Union High School’s spring musical production of “Bright Star” recently was informed by the Iowa High School Musical Theatre Awards that they are the recipients of 7 awards for this year’s production. Union has participated in this educational program for the past 6 years.Union Bright Star Image

The production was awarded 2 major group awards. First “Outstanding Musical Production” was awarded to Union as the highest honor the cast can achieve.  This is awarded to productions where all aspects of the performance are at an outstanding level from leads, ensemble, set, choreography, lighting, sound, costuming, musical accompaniment and overall effect. This year only 7 productions earned this award with Union being the smallest school. Secondly, UHS was awarded “Outstanding Ensemble”, given to productions where everyone besides the lead rolls perform at an outstanding level adding to the quality of the entire show.  This showcases the idea that everyone on stage is integral to the overall story and production.  This is the 5th year in a row that Union has received “Outstanding Musical Production” and “Outstanding Ensemble”.

The production also received 5 individual awards. Each school is allowed to nominate up to 8 students to be judged for these individual awards. Natalie Tecklenburg, senior daughter of Joe and Shary Tecklenburg, earned “Outstanding Performance in a Principal Roll” for her portrayal of “Alice Murphy. Riley Davis, senior son of Scott and Rebecca Davis, earned “Special Recognition for Performance in a Principal Roll for his portrayal of Jimmy Ray Dobbs. Noah Damro, senior son of Todd and the late Vicki Damro, earned “Special Recognition for Performance in a Principal Roll” for his portrayal of Daryl Ames. Tyson Fleshner, junior son of Travis and Stacy Fleshner, earned “Special Recognition for Performance in a Principal Roll” for his portrayal of Billy Cane. And Elle Hookham, sophomore daughter of Mark and Stephanie Hookham, earned “Special Recognition for Performance in a Principal roll” for her portrayal of Lucy Grant.

Due to COVID-19, Des Moines Performing Arts earlier announced that the 2020 Iowa High School Musical Theater Awards Showcase scheduled for June 1, 2020 at the Des Moines Civic Center has been cancelled.

Despite these challenges, the IHSMTA program remains committed to supporting students and drama programs across the state during this time. “It is important to uplift all 86 schools in the program, regardless of whether they had the opportunity to perform their shows for their school communities,” said Education Program Coordinator Sarah Florian.

To that end, a special Digital IHSMTA Showcase has been launched online. It features videos, photo galleries and other special content from schools and students from across the state, with new content added regularly.

“We hope the Digital IHSMTA Showcase can serve as a virtual stage for Iowa’s talented and hardworking theater students,” said Florian. Students and the public can explore the Digital IHSMTA Showcase by visiting dmpa.org/digital- ihsmta-showcase

“We are thrilled to find creative ways to make sure that Iowa’s theater students are seen and that they know that the IHSMTA family is here for them during this time,” said Florian.

The Iowa High School Musical Theater Awards, presented by Des Moines Performing Arts, celebrates the extraordinary achievements of young musical theater artists. The program aims to create visibility and support for high school musical theater programs and to highlight the importance of arts education.

Panels of community adjudicators comprised of performing arts educators and professionals attend and review each participating school’s  production. Students and directors receive valuable constructive feedback that can be used to grow and strengthen their future work. Based on reviews and scores, schools ultimately receive awards in honor of their achievements in categories ranging from choreography, design, supporting performer, lead performer, and overall musical production.

The Iowa High School Musical Theater Awards is designed to be celebratory rather than competitive in nature. Any student or school at an outstanding level is recognized for their achievement. Multiple honorees may be named in each category as performances merit.

When asked why Union has chosen to participate in the IHSMTA, Tim J. Mitchell, one of the co-directors stated, “We have always been proud of the quality work our students produce in the fine arts at Union. Our philosophy at Union is always to strive to improve in each arts medium in which we participate. When we learned of this program,  which includes theatre professionals attending our performance and giving constructive feedback,  we jumped at the chance to help take our performance to the next level. This will be a great experience for all of our students involved in the production.”

Union High school has a long and decorated history for excellence in the Musical Theatre arts.  32 of 38 Union Musical Theatre entries have been named All-State in the Iowa High School Speech Association, receiving the “Critics Choice” award three times. This is the 6th year in a row Union High School musical has received awards from the Iowa High School Musical Theatre Awards.   In 2015, “Catch Me If You Can” received 3 awards and  in 2016 “State Fair” received 5 awards,  in 2017 “Anything Goes” received 7 awards,  in 2018 “Grease” received 11 awards, and in 2019 “Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat received 11 awards.  Union’s productions are jointly directed by Tim J. Mitchell and Korina Carlson.