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Tony Awards and Carnegie Mellon University Announce 2015 Judges for First-Ever Theatre Education Award

The Tony Awards and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) have announced the panel of esteemed judges for the inaugural Excellence in Theatre Education Award. This new honor celebrates theatre educators and invites members of the general public to join the Tonys in saluting teachers who have made a difference in their lives.

The deadline nominations was March 31, 2015.  Nominations are now closed for 2015.

The panel of judges – representing the American Theatre Wing, The Broadway League and Carnegie Mellon University – will select the award finalists and winner. The judges are:

  • Peter Cooke, head of Carnegie Mellon’s School of Drama;
  • Sue Frost, founding member of Junkyard Dog Productions and current Executive Committee member of The Broadway League;
  • Nina Lannan, founder of Bespoke Theatricals and former chair of The Broadway League;
  • Judith Light, Tony Award-winning actress and Carnegie Mellon alumna;
  • Lawrence Otis Graham, New York Times best-selling author and American Theatre Wing Trustee; and
  • Thomas Schumacher, producer and president of Disney Theatrical Group, American Theatre Wing Advisory Committee member and The Broadway League Executive Committee member.

To determine the award finalists and winner, these judges will review select nominations that will in turn be chosen by a larger group of experts in theatre and education from across the country.

“We are honored that this group of highly valued professionals has given their time and knowledge to help determine the finalists and winner for this inaugural award,” Charlotte St. Martin, executive director of The Broadway League, and Heather Hitchens, president of the American Theatre Wing, said in a statement.

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Meet the Judges

Peter Cooke is an internationally recognized performing arts educationalist, administrator, researcher and theatre practitioner. Prior to joining Carnegie Mellon’s School of Drama as head in January 2009, Cooke was deputy director and head of design at Australia’s premier theatre school, the National Institute of Dramatic Art [NIDA] in Sydney, a role he held for 22 years. Over three decades he designed some 150 productions across the disciplines of drama, opera, dance, puppetry, music theatre, television, casinos and large-scale events. In 1990, Cooke was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to audit and review theatre training pedagogy and practice in several major drama schools across Europe and the United States. In 1996-97, he spent an academic year at the Yale School of Drama as a special research fellow, auditing the directing, producing, design and playwriting courses. Cooke was awarded an Order of Australia, OAM, in the Queen’s Birthday Honors list in 2008 for “Service to the performing arts through theatrical design education, research and administration.”

Sue Frost is a founding member of Junkyard Dog Productions, which is dedicated to developing and producing new musicals. Upcoming Broadway: Doctor Zhivago at the Broadway Theatre. Broadway: The 2010 Tony®, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Award-winning Best Musical Memphis, which is currently playing on London’s West End at the Shaftesbury Theatre, First Date at The Longacre Theatre. Upcoming new musicals include Chasing The Song, Come From Away and Fly High. Since its inception in 2006, Junkyard Dog has also produced Vanities, A New Musical, Make Me A Song, The Music Of William Finn and Party Come Here. Frost was associate producer at Goodspeed Musicals for 20 years, where she produced more than 50 new musicals at both the Goodspeed Opera House and the Norma Terris Theatre.

Nina Lannan’s career began in 1980 and spans more than 50 major shows on Broadway. It includes two years as chair of The Broadway League. She was the first female to occupy that position in the organization’s 80-year history. In 2009, Crain’s Business named her one of the 50 most powerful women in New York, and in 2010, The Broadway League awarded her its Distinguished Lifetime Service Award. She subsequently received the New York City Spotlight Award, presented by the Mayor’s Office and The Broadway League. In 1998, she opened her own office, Nina Lannan Associates, before becoming the founder of Bespoke Theatricals. She has extensive experience in touring, having managed multiple tours of Cats, Annie Get Your Gun, Starlight Express, Sunset Boulevard, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Thoroughly Modern Millie, multiple companies of Mamma Mia!, Dirty Dancing, The Color Purple, Legally Blonde, 9 to 5, and Billy Elliot. She is currently the executive producer of School of Rock, Moonshine: that Hee Haw Musical, Motown ­the Musical and the long-running hit musical Mamma Mia!

