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 25
Hi guys! My name is Keenan Buckley. I am from Summit, NJ, and I am representing the Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards at this year's National High School Musical Theatre Awards (aka The Jimmy Awards).
I drove into New York today not having any idea what to expect. When I arrived at Founders Hall at New York University, I was greeted by the sound of jubilant theatre kids belting out their favorite Broadway show tunes. I walked into the building and met my chaperone, Kristen, who checked me and my New Jersey counterpart, Emma, into the building. My mom and I headed up to the 14th floor to unpack my stuff and say our final goodbyes.
At five o'clock we all met in the main lobby of Founders before embarking on our journey to the Tisch building for dinner. We all sat at the tables, talked and got to know one another. I met some incredibly talented people like Jonathan Turner and Sophia Tzougros from Wisconsin, and Brooke Solan and Isaac Arnett from Nevada.
After dinner we met our inconceivably accomplished production staff; they explained the whole process of putting this showcase together. After that, they announced who would be the guest artist tomorrow, Stephen Schwartz. I could not believe the words I had just heard. Then we rehearsed our opening and closing numbers. I cannot wait for tomorrow — I can tell already that this is going to be the experience of a lifetime.
Emma Magbanua: June 25
Day one of the Jimmy Awards began for me at 11:30 PM, when my brother, Anthony, drove me and my seven bags through the Holland Tunnel.
Thankfully, I represent the Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards, conveniently located in New Jersey. Unlike my roommate, Bethany Beckham, I simply crossed the tunnel as I do many days of the year — except today, I saw a bread truck with the slogan, "All We Knead is Love," which I raved about for a few minutes — while she woke up at 4 AM to catch a flight from Tennessee to arrive here around the time I left home.
Today was a day of: "Meet as many people as you can, and try your best to remember all their names." Before check in, I met our chaperones and other contestants, and then I went up to my room — to find that me and my roommate have matching blankets (ha!) — then back downstairs to find all 56 contestants trying to introduce themselves to someone else.
Lunch was at Tisch — Papa John's Pizza (aren't we supposed to be avoiding dairy?). This pizza and table set up has brought us all closer together. We all get an orange t-shirt and take a group photo to make the bond even stronger.
Next, we head over to a rehearsal room and are given a run-down of how the whole week will work and learn the names of all the students you still haven't met, in spite of your efforts, and the production team. We are left 56 strong to rehearse our vocal parts for the opening and closing number. By 10:30 PM, I learned that everyone here is too talented for words, and I'm just about exhausted.
Our chaperones flood the room, we receive a schedule for the next day, and we take a stroll back to Founders Hall, exhausted.
As I prepare for tomorrow's activities, I can only think of New York: the streetlights, the cars, Broadway, the music and that bread truck. "All We Knead is Love." All we need is our love to succeed, our love for musical theatre, and the love of the people who got us here.