The Tony Awards will present Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School drama teacher Melody Herzfeld with this year’s Excellence in Theatre Education Award. Herzfeld will receive the award at the 72nd annual ceremony, set for June 10 at Radio City Music Hall.
Herzfeld leads the drama department at the Parkland, Florida school—the site of the February 14 mass shooting that left 17 dead. In the wake of the tragedy, several of Herzfeld’s students spearheaded the Never Again MSD movement, advocating for effective regulations and gun violence prevention.
"During a normal given time I would say that I am truly humbled and grateful for this recognition for the work I have done, however the way that my students have taken to action through speech, performance and passionate honesty it now means so much more,” said Herzfeld in a statement. “My work is being reflected through my students, as it is every day with every arts teacher around the world."
The honor, now in its fourth year, is presented in conjunction with higher education partner Carnegie Mellon University and goes to a K-12 theatre education in recognition of their impact on the lives of their students. The award includes a $10,000 grant towards the school's theatre program.
“Melody is a true inspiration to her students and to all of us in the theatre community and beyond,” Broadway League President Charlotte St. Martin and American Theatre Wing President Heather Hitchens said in a joint statement. “Theatre is transformative—it has the power to celebrate the best of times, and it has the power to help heal us and comfort us in the worst of times.”
Having produced over 50 productions since joining the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School faculty in 2003, Herzfeld has led the drama department to myriad accolades from district Thespian competitions and the South Florida Cappies. She was also the recipient of the Educational Theatre Association's Thespis Award earlier this year.
Herzfeld collaborated with Marjory Stoneman Douglas alum Brittani Kagan to present the music video for “Shine,” a song penned by students Sawyer Garrity and Andrea Peña dedicated to the 17 victims of the shooting and their families. Watch the video, featuring several of Herzfeld’s students, below. Proceeds from downloads will go to Shine MSD, a student-led effort to raise relief funds and provide arts-based mental health programs in the Parkland community.