MECHANICSBURG – During this past school year, Mechanicsburg High School has been a participant in the Miami Valley High School Theatre Awards (MVHSTA), a program designed to celebrate, support and advocate for high school theatre education throughout the Miami Valley region.
The MVHSTAs celebrate high school plays, musicals, students and educators by formally recognizing the extraordinary achievements of the community’s productions. The program is organized through the Office of Education and Engagement at the Victoria Theatre Association, based in Dayton. During the 2019-2020 season, MVHSTA has also teamed up with the Jimmy Awards, or the National High School Musical Theatre Awards, giving area students the opportunity to travel to New York City to compete on a national level.
During this past spring, disappointment swept through the theatre world as many shows were canceled or postponed indefinitely due to restrictions put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19. Mechanicsburg High School’s production of “Once Upon a Mattress” was held just days before restrictions were implemented around the state. Also due to restrictions, the annual MVHSTA Awards Showcase became virtual, and the Jimmy Awards were canceled, removing the opportunity for a national competition.
“During these few years of the new musical theatre program at Mechanicsburg High School, we have been blessed with some truly remarkable talent,” said Matthew Smith, music director for the program at Mechanicsburg High School. “We decided to participate in the MVHSTAs to showcase the work being done in musical theatre at MHS. It is important to us as a production team highlight the value of theatre education even in a small school district, and to give our very worthy students an additional opportunity to shine and be recognized for the incredible work that they are doing.”
Other members of the main production team include Mimi Ault, director, and Amy Marsh, producer.
For the 2019-2020 school year, MVHSTA adjudicated 19 plays and 9 musicals that were produced at 24 of the participating high schools prior to mid-March. Mechanicsburg High School’s musical was adjudicated by trained theatre professionals from the Miami Valley during the show’s run (March 5-8, 2020).
From the scores and comments given by three separate adjudicators, several honors were presented for that show during a virtual MVHSTA Awards Showcase:
Emma Wilson: outstanding lead actress in a musical (Princess Winnifred)
Caleb Spinner: outstanding lead actor in a musical (Prince Dauntless)
Leah McLeod: outstanding supporting actress in a musical (Lady Larken)
Isaac Bryant: outstanding costume design (full costume for his character, Prince Harry; handmade chain mail for all additional knights)
Born from the strong foundation laid by the DayTony High School Theatre Awards, the Miami Valley High School Theatre Awards (MVHSTA) celebrate the accomplishments of area high school teachers and students by recognizing achievements in productions by participating Miami Valley area high schools. To participate, schools register to have their productions reviewed by a qualified team of adjudicators, who then provide directors with valuable feedback. Learn more about MVHSTA, award categories, and participating schools at mvhsta.org.
Spring musicals have been a tradition at Mechanicsburg High School since 1985, when music educator Jacquelyn Howell staged the first at MHS. Musicals continued for the next two decades, until a twelve-year hiatus began in 2005. In 2017, through the efforts of local volunteers, the school produced “Oklahoma!” on three nights to a sold-out crowd, followed by “Cinderella” in 2018 and “Grease” in 2019.
“Once Upon a Mattress” marks the fourth consecutive year of the newly-revitalized spring musical program. In addition to the main production team of Ault, Smith and Marsh, many with experience and even professional careers in theatre have volunteered their time in order to help make these productions successful over the last few years, including Lindsay Good, Kathryn Cramer, Sawyer Shafer and Christa Wolf.
Information from Matthew Smith.