Audra McDonald pulls up students on stage

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Actress and singer Audra McDonald pulled up six Austin-area high school students on stage with her, ahead of a spectacular new awards show happening in mid-April.

Those students represented five different high schools on Tuesday night during McDonald’s encore at the Long Center for the Performing Arts.

The Long Center, University of Texas at Austin and ZACH Theatre will be honoring the students’ exceptional work with the KXAN-sponsored 2014 Greater Austin High School Musical Theatre Awards on April 17.

Greater Austin High School Musical Theatre Awards

The Greater Austin High School Musical Theatre Awards marks the first time the Long Center, Zach Theatre and The University of Texas have collaborated on the same project.

It wasn’t long ago students were producing small plays in front of cardboard cutouts, soundtracks were provided by MP3s played over loud speakers and light gels created ambiance for a scene. With growing budgets, burgeoning technologies and tenacious students, high school musical productions are looking more and more like large-scale Broadway events.

As the ultimate triumph for high school students around the country, the National High School Musical Theatre Awards, or NHSMTA, have recognized students across the nation since 2009 for their time and talent in high school productions like AIDA, Urinetown, and Little Shop of Horrors. 2014 will be Austin’s first year to hold such an event. In 2015, Austin will be eligible to participate in the NHSMTA in New York. Competing among peers from California to Maine, Austin will once again be in the national spotlight.

About the show

The April 17 award ceremony will feature a variety of performances from the nominees. The jam-packed event will include a medley showcasing lead actors and actresses; musical numbers performed by lead, supporting and featured actors; a finale including a male and female from each participating school; a select ensemble chosen through auditions; and performances from each Outstanding Musical nominee throughout the event.

The event will be held in Dell Hall at the Long Center. With 20 schools signed up to compete and hundreds of students performing, the two-hour event will acknowledge outstanding student achievements in 15 categories ranging from set design and musical direction, to acting and production. Applications are currently open for all schools interested in participating until the mid-September deadline. Students and schools are encouraged to work from a list of pre-approved musicals to be considered for nomination. Schools will be notified of their nomination on March 6, 2014.

Schools currently involved:

  • Akins High School Austin
  • Anderson High School Austin
  • Bastrop High School Bastrop
  • Burnet High School Burnet
  • Cedar Park High School Cedar Park
  • Cedar Ridge High School Round Rock
  • Del Valle High School Del Valle
  • Dripping Springs High School Dripping Springs
  • Hendrickson High School Pflugerville
  • James Bowie High School Austin
  • John B. Connally High School Austin
  • LBJ High School Austin
  • Leander High School Leander
  • Marble Falls High School Marble Falls
  • McCallum Fine Arts Academy Austin
  • Round Rock High School Round Rock
  • Rouse High School Leander
  • St. Andrew’s Episcopal School Austin
  • Vista Ridge High School Cedar Park
  • Westlake High School Austin

Categories will include:

  • Outstanding Actor in a Lead Role
  • Outstanding Actress in a Lead Role
  • Outstanding Actor in a Supporting Role
  • Outstanding Actress in a Supporting Role
  • Outstanding Featured Actor or Actress
  • Outstanding Ensemble/Chorus
  • Outstanding Scenic Design
  • Outstanding Costume Design
  • Outstanding Lighting Design
  • Outstanding Choreography
  • Outstanding Musical Direction
  • Outstanding Orchestra
  • Outstanding Crew/Technical Execution
  • Outstanding Direction
  • Outstanding Production

Why it matters

While the NHSMTA is in its fifth year, other schools and similar programs involved have expanded and elevated the theatre arts training and requirements in their schools. The importance of art in schools is at a critical juncture, with budget cuts often eliminating programs like musical theatre first. Awards shows like the GAHSMTA help gain awareness and support from fans as well as school administrators and supervisors. Programs like these keep the arts in the public eye and remind communities why they are so important in schools. Not only do the awards create awareness among others, it creates a sense of pride among students and schools. Often ceremonies like the GAHSMTA boost morale and can have lasting effects in other areas, from attendance to higher grades among students.

About the Greater Austin High School Musical Theatre Awards

In 2013, the Greater Austin High School Musical Theatre Awards was created to recognize students on a local level. Ultimately, the goal of GAHSMTA is to have students recognized at the national level starting in 2015.

Greater Austin High School Musical Theatre Awards are open to all public and private high schools in Travis, Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Hays and Williamson Counties. Only one musical and one cast per school are eligible to compete, and the performance must take place between Thursday, September 19, 2013 and Sunday, March 2, 2014. There is no cost to participate in the competition.

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