Marilyn McCormick, a drama teacher at Cass Technical High School in Detroit, MI, was named winner of the second annual Excellence in Theatre Education Award, presented by Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and the Tony Awards.
She will accept her award at the Tony ceremony June 12.
The award was inaugurated in 2016 to honor “the teachers who create the next generation of theatre artists. These are dedicated professionals who discover talented students, nurture them, inspire them, and set them off on a lifelong journey as theatre supporters and professionals.” This annual honor recognizes “a K-12 theatre educator in the U.S. who has demonstrated monumental impact on the lives of students and who embodies the highest standards of the profession.”
McCormick was chosen from a pool of 1,100 candidates submitted by members of the public by writing an essay about “a theatre educator who made a difference in their lives, and the lives of others.” The pool was screened by a panel of judges from the American Theatre Wing, The Broadway League, Carnegie Mellon University and other leaders of the theatre industry.
McCormick teaches drama in the Performing Arts curriculum at Cass Technical High School. She teaches courses such as “Children's Theatre”—an introductory theatre course geared toward teaching the basics of theatre etiquette and technique. Students in this class perform two plays per year for invited middle and elementary school guests. “Readers Theatre”—a more experienced ensemble of young artists who have decided to pursue theatre/acting as a profession—perform two productions per year for invited high school peers. They travel around the city and the country performing original plays. The students are introduced to Misner, Stanislavski and some Alexander Technique. Part of the course work is applying for colleges as well as preparing and rehearsing audition materials. McCormick travels with students to either Unified College Auditions or directly to the college campuses to help guide and support her students in their efforts. McCormick directs one play and one musical each year. In addition, she supervises the Performing Arts Guild, which is a troop of comic actors who perform comedy sketch/variety shows to raise money for the Performing Arts department, which is all self-funded.
McCormick’s students, present and past, along with colleagues at Cass Technical High School, submitted heartfelt letters, tributes and videos through the application process. McCormick will receive a $10,000 grant for her theatre program and a trip to New York City to be recognized during the live CBS broadcast of the 70th Annual Tony Awards.
“To think that my students recommended me for this award … that’s an honor,” said McCormick, who is retiring in June. “I am overwhelmed to be receiving this recognition, and I can’t wait to go to the Tony Awards. I have always told my students, ‘Good, better, best; never let it rest, until your good gets better and your better is best.’ Well, this is certainly the best!”
McCormick and the Cass Tech students were informed of her selection by a surprise visit to McCormick’s classroom by Renée Elise Goldsberry, a 2016 Tony Award nominee for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical for her role in Broadway’s Hamilton. Goldsberry is a CMU alum and served on this year’s judge’s panel.
Charlotte St. Martin,president of The Broadway League, and Heather Hitchens, president of the American Theatre Wing, issued a joint statement saying, “Marilyn is a shining example of a theatre educator who not only provides her students with the fundamentals to be successful performers, but also the guidance and confidence to thrive after they graduate. Her dedication, commitment and passion for not only the arts but for her students was evident in the heartfelt applications – videos and letters that we received on her behalf. We are inspired by her and honored to present the Excellence in Theatre Education Award to her.”
Dan J. Martin, dean, Carnegie Mellon University College of Fine Arts, said, “It is a great honor to present the Excellence in Theatre Education Award with the Tony Awards, especially because we value arts education as an integral part of students’ curriculum, whether the arts are their major course of study or not. We are thrilled to give it to a deserving educator like Marilyn McCormick, who truly cares about and influences her students’ lives.”
Here is a short documentary prepared by the Tony Awards in McCormick's honor:
The Tony Awards and Carnegie Mellon also recognized the work of Kevin G. Coleman, Director of Education at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, ME, and Sarah Crowell, artistic director at Destiny Arts Center in Oakland, CA. Coleman and Crowell were selected as 2016 Excellence in Theatre Education Award finalists. They will each receive $1,000 for their schools, a flight for one to New York City, hotel accommodations and one ticket to the Tony Awards Nominee Luncheon.