On June 7, one teacher will clutch a Tony of his or her own and bask in the thanks of the Broadway community.
This year, there’s a teacher Tony.
“It’s just incredible,” said Danielle Rudess, producer of the Metropolitan High School Theater Awards honoring achievements in high-school musicals across the Lower Hudson Valley. “I’m thrilled. I’m so interested to see who the first winner is going to be, and how they’re going to choose. I mean, how do you choose that?”
The Tonys and Carnegie Mellon University announced yesterday that they’re taking nominations for the inaugural “Excellence in Theatre Education Award” for one current theater teacher in K-12 or community theater in the U.S. The announcement said “he or she must be a teacher whose position is dedicated to and/or includes aspects of theatre education.”
See the award criteria and nominate a teacher at tonyawards.com/educatoraward.
Teachers can nominate themselves or be nominated by students or their audiences. The application includes a form, photo, three letters of reference, and supporting materials, either a video of less than three minutes or a 500-work essay. The deadline is 11:59 p.m., March 31. Judges will be from The Broadway League, the American Theatre Wing and Carnegie Mellon University.
This won’t be an edge-of-the-seat honor on June 7. The winner will know before arriving in New York that he or she has won. The Tonys are suggesting people take to social media to crow about their teachers, with the hashtag #nominatemyteacher.
The winner gets a $10,000 donation to his or her school, a flight to New York, hotel and a pair of tickets to the Tonys, to be held June 7 at Radio City Music Hall and televised on CBS. Finalists get flown to New York, hotel, a pre-Tony event and $1,000 for their school.
The award honors “dedicated professionals who discover talented students, nurture them, inspire them, and set them off on a lifelong journey as theatre supporters and professionals.”
Rudess, who runs the Helen Hayes Youth Theater in Nyack, said she doesn’t envy those making the selection.
“Each of the nominees at that level are monumental life-changers,” Rudess said, “whether it’s a $75,000 budget at a swanky Westchester public school or a thousand-dollar budget at a struggling school with a very different demographic.”
Flori Doyle, an English teacher who directs plays and musicals at Ardsley High School, hadn’t yet heard about the honor yesterday; she had spent the weekend at the annual conference of the New York State Theater Educators Association, or NYSTEA.
“Oh my God! I would love that,” Doyle said, before hesitating.
“The wording needs to be careful,” she said. “It has to be about theater education. We’re in it for the kids and not in it for ourselves. Teachers feel weird about awards. I had a very good friend who got a big-deal teacher award 10 years ago and I never even knew he got it. You feel weird because there are other teachers who are good.”
While Doyle is concerned the process will make teachers look competitive, she’d said with a laugh she’d be thrilled to stand on the Radio City stage.
“It has been my fantasy,” she said with a laugh. “I watched the Golden Globes and I’m doing pushups, thinking ‘I’ve gotta get ready for my gown.’ It motivates me every year. Hey, you never know. Somebody might call me in June and I gotta be ready.”
Rudess said theater teachers’ impact is long-lasting.
“There’s something about theater mentoring that goes very deep with kids,” she said. “It has a lot to do with the team building that happens putting a show together and the vulnerabilty of being on stage in front of an audience and working together toward that goal. I think all those pieces open people’s souls to be mentored.”
“These teachers are laying down building blocks,” she said. “It’s not building them toward being a Broadway star. It’s setting a foundation for these kids to be successful in whatever comes their way.”
Photo by Peter D. Kramer/The Journal News: Flori Doyle in her Ardsley High School classroom.