PITTSBURG — PHS Theatre has been nominated for five Jester Awards by Music Theater Wichita, the organization announced Monday afternoon, for the February production of Disney’s “Freaky Friday,” the musical.
Since the inception of the Jester Awards, trained volunteer judges have been attending and evaluating dozens of performances across Kansas; the judges’ scoring has determined the award recipients in two dozen categories. This year, 46 judges viewed 144 performances of 48 productions, involving more than 3,000 students and extending as far as Liberal, Hays, Salina, Pittsburg, and Topeka, in addition to the greater Wichita area.
PHS Theatre’s nominations include:
Direction of Show - Jason Huffman and Greg Shaw
Leading Actress - McKenna Shaw (Katherine Blake)
Orchestra Direction - Cooper Neil
Vocal Direction - Kimberly Arzoian
Artistic Guest - Maggie and Mollie Stephens (Choreography)
Starting at 4 p.m. on May 3, PHS Theatre will be among the honorees recognized at the 19th Annual Jester Awards Ceremony — typically held live at the Century II in Wichita — in the first ever digital broadcast in order to observe the restriction on large in-person gatherings.
MTWichita Producing Artistic Director Wayne Bryan noted it will allow the excitement to reach a larger viewership.
“Theater people love the Tony Awards every year, even though most of us have never seen them in person,” he said. “This new online version of the annual Jester Awards will allow the local theatrical excitement to reach a huge audience. The 2020 Jester Awards broadcast will include Broadway celebrity presenters for the first time, and will strive to convey the magic of live theater.”
Continuing a competition element begun last year, each of the Leading Actor and Leading Actress nominees — including PHS senior McKenna Shaw — will be featured in special solo performances, adjudicated by a team of professional judges. At the end of the broadcast, the two top recipients will be announced and awarded their cash scholarships.
“Although we always love the in-person interaction with young people across the state at the Jester Awards, everyone who is part of the Jester Awards Program is rallying behind the necessity of an online event,” said Jester Program Director Angela Trotter. “During the turmoil of a global pandemic, it is so important for us to recognize and encourage our young people for their hard work this year. The Jester Awards will be an evening to remember!”
To join the free broadcast, sign up for MTWichita emails at mtwichita.org, or follow MTWichita on Facebook to get a link and password. It will be hosted by award-winning Wichita theater artists Rachel Downs and Steve Hitchcock. Scholarship awards will be presented to three students, lead male and female honorees and a technical theater recipient.
Past Jester nominations have been made for PHS Theatre’s productions of “Shrek,” “Seussical,” “Band Geeks,” “Addams Family,” “Little Mermaid,” and “Aida,” earning the program 43 Jester awards for those shows.