For three consecutive years, Judith Light was nominated for Broadway's Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play.  She won back-to-back Tonys for Jon Robin Baitz's “Other Desert Cities" (2012) and Richard Greenberg's "The Assembled Parties" (2013).  She also won back-to-back Drama Desk Awards for those performances.  In 1999, she starred in the Pulitzer Prize-winning play, "Wit" in New York and also at the Kennedy Center, winning the Helen Hayes Award. Her Broadway debut was in "A Doll's House” with Liv Ullman, followed by a season at the Eugene O'Neill Playwrights Conference.  Light received her BFA from Carnegie Mellon and has worked in repertory theatres in the U.S., Canada and performed in Europe.  In 2014, she was named the National Ambassador for the 19th KIDS NIGHT OUT ON BROADWAY by The Broadway League.

Lawrence Otis Graham is a New York Times author of 14 nonfiction books, as well as a practicing attorney and a commentator on race, education and class in America. His most recent books, “Our Kind of People: Inside America’s Black Upper Class” (HarperCollins) and “The Senator & The Socialite: A Biography of America’s First Black U.S. Senator,” (HarperCollins) were serialized by U.S. News & World Report and Reader’s Digest, where he has served as contributing editor.  Graham’s first bestseller “Member of the Club” appeared as a famous cover story for New York Magazine, titled “Invisible Man.” His article and subsequent book has been used in many classrooms to address the issue of diversity.

The author of several books on educational issues, Graham sits on the boards of several academic institutions, including the Horace Mann School (a private nursery through 12th grade school), where he chairs the Annual Fund and sits on the Executive Committee and the Academic Affairs Committee. He is also on the board of Eaglebrook Junior Boarding School in Deerfield, Mass., the board of overseers at the University of Pennsylvania and the foundation board of SUNY Purchase College, a state university that supports students with conservatory programs in theater, dance, music and film, and also features the four-theatre Purchase Performing Arts Center. A graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, Graham is special counsel at the law firm of Cuddy & Feder LLP in White Plains and New York City, where he specializes in transactional work. He also sits on the board of the American Theatre Wing.

Thomas Schumacher was intensely passionate about theatre from an early age. Before coming to Disney in 1988, he spent time at the Mark Taper Forum, the Los Angeles Ballet, the Olympic Arts Festival and the LA Festival of the Arts, where he presented the American premiere of Cirque du Soleil and the English-language premiere of Peter Brook’s The Mahabharata. His Broadway credits include King David, The Lion King, Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida, TARZAN®, Mary Poppins, The Little Mermaid, Peter and the Starcatcher, and Newsies. On tour and internationally, he produced On The Record, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and High School MusicalAladdin is his most recent Broadway hit; his most recent London production is the critically acclaimed comedy Shakespeare in Love. Schumacher is the author of the book “How Does the Show Go On? An Introduction to the Theater,” as well as a member of the board of trustees for BC/EFA, the Tony® Administration Committee, the Actors Fund Board, The Broadway League Executive Committee and the Advisory Committee of the American Theatre Wing.  He is a mentor for the TDF Open Doors program and serves as an adjunct professor at Columbia University.

 About the Education Award

The “Excellence in Theatre Education Award” will recognize a K-12 theatre educator in the U.S., who has demonstrated monumental impact on the lives of students and who embodies the highest standards of the profession. The nominating period is open through March 31, 2015, and nominations are being accepted online. Nominees must be current K-12 educators at an accredited institution or recognized community theatre organization anywhere in the United States. He or she must be a teacher whose position is dedicated to and/or includes aspects of theatre education. To learn more about the award criteria and to nominate a teacher, please visit tonyawards.com/educationaward.

The award finalists will be announced in the spring and each will receive an honorarium. A single winner of the Excellence in Theatre Education Award will be recognized during the 69th Annual Tony Awards telecast at Radio City Music Hall on CBS at 8 p.m. (Eastern Daylight Time), Sunday, June 7, 2015.

Revised Sunday, 09 April, 2017

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