MORRISTOWN, NJ - While preparing for Prancer and The Addams Family this school year, the dedicated student and staff members of the Morristown High School Theater Department worked tirelessly to deliver quality performances to the hundreds who flocked to watch. Now, their dedication and talent are being recognized and rewarded.
Prancer, the program’s fall drama, earned four nominations from Montclair State University’s Foxy Awards program, which recognizes excellence in plays performed at schools throughout the state of New Jersey. They are: Outstanding Achievement in Stage Crew, Excellence in Educational Impact and Community Outreach, Brenna Thornton for best supporting actress, and Best Dramaturgy.
The Addams Family, the recent spring musical, earned a whopping 13 nominations and 2 honorable mentions from the Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards. The awards program describes itself as being designed to “encourage and reward exceptional accomplishments in the production of high school musical theater.” It is modeled after Broadway’s Tony Awards, their website says.
Winners of Rising Star Awards will be announced at the ceremony held on Tuesday, June 4th. The team was nominated in categories including overall production of a musical, choir, orchestral, and stage performance and achievement in directing as well as scenic and lighting design. MHS is the second most-nominated school of any in the state.
Among students, there is a feeling of humility and gratitude for being recognized for their achievements, although they are not motivated by awards or prizes while on stage. MHS senior Julia Bozza received an honorable mention for outstanding actress in a featured role from Paper Mill for her work in The Addams Family. Having spent four years in the program and taking part in six shows, she describes continual progress for the theater program, as this is the fourth year MHS has taken part in the Rising Stars program.
“In just four short years we have gone from the newbies in the program to being the second most nominated school!” she says. “It feels good to know that I am leaving the program when it is at its strongest. I love knowing that the amazing MHS theater program will continue.”
While Bozza is especially grateful for her recognition for on-stage performance, she credits the success of the program to a dedicated a passionate team, the crew working in conjunction with the ensemble.
“The audience members only get to witness the 2-3 hour show, and even then they only see just the cast. What they don’t see is all of the crew work that goes on behind the scenes,” Bozza says, with students working “up until the custodians kicked them out. Every member of our program shows so much dedication and did everything they could to earn these nominations.”
One leader among the hardworking students Bozza describes is MHS senior and Production Stage Manager Ashe Gobin, who received a Student Achievement Award for her work from the Rising Stars program. Gobin believes the passion of each student in the theater program distinguishes MHS from many other high schools. She also describes the nominations as a recognition of a “collective effort.”
She continues, “I didn't do this for the recognition or the awards, I did it because I loved it. However, it does make it a little more fun knowing that your hard work could possibly be recognized on a larger scale than just our stage.”
She says of her involvement and contribution to such a successful program, “what a time to be alive,” a phrase she says is used often by herself and her peers and best sums up her experiences in the theater department throughout her high school career.
Both students and adults were recognized for their labor of love, such as Katie Adams, the director of The Addams Family, who was nominated for excellence in directing by Paper Mill. Adams calls her nomination “one of the most rewarding experiences I've had during my 4 years involved with the Morristown High School Stage.” Like her students, the director describes a program that continues to grow more professional and more recognized. With many seniors graduating in 2018, Adams had to work with a primarily younger group of students than in previous years. Yet, this did not inhibit the success of the team. “The students all rose the occasion and blew us away with their dedication and effort towards putting on the most recognized/nominated show in our schools history! Learning from what worked and didn't work these past few year is another underlying factor.” Adams is also grateful for her students and the other members of her directing and production teams.
“Countless hours, endless rehearsals, brutal all day set builds and the drive of each and every person involved, was the force that lead us to this recognition,” she says. Each member of the MHS theater community agrees: the successes of The Addams Family and Prancer were the result of dedication and collaboration, with each member contributing vital effort and expertise. As Adams puts it, “putting on a production of this caliber is no easy task, it literally takes a village. This village is what I call family.”
Foxy Nominations For Prancer: (Awards are Monday May 20 @7PM at Montclair State University)
Outstanding Achievement in Stage Crew
Excellence on Educational Impact & Community Outreach
Best Supporting actress Brenna Thornton
Excellence in Dramaturgy
Rising Star Nominations for The Addams Family : (The Investors Foundation Rising Star Awards are Tuesday, June 4 at the Paper Mill Playhouse)
OUTSTANDING OVERALL PRODUCTION OF A MUSICAL
HONORABLE MENTION: OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE- Brenna Thornton, Grade 11 (Morticia Addams)
HONORABLE MENTION: OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE IN A FEATURED ROLE- Julia Bozza, Grade 12, (Alice Beineke)
OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A CHORUS
OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY AN ORCHESTRA
OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT BY A TEACHER OR OUTSIDE DIRECTOR- Ms. Katie Adams
OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC DIRECTION- Mr. David Gallagher
OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN CHOREOGRAPHY AND STAGING- Ms. Chelsea Gower
OUTSTANDING SCENIC ACHIEVEMENT- Mr. Michael Hession
OUTSTANDING LIGHTING ACHIEVEMENT- Mr. Michael Hession
OUTSTANDING COSTUMING ACHIEVEMENT- Ms.Katie Adams, Ms.Mollie Lyn Berman
OUTSTANDING HAIR AND MAKE-UP ACHIEVEMENT- Olivia Bilbault, Grade 12, and Arianna D'Andrea, Grade 12
STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS:
Deanna Swanson, Graphic Designer, Grade 12
Ashe Gobin, Production Stage Manager, Grade 12
Marissa Aloia, Student Director, Grade 12
Editor's Note: The author of the article is a sophomore at Morristown High School