The Tonys for Teens
Lights, camera, action! The Community Theatre League’s highly anticipated fifth annual Ray of Light Awards ceremony for excellence in high school theater is fast approaching; Sunday marks the big evening, with red carpet festivities beginning at 4:30 p.m., and the ceremony itself starting at 6 p.m. at the Community Arts Center, 220 W.?Fourth St.
This event is modeled from the famous Tony Awards, the professional Broadway theater award ceremony. The nominees consist of the best of the best area student theater participants. This year there are 12 participating schools.
Ray of Light Awards attendees can expect to see a wide array of talent at the ceremony, in addition to witnessing the announcement of the winners.
“Often each school does their big production numbers. Lots of kids on stage, costumes, etc. But there also are an occasional solo or small group number,” Jacquie Engel, Community Theatre League’s administrative manager and coordinator of the Ray of Light Awards, said.
“The ceremony is just fun. The emcees are entertaining this year it’s Rob Steele and Caleb Feigles,” she said.
Engel also said, to avoid “dull moments,” the show moves at a fast pace. Attendees will get to see pieces of a lot of different shows at one time.
“There is an excitement in the air beginning at the red carpet and running all through the night,” she said.
The ceremony is the result of a yearlong process of schools entering productions for consideration and adjudicators nominating shows as well. Adjudication began in February by a panel of 20, when they attended productions and scored and ranked schools on a scale of 1 to 10; 10 being potentially better than Broadway, a score no one has yet obtained, collectively. Getting a score of at least 6 is worthy of nomination, Engel said.
Leading with 17 nominations is Central Mountain High School, Mill Hall. Their nominations come from a combination of performances from “Young Frankenstein” and “Christmas Belles.”
Scott Frazier is the director of these productions at CMHS, and to him, nothing is more important than shedding light on his extraordinarily talented students, who are so close-knit that they become like family. To Frazier, the theater program gives many students an opportunity to belong; to be accepted for who they are and not for who the world wants them to be.
He become involved with the Ray of Light Awards during its second year, after the awards program was opened to schools outside of Lycoming County.
“Over the past few years, our students have been fortunate enough to win awards, walk the red carpet, be featured in newspaper articles, be on television and perform on the Community Arts Center Stage. None of these things would have been possible without the Ray of Light Awards and all of them have made the student body at Central Mountain High School and the community at large take notice to what our hard-working, dedicated drama students are doing on the stage at CMHS,” Frazier said.
Shikellamy High School, Sunbury, comes in next with 15 nominations, and then Montoursville Area High School with 13.
There are eight schools in the running for the top honor of the Ray Phillips Memorial Trophy for best drama program.
Having an event like this for students isn’t totally unheard of, with there being similar shows in Altoona and Harrisburg. Engel said Williamsport’s ceremony is unique, adding that it’s quite the spectacle. Including the famous red carpet, like the Tonys and Oscars, there are paparazzi, limousines, music and the nominees themselves will be in tuxes and gowns.
Most importantly, though, and the shows main purpose, Frazier and Engel agreed, is to draw attention to the creative minds and talented performers.
“In the days of budget slashing and program cutting, we want the world to know that this is a big deal, that when kids develop their confidence the way only theatre can provide, they will become better adults and better leaders,” Engel said.
“I know some of these kids will have their names in lights someday. But honestly, even if 95 percent of these kids never get onstage again after high school, the confidence they developed there will make them successful in whatever they choose to do,” she said.
“Isn’t that what education is all about?”
“The Ray of Light Awards provides all of the participants with a sense of community. A chance to belong and be a part of something bigger than just your own school’s program,” Frazier said.
So whether you attend to support the arts, to see the fashion, to be entertained or to simply witness the spectacle that is the Ray of Light Awards, be sure to buy a ticket quickly for the Sunday show at caclive.com. Cost is $15 for adults and $10 for students. The event is semi-formal. To learn more about the Ray of Light Awards, its process and more, visit ctlnet.org.