The 2023 Miami Valley High School Theatre Awards Showcase, honoring the achievements of the 2022-2023 school year, will be held Tuesday, June 6 at the Schuster Center.
Facilitated under the auspices of Dayton Live, MVHSTA salutes plays, musicals, students and educators. The organization’s aim is to celebrate, support and advocate for high school theater education throughout the Miami Valley region.
The participating schools in the fourth season of MVHSTA are: Butler High School; Carlisle High School; Carroll High School; Cedarville High School; Centerville High School; Chaminade Julienne Catholic High School; Dayton Christian School; Dominion Academy; Emmanuel Christian Academy; Fairborn High School; Franklin High School; Kettering Fairmont High School; Madison Jr./Sr. High School; Mechanicsburg High School; Monroe High School; Northmont High School; Springboro High School; Stivers School for the Arts; Tecumseh High School; Tippecanoe High School; Versailles High School; Wayne High School; West Carrollton High School; Wilmington High School, Xenia High School; and Yellow Springs High School.
“This year we adjudicated 50 productions – that is a huge number,” says Gary Minyard, Vice President – Education and Engagement for Dayton Live. “MVHSTA truly is a program that is supporting high school programs wherever they are and whatever kind of needs they have. But the program also lifts up the entire community. We have professional and semi-professional theater practitioners giving students constructive criticism, giving ideas about how to grow musically and as actors, which, for me, is really the heart of all of this.”
Completing her first year as MVHSTA coordinator, Taylor Benjamin is pleased with the addition of five new schools in the program, increasing the total to 26 compared to 21 last year.
“I’m really proud of everybody who has participated and the growth I’ve seen in these 26 programs,” says Benjamin. “There is so much untapped talent in the Miami Valley region. I can’t even imagine how much is still out there, particularly the schools who are not participating with us yet. Among the new schools, it was thrilling to watch Monroe High School’s ‘Sweeney Todd,’ which was filled with students we didn’t know last year.”
Most students are adjudicated as performers but there are some who eagerly relish double duty. Cruz Allison, a rising senior at Carlisle High School, portrayed Sam Carmichael in “Mamma Mia!” and energetically choreographed multiple numbers suiting the musical’s ‘70s aesthetic. He appreciates the opportunity for recognition MVSHTA provides, including a greater sense of camaraderie among schools.
“MVHSTA is incredible,” says Allison. “It’s especially fantastic because with high school shows, most people that recognize you after or during a show are your parents, classmates or teachers, but going to the Schuster Center to be recognized, where the professionals (perform), is really nice. And (students) from other schools are enticed to go to your school’s shows because of your association with MVHSTA, which broadens who actually comes to see your shows.”
‘Art that is good and meaningful’
Among the MVHSTA categories is a special honor for Theatre Program Director of the Year. This community-nominated recognition is given to someone who, through work with their students, embodies the highest qualities of excellence in high school theatre.
The 2021-2022 recipient was Karen Gorretta of Fairborn High School, whose numerous credits include “Cinderella,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Grease,” “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” and this year’s production of “The Addams Family.”
“It was a huge honor,” says Gorretta, chorale director, music department coordinator and vocal director at Fairborn High School. “Because there are so many wonderful programs in the Miami Valley – and the fact that Fairborn is a smaller program – to get the recognition that Fairborn can kind of play in the same sandbox as some of the bigger schools was really important for us. Even though we don’t have the budget of a bigger school or a (certain) student population size, we are still able to create art that is good and meaningful.”
Outstanding shows and performers
The schools recognized for Outstanding Production of a Musical are: Centerville High School – “Curtains” and “Tuck Everlasting”; Chaminade Julienne Catholic High School – “Seussical the Musical”; Franklin High School – “The SpongeBob Musical”; Kettering Fairmont High School – “Legally Blonde”; Springboro High School – “Mamma Mia!”: Stivers School for the Arts – “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”; Wilmington High School – “Cats”; and Xenia High School – “Seussical the Musical.”
The schools recognized for Outstanding Production of a Play are: Centerville High School – “Radium Girls”; Chaminade Julienne Catholic High School – “Radium Girls”; Dayton Christian High School – “Life with Father”; Franklin High School – “Blithe Spirit”; Kettering Fairmont High School – “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”; Stivers School for the Arts – “Almost, Maine”; Wilmington High School – “Clue On Stage”; and Yellow Springs High School – “Five Plays Toward an Anti-Racist Tomorrow.”
In addition to numbers from the outstanding musicals (Centerville will only be represented by “Curtains”), performances will include solos by the following highest-scoring students: Anthony Brauer of Fairborn High School (Gomez Addams – “The Addams Family”); Patrick Comunale of Centerville High School (Lt. Frank Cioffi – “Curtains”); Caleigh Coyle of Chaminade Julienne Catholic High School (Cat in the Hat – “Seussical the Musical”); Jake Eyink of Franklin High School (SpongeBob SquarePants – “The SpongeBob Musical”); Addison Haines of Springboro High School (Sophie Sheridan – “Mamma Mia!”); Sydney Korpusik of Centerville High School (Carmen Berstein – “Curtains”); Benjamin Locke of Springboro High School (Sam Carmichael – “Mamma Mia!”); Houda Loukssi of Xenia High School (Jojo – “Seussical the Musical”); Grace McGuire of Franklin High School (Sandy Cheeks – “The SpongeBob Musical”); Eve Palmer of Chaminade Julienne Catholic High School (Jojo – “Seussical the Musical”); and Maggie Weckesser of Chaminade Julienne Catholic High School (Gertrude McFuzz – “Seussical the Musical”).
Jimmy Award nominees
The Showcase will notably spotlight 2023 graduate Comunale and rising senior Weckesser. They were top scorers in their representative roles and also demonstrated their talents at a musical theatre workshop among the aforementioned high-scoring students.
The duo will represent MVHSTA at the 31st annual Jimmy Awards in New York City on June 26 at Broadway’s Minskoff Theatre, the home of Disney’s “The Lion King.”
The Jimmy Awards are also known as the National High School Musical Theatre Awards. Dayton Live is an official Regional Awards Program with the National High School Musical Theatre Awards.
As an adjudicator of the impressive “Curtains,” I can attest that Comunale’s exceptionally mature, professional caliber performance recalled the humor and complexity of David Hyde Pierce’s original, Tony Award-winning portrayal.
“It’s really nice to see your hard work recognized and come to fruition,” says Comunale, who will continue his studies this fall as an acting major at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. “I was very fortunate to be a part of Centerville’s program and the range of shows we tackled. I was never given a role that wasn’t a challenge. Everything I’ve done propelled me in a new direction.”
HOW TO GO
What: The Miami Valley High School Theatre Awards Showcase
Where: Schuster Center, 1 W. Second St., Dayton
When: Tuesday, June 6 at 7:30 p.m.
More info: 937-228-3630 or daytonlive.org