registration is accepted on a first-come, first-served basis for the first 100 schools that respond. The deadline to register is Jan. 15, 2021, at 5 p.m., and forms are available now online at 2021 Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards Registration.

The final nominees will be announced in May, and the 2021 awards ceremony will take place Monday, June 7, at 7 p.m.

In addition to recognizing performances, Paper Mill Playhouse will award scholarships. Five $1,000 cash scholarships will be given to outstanding students who plan to continue studying theater performance, theater education or technical theater in college.