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Prime Stage Theatre Fills Awards Void in Local Student Theater Productions


    Six or seven years ago, during a conversation between John Dolphin and Wayne Brinda, the two theater promoters realized there was a void in a way to honor the region’s students involved in their high school theater productions.

    While there is an annual Gene Kelly Awards ceremony to honor students who take part in their musical theater productions, there’s no such event for non-musical high school drama students in the Pittsburgh region.

    After deciding to produce such an event, Brinda, Prime Stage Theatre’s artistic director, and Dolphin, the theatre’s drama awards director, took the idea to the Prime Stage board, who approved of the idea.

    Now in its fourth year, the Prime Stage Theatre’s Annual Drama Awards ceremony is scheduled for January 29 at 7 p.m. at the New Hazlet Theatre on Pittsburgh's North Side.

    “At Prime Stage, we feel it is equally important to celebrate those students who have been working just as hard on their annual fall plays as the musical theater high school students," Dolphin said.

    This year, twelve schools from Allegheny County and the five surrounding counties signed on to participate in the event. Currently, there are 16 awards categories for both on-stage and backstage positions.

    “We feel that it’s important to include the technical students in the ceremony because they don’t always get the recognition they deserve,” Brinda said.

    To judge the productions, Prime Stage called on eight theater professionals this year who try to visit as many of the nominated student productions as possible.

    Brinda does admit that the logistics of their visits are somewhat influenced by the fact that most of the productions are clustered around late October and the first and third week of November. This makes getting to all of them a challenge for some of the judges.

    After signing on to participate in the awards ceremony, each school sends Prime Stage a list of students involved in their production. After sitting through the productions, the judges nominate students who they deem worthy of special recognition, then tabulate the nominations to see who gets the most votes.

    All of the nominees get a certificate in a folder with a gold seal. The winners as well as their schools get an etched glass trophy.

    The awards are presented by industry professionals that include actors, professors from Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh and Point Park University and other theater professional including those from the theater tech field.

    This year’s master of ceremonies is Monteze Freeland, co-artistic director of City Theatre, with special guest, Mike Clark, news anchor at WTAE-TV.

    “Mike will talk about the importance of theater to him as a young student as well as the importance of theater to young students in general,” Dolphin said.

    At the ceremony, which is expected to draw an audience of around 400, the nominees will be able to enjoy a photo shoot at one of two red carpet areas in the theater lobby. Nearby, they will be able to post their photos to a social media wall via @prime Stage Theatre.

    Just like during the Oscar ceremony, the nominees will not know who will win the award until the presenter opens the envelope. In between presentations, the students will be able to perform a five minute scene from their productions, which will take place throughout the evening.

    After the show, the students will be able to\ talk to the presenters and network with them, if they choose to do so. The university presenters may also want to use the event as a recruitment tool and a chance to talk to the students up close and personal.

    “Last year, it was exciting to see how the students dress up and work together in a positive way,” Brinda said. “It’s a special event for them, and their teachers have been very supportive of the program. Not only does it give them and their schools recognition, but it also adds credibility to their theater programs.”

    Tickets to the event are $15. For more information, visit or phone 412.608.2262.


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