CMU & the Tonys to Honor Arts Educators
Everyone has a favorite teacher — someone who influenced your life in a way that gave you direction or inspiration to become the person you are today.
Carnegie Mellon University long has supported the efforts of teachers who shape young minds, preparing them for a higher education. So when CMU became the first higher education partner of the Tony Awards®, one of the primary goals of the relationship was to recognize K-12 theatre educators.
At the 2014 Tonys, Matt Bomer (A'00) and Zachary Quinto (A'99) announced the inaugural Excellence in Theatre Education Award. This June, CMU and the Tony Awards will present this new award at the 69th Tony Awards live broadcast on CBS.
Nominations are still coming in and will be accepted through March 31; to date, more than 3,000 nominations have been submitted. Of those, approximately 350 will be chosen as finalists for review by a stellar panel of judges, who will select runners up and one recipient of the top honor.
Several Carnegie Mellon alumni have promoted the nomination process in various ways, including social and traditional media, as well as video messages. Actress and Tony Award Winner Judith Light (A'70) has been especially supportive of the award's creation and the recognition it brings to teachers.
"This award, created by the Tony Awards and Carnegie Mellon University — my alma mater — is about being able to start a national conversation about how important education is and, particularly, education in the arts," Light said.
"When you keep the arts at the forefront of our educational system, you are helping people to relate to the world differently."
She recently wrote, "Why Arts Education Matters" on the National Endowment for the Arts blog, heralding her own inspiration, teacher Ruth Strahan, for influencing her career and her life's direction.
Together with CMU's School of Drama Head Peter Cooke, Light has agreed to serve as a judge on behalf of CMU and will help to choose the winner of the Excellence in Theatre Education Award.
Fellow alumnus Rory O'Malley (A'03), actor and original cast member of "The Book of Mormon," has been a proponent of the award, as well. "I'm so proud that CMU and the Tonys have partnered to create the Excellence in Theatre Education Award," he said.
Broadway director Leigh Silverman (A'96), also weighed in, giving a shout out to her inspiration: science and theater teacher Bill George. "I'm excited about this award because we've all been influenced by someone who truly touched our lives through teaching," Silverman said.
"Mr. George inspired me to pursue my dreams, and he's the first one who said, 'You're a director.'"
Inspiration from a teacher often leads to success as a professional entertainer, but there are also instances in which theater educators pave a path for a student's broader talents and increased self-esteem. As a result, students across a broad spectrum of studies have benefited from their arts education.
"At Carnegie Mellon, I have the privilege of seeing education transform the lives of talented young people every day, and then I watch as those students transform the world," said Dan Martin, dean of CMU's College of Fine Arts. "Carnegie Mellon's involvement in this program shows that our university, on the whole, recognizes and values the contributions of K-12 educators."
A 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.
"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.