At the Tony Awards, after the statues are given to the winners, they are taken to the media room, where they speak to journalists about their prizes. Playbill was able to have some one-on-one time with some of the 2023 Tony winners. We spoke with teacher Jason Zembuch Young about what it means to him to receive the Excellence in Theatre Education Tony Award.
"The sacrifices that we make... not just me, but all of my students, and the parents, and family members of the students, and the parents in my own family, (this proves that those sacrifices) actually mean something...it's very validating for the work that we do."
Zembuch Young is currently running a one-person public school theatre department with no budget and nearly 150 students participating in productions. He uses his summers to operate a six-week theatre camp for elementary- and middle school–aged children. Offstage, Zembuch Young and his husband Michael are foster parents, having taken in more than 35 abused and underprivileged children. The couple are adoptive parents, and have facilitated the adoption of foster kids in their care. Zembuch Young also offers free admission to all of his productions to foster families.
When talking about his students, Zembuch Young is characteristically humble. "Really and truly, my students are the ones that I truly believe mentored me, because they have had individual needs. I've been pushed to figure out how to meet those needs, and to help find them success in whatever it is that they were doing. My kids kind of guided and mentored me along the way, while I simultaneously was guiding and mentoring them. A very symbiotic relationship, I think."
Zembuch Young was selected from a nationwide call for entries by a panel of theatre experts from The American Theatre Wing, The Broadway League, and Carnegie Mellon University. Zembuch Young will receive a $10,000 grant for his school's theatre program, and his students will receive a visiting master class led by CMU Drama professors.
When asked where he plans to display his Tony, Zembuch Young is at a loss. "I think we're gonna have to build a case, or install a fireplace!"
For Playbill's complete coverage of the Tony Awards, visit Playbill.com/Tonys.