CMU, Tony Awards Honor Theatre Educator Rachel Harry
Rachel Harry, a teacher at Hood River Valley High School in Hood River, Oregon, was presented with the 2017 Excellence in Theatre Education Award during the 71st annual Tony Awards broadcast on CBS.
The award, which is presented by Carnegie Mellon University and the Tony Awards, was announced during the show by CMU alumnus Josh Gad, who introduced Harry to the audience.
The national award is the first to honor kindergarten through high-school (K-12) theatre educators who demonstrate a monumental impact on the lives of students and who embody the highest standards of the profession.
"I feel strongly that my teaching should be student-driven. I want my students to explore and to reach and to fail, because all of those things — especially failure — will lead to new avenues of learning. And that makes for better people, more well-rounded people, whether you go into the theater business or not," said Harry, who was an honorable mention choice for the award in 2016.Harry has been teaching students theater at Hood River Valley High School for 30 years. She built the program and created performances that frequently sell out at the high school and a larger middle school theater with 1,100 seats. Among students and colleagues, she is known by her nickname, "Krum."
"One of the best experiences we have as the exclusive higher education partner of the Tony Awards is recognizing teachers, who inspire students every day to go out and make a difference. We think Rachel is an exemplary role model," said Dan J. Martin, dean of Carnegie Mellon's College of Fine Arts.
A former dancer, Harry is a native of northern Wisconsin. She earned her bachelor's degree in English and theatre at the University of Utah; she earned her master's degree in theater production at Central Washington University. In addition to her Hood River teaching position, she is an instructor at Columbia Gorge Community College. Her philosophy on teaching, she said, is that her students must be given the ability to fully and actively create their own successes and failures.
She credits her former mentor and high school teacher, Richard Webber, for guiding her toward the path she has taken in her career and life. "Webb opened the door to the possibility of, 'I can try anything.' And that's what I try to pass along to my students," she said.
In addition to celebrating the Theatre Education Award Winner, four CMU alumni were nominated for Tony Awards: Denée Benton, Christian Borle and Josh Groban were nominated for their leading roles in Broadway musicals, and Kevin Emrick was nominated as a producer for the Pulitzer Prize-winning play "Sweat."
Along with Gad, a 2003 alumnus who recently appeared as LeFou in Disney's live-action version of "Beauty and the Beast," the star-studded presenters included Patina Miller, a 2006 alumna, Groban and Sutton Foster, who attended CMU from 1992 to 1993.
Groban led the cast of "Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812" in a mashup of the show's ballad and big dance number along with castmates Paul Pinto, a 2004 alumnus, and Benton. Borle performed with the cast of Falsettoes. Other performances that featured CMU alumni included Kristolyn Lloyd, a 2007 alumnus, who is a member of the "Dear Evan Hansen" cast; Corey Cott, a 2012 graduate, who plays the lead in the "Bandstand"; and Leslie Odom Jr. a 2003 alumnus who sang with the Radio City Rockettes.
CMU also aired a 30-second commercial during the broadcast, with Judith Light, who graduated in 1970, as the narrator.