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Carnegie Mellon named as first higher education partner for the Tony Awards | TribLIVE.com
Theater & Arts

Carnegie Mellon named as first higher education partner for the Tony Awards

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Actor Billy Porter accepts the award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical for 'Kinky Boots' during the American Theatre Wing's annual Tony Awards in New York on June 9, 2013.
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Nominees Billy Porter ('Kinky Boots') and Patina Miller ('Pippin'), both Carnegie Mellon University gradutates, at the 2013 Tony Nominees' Luncheon.
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Peggy Eisenhauer, 1983 CMU graduate, nominated for best lighting design of a play with colleague Jules Fisher for their work on “Lucky Guy.”
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Kevin Del Aguila and Fox Chapel native Christian Borle star in 'Peter and the Starcatcher.' Borle is Carnegie Mellon University graduate. O&M Co.
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Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer, both Carnegie Mellon University grads, with the lighting design award from the 2013 Tonys.
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** ADVANCE FOR MONDAY, JULY4 ** Cherry Jones, second from right, and Brian F. O'Bryne, second from left, take their bows along with fellow cast members Adriane Lenox, left, and Heather Goldenