Iowa High School Musical Theatre Awards Showcase

Showcase logo sizedThe future of Musical Theatre is in great hands... because there are literally hundreds of Iowa’s best high school performers about to descend upon the Des Moines Civic Center to share their talents and dreams. On Monday June 3, students from schools all over the state will be singing and dancing together at the Iowa High School Musical Theatre Awards Showcase, and soon some will even get a chance to strut their stuff in New York under the lights of Broadway.


Stars Across Iowa

Some seven years ago, Des Moines Performing Arts launched the Iowa High School Musical Theatre Awards (IHSMTA), along with the performing night Showcase. Karoline Myers is the Education Manager for the organization, and together with Sarah Florian as Program Coordinator and the rest of the Civic Center staff, the celebration of area Musical Theatre has grown by leaps and bounds.

Showcase Map“The program has expanded considerably since its launch,” says Myers. “In the first year, 9 schools participated within an eligible radius of 45 miles from Des Moines. The geographic area eligible to participate was expanded each year, until year 5 of the program when the entire state was eligible to participate. This year, we are serving a record-breaking 77 schools.”

There is a significant process involved just for these students to be chosen for this special night, and it starts almost when the previous year’s Showcase ends. “The literal army that it takes to produce the Awards Showcase is phenomenal. In addition to working with the directors at all 77 schools to organize their students’ participation, we work with a large team of theater professionals and partners.”


Star Searching

Showcase ensembleThe IHSMTA program sends out invitations to all high schools in the state over the summer months. If a school wishes to be a part of the process, the school must be producing a musical in the fall or spring semester within the eligibility dates. The biggest challenge at this point is to make sure individuals on the “adjudication team” can make it to all the shows, especially when there are certain dates when it seems like almost every school is performing. And even though there are currently about 70 adjudicators working with the IHSMTA, each presentation is attended by 3-4 people to make sure that there’s more than one set of eyes on each eligible show and its participants.

Showcase adjudicators“The adjudicators are made up of theater educators and professionals with a range of experience. Applications for new adjudicators are accepted each fall, with final numbers determined based on the final number of participating schools. We seek to have a balance of skill sets and theater areas represented within the adjudicator team – actors, directors, musicians, and technicians. We are constantly seeking new adjudicators in the various geographic regions within Iowa to try and decrease some of the travel time to get to each school.”

44207468 464d 4ae3 9224 b6b2a01fce63Note the part about having a variety of theater areas represented. It’s not just the leading players that are looked at in this process. Awards are presented to more than just performers, as evaluations are made for everything from costume and makeup achievements to community engagement and stage management. “In addition to the show’s chorus, orchestra and technical elements being reviewed, each school can have up to 8 principal roles also reviewed. Certain roles are required to be reviewed based on their eligibility to be considered for the National High School Musical Theatre Awards (of which we are a regional awards program), but directors typically have the ability to select a handful of roles that they would also like to see reviewed in addition to the ones that are required.”


Stars Shining

Jimmy AwardsThe IHSMTA, as mentioned, is a regional program, and feeds into the National awards in New York City. Each year, a number of outstanding Iowa performers are given the Triple Threat Award, and in addition to their Showcase appearances they are auditioning as well. Working with guest professionals brought in from Broadway, they are evaluated during the week before the Showcase. That evening, two of these artists receive the honor of a trip to New York as Iowa’s representatives at The Jimmy Awards (named after the famed Broadway producer James Nederlander).


Showcase pros“One of the things we hear consistently from the Broadway professionals who come in is how much they respect the work ethic and commitment of Iowa students. Iowa students are focused and care deeply about what they are engaged in, and they want to soak up everything the Broadway professionals are giving them. Iowa has lots of talented students, but it is what our students do with that talent and their eagerness to continue to develop and grow that makes it such a rewarding experience for our guest artists.”

While there are months of planning and work, and constant evaluations going on all year, it really comes to fruition in the weeks just prior to the Showcase. Most of the awards have been announced for achievements by the various schools, shows, and performers, but co-ordinating the actual Showcase itself is a monumental effort... and it has to be done quickly.


Star Presentation

Showcase rehearsal sized“The biggest challenge of producing is the Showcase is the sheer amount of information that must be collected, packaged and then shared with the appropriate parties. From the time awards are finalized after the last spring musicals close, it is a mad dash to issue performance invitations, collect music from schools invited to perform and to get orchestrations created for each of those performances. Locally, we are putting together professional musicians to play in the orchestra pit and work with our technical staff to figure out all of the production elements.”

“In that amount of time, we also have to put together tech and rehearsal schedules that work for every participating school, collect information on student ticket needs, figure out microphone assignments for close to 200 soloists, and create the physical awards for each school. It’s an amazing amount of detail to coordinate in just a few short weeks.”

Showcase wings“The week prior to the Showcase, we will host over 50 hours of rehearsals, including staging rehearsals for the opening, finale and Triple Threat medleys as well as tech rehearsals for all excerpts from school productions that will be performed at the event. It’s a major group effort to support the 500 participating students who audience members will see perform on our stage that evening.”

If you want to be part of it all, support all this young talent, and perhaps see the local (or even national) stars of the future, plan to go see the IHSMTA Showcase at the Civic Center on Monday June 3. Tickets are now onsale and available either in person at the Civic Center box office, by calling 246-2300, or online at the website. On the IHSMTA Showcase site you can find a list of this year’s award winners, participating schools, and significantly more information about the program and everything involved.

Watch this video of highlights from last year’s Showcase, then get ready to go enjoy the future of Musical Theatre, and see how amazing these young stars really are!


Civic Center Des Moines Performing Arts Sarah Florian Karoline Myers