“Bright Star” by Hays High performers. Photo courtesy Brenda Meder
18th annual Jester Awards will be May 5
WICHITA – Music Theatre Wichita’s Jester Awards program, which has been honoring outstanding achievements by Kansas high schools in the field of musical theatre since 2002, is adding a brand new element to its annual awards event. On Sunday, May 5, as part of the 18th annual Jester Awards Ceremony, Leading Actor and Leading Actress awards will be determined through live performances by the nominees, which will be evaluated by a team of professional judges.
Hays High School has been nominated for best overall production for its production of “Bright Star,” which also received nods for best director (Alex Underwood), best leading actress (Caitlin Leiker), best leading actor (Cade Swayne), best ensemble/chorus, best vocal musical direction, best stage crew and best design guest.
Thomas More Prep’Marian production of “Oklahoma!” received nominations for best supporting actor (Dylan Werth), best choreography/staging, best scenic design and best lobby display.
Russell High School earned nominations for its production of “Once Upon a Mattress” in the production number and choreography/staging categories.
Since the inception of the program, trained volunteer judges have been attending and evaluating dozens of performances across south central Kansas, and the judges’ scoring has determined the award recipients in two dozen categories. This year, 72 judges viewed 115 performances of 38 productions, involving more than 2400 students and extending as far as Liberal, Hays, Salina, Pittsburg, and Topeka, in addition to the greater Wichita area.
This year, for the first time, each of the 20 Leading Actor and Actress nominees will perform a brief solo from the show in which they appeared, and the professional judges’ scores will determine the awards given in these categories, as well as who will receive two monetary scholarships. The ten school productions which have been nominated as Outstanding Overall Production will also each perform an excerpt from their school production, with additional entertainment provided by The Trust Company of Kansas Music Theatre Wichita Teen Choir.
The Jester Awards Ceremony will take place at Century II Performing Arts Center’s Convention Hall in Wichita on Sunday, May 5, 2019 at 4pm. Honorees in 24 categories will be announced during the ceremony, and several of the honorees will perform. Scholarship awards will be presented to three students, lead male and female honorees and a technical theatre recipient. Tickets to the ceremony are $10 each in advance (online only), or may be purchased the day of the show for $15 each. Black Hills Energy is sponsoring the awards ceremony, and ongoing support for the program is provided by founder Belden Mills and his wife Anna, and the Lois K. Walls Jester Fund at MTWichita.
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 theatres across the country. MTWichita Board President Michelle Moe Witte says: “As students study theatre, they learn a new discipline and develop empathy by exploring the thoughts and feelings of other people, including the very characters that they play on the stage. These are core life skills. Some will go on to theatrical careers, but others will simply benefit from the life skills developed on a high school stage. That alone is worth celebrating. The Jester Awards is our opportunity to honor the musical theatre art form and the hard work, collaboration, creativity, and dedication of the young people who brought these productions to life.”