From June 25-July 30, 56 teenagers — who hail from 31 regions across the United States — prepare for the 2014 National High School Musical Theater Awards, which will take place at Broadway's Minskoff Theatre hosted by Ryan McCartan, the 2011 Jimmy Award winner who recently starred as JD in the Off-Broadway musical Heathers and appears on Disney's "Liv & Maddie."
Throughout the week students meet with seasoned Broadway performers and creative artists, attend vocal coachings and rehearsals to stage this year's ceremony, where they will perform and represent musical theatre competitions (where they were previously presented with an award for their performance in their high school production) sponsored by professional theatre organizations in cities across America. A panel of judges determines the recipients of the Best Performance by an Actor and Best Performance by an Actress awards.
Buckley and Magbanua continue to update Playbill.com with an exclusive blog that takes readers behind the scenes and into the rehearsal rooms.
Keenan Buckley: June 27
Whoa, day three of the Jimmy Awards was absolutely crazy.
The day began by partaking in some yoga. We relaxed, centered ourselves and prepared for the longest and most intense day of this incredible journey thus far.
After yoga, all of our relaxed and calm energy changed when our choreographer, Kiesha Lalama, walked into the studio prepared to teach us the beginning of our opening number and work every single one of us, and that's just what she did. We were all so tired after that rehearsal; most of us could barely walk.
After beginning to stage our opening number, we all moved to our coaching sessions. Unfortunately, for me it would be my last. My amazing coach Krystal Joy Brown will not be joining us for the rest of the week. She was so incredible and gave my entire group so much insight into our craft. Right in the middle of my coaching, I was pulled into my second medley rehearsal, where the fabulous Kiesha staged our entire medley in about 45 minutes. I couldn't believe it; she knows how to get things done!
After medley rehearsal and lunch, I headed back up to my coaching session with Krystal. She helped me to finally decide on the song that I will be singing for the judges ("Maria" from West Side Story). She was so inspiring with every single person today. Not only do you learn from having her directly critiquing and helping you become a better performer, but also, you learn from watching other people and learning from them.
Everyday I feel like I am learning so much about musical theatre and about myself. After coaching ended, and we all wished Krystal goodbye, we headed down to the main studio to get on our costumes and show them off to the production team. It was so interesting to see so many different costumes, different characters and the way the designers envisioned what each character would wear.
After the costume parade, we hustled back into the main studio to change and get ready to finish the staging of our opening number. Kiesha came in more energetic than ever, ready to work us some more before we left. Again, Kiesha was able to complete her staging in an extremely short period of time. I actually cannot believe how efficient she is.
At the end of rehearsal Kiesha announced that all the medleys were staged, in addition to the opening number. Things are coming along quite quickly and smoothly. I had no idea that at this point in the journey we would be almost ready to perform. The entire production staff has exceeded my expectations. They are all so creative, helpful and talented.
Today was an extremely hectic and eventful day, and I don't expect any less of tomorrow. I can't wait to show the whole world what we are putting together here. I think it is going to be really magical.
Emma Magbanua: June 27
Maureen Edwards was a contestant in the 2012 Jimmy Awards, and is also one of the 56 competing this year. I have had the pleasure of becoming her friend and sharing the same coach and medley with her.
On our walk to the dorms last night, she remarked how today would feel like a long day because it would be our first true full day in constant rehearsals. As most actresses do, she was telling the truth.
While most of the world was "thanking God it was Friday," there were a few of the 56 napping on the floor during the five-minute breaks our coaches would graciously give, praying time would stand still.
However, today was still as wonderful as this experience has been thus far. We were scarfing down breakfast by 8 o'clock and off to yoga by 8:30 AM. It is a great way to start your day: focused.
We also established trust amongst ourselves and others as we held a partner by his legs up in the air as they found their center in a handstand-like position. (I would like to thank Aaron for not only trusting me, but also not dropping me!)
After yoga, we were onto the next rehearsal on the agenda: Opening Number. This was the first time the full company was to work with Keisha Lalama at the same time. Thanks to yoga, we were focused and able to learn amazing choreography that became even more exciting every time Keisha would have us repeat it, over and over and over and over again. (Hard work pays off!)
We then headed to coaching, where we worked our solo pieces, which are to be performed before our director, Van Kaplan, himself tomorrow morning! Lyrics became clearer and songs became truer... and the actors, well, we'll see tomorrow!
During lunch, we received a talk back from all five coaches, Krystal Joy Brown, Adam Kantor, Julia Murney, Andrea Burns and Renee Elise Goldsberry. They told us what it was like to be an actor, when they decided this was it, and what I found most interesting of all: what they were never told earlier that they wished they knew now.
Andrea Burns (TEAM CONNECT!) was the first to answer. She said, "Do you." We are all enough. I am enough. You are enough. There is no need to be a pale imitation of anyone else because no one has or will ever have the experiences you have. You are unique. You are special. You are enough.
This message rang through us all as we returned to coaching and medley rehearsals.
After dinner, we had the "costume parade." It is similar to playing dress up as a child: Oooohs, ahhhhhs, wide eyes, smiles and excitement fills the room as each contestant transforms into his or her character. We were graced by the presence of princesses, witches and quite a few Shreks! They were then approved by Van.
Once the parade was over and the garment bags had left the rehearsal room, it was back to the agenda: continue staging the Opening Number. By this time, everyone was ready to hike back to the dorms, but we pulled through and now have 20 seconds left to stage! TGWF (Thank God We're Focused). To close the day, we learned our vocals for the closing number.
Tomorrow has in store a performance for Van, intense medley rehearsals, and dress rehearsals.
WE'RE HALFWAY THERE!