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Jason Zembuch Young
Excellence in Theatre Education Award

Jason Zembuch Young Named 2023 Excellence in Theatre Education Award Winner

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Pam Wigley
College of Fine Arts
Peter Kerwin
University Communications & Marketing

Although Jason Zembuch Young is not eager to be in the spotlight, all eyes will be on him at the 76th Annual Tony Awards on June 11 at the historic United Palace in New York's Washington Heights. The theatre director and teacher from South Plantation High School in Plantation, Florida, was named the seventh winner of the Excellence in Theatre Education Award(opens in new window) (EITEA), presented by the Tony Awards and Carnegie Mellon University. The EITEA was co-founded in 2014 by the Tony Awards and CMU to recognize top K-12 drama teachers and to celebrate arts education.

Those close to Zembuch Young are quick to sing his praises, not only for his exemplary role as a theatre director, but also as a giving, caring and nurturing individual who finds great satisfaction in promoting his students and his supporters at South Plantation High. His contributions to his school and to the greater Plantation community have earned him widespread recognition, especially among those in the deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) population — which comprises a large number of people in the area.

“New trails are blazed when teachers challenge paradigms in the name of art, expression and accessibility,” said Carnegie Mellon University President Farnam Jahanian(opens in new window). “Jason Zembuch Young is an extraordinary educator who has had tremendous positive impact on the lives of his students, using theatre to open their worlds and let more people in. CMU is proud to present this award in recognition of his remarkable achievements.”

Zembuch Young has long been a proponent of providing excellence through inclusive theatrical programming. When he arrived at the school nearly 20 years ago, he learned of the DHH population and made it a mission to open the theatre to this group.

Jason Zembuch Young and his students

Jason Zembuch Young and his students at South Plantation High School in Plantation, Florida.

Each year, he produces two full-length mainstage productions, a play and a musical, in both voice and American Sign Language. As an advocate for the DHH population, Zembuch Young has reshaped policies to provide interpreters during and after school to teach his hearing and DHH actors and crew how to communicate and perform.

The EITEA award

“As a high school theatre teacher, I’ve had the opportunity to work with many students from different backgrounds with varying exceptionalities. When we are inclusive in the theatre, everyone is better for it. Everyone deserves to have a voice,” Zembuch Young said. “It is in the theatre that we have an opportunity to give our students a platform to use that voice, regardless of who they are, where they come from or what language they use to communicate.” 

Helping others overcome disability or life circumstances doesn’t stop when the school day ends for Zembuch Young. He and his husband, Michael, have fostered more than 35 abused and underprivileged children. He’s facilitated the adoption of foster children in his care and has become an adoptive parent himself. He offers free admission for foster families to all performances so they can experience live theatre.

The Excellence in Theatre Education Award recognizes a K-12 theatre educator in the U.S. who has demonstrated exemplary impact on the lives of students and who embodies the highest standards of the profession. Zembuch Young will receive $10,000 for South Plantation High School’s theatre program and tickets to the Tony Awards and Gala. Zembuch Young’s students will also receive a visiting Master Class(opens in new window) taught by CMU School of Drama(opens in new window) faculty.

Tune in to the 76th Annual Tony Awards

On Sunday, June 11, CBS and Pluto TV will present “The Tony Awards: Act One,” a pre-show of live, exclusive content leading into The 76th Annual Tony Awards. The celebration begins at 6:30 p.m. EST/3:30 PST, on Pluto TV. Viewers can access the show on their smart TV, streaming device, mobile app or online by going to Pluto TV and clicking on the “Pluto TV Celebrity” channel (no payment, registration or sign-in required).

At 8 p.m. EST/5 p.m. PST, the 76th Annual Tony Awards airs live on the CBS Television Network, and will stream live and on demand on Paramount+.

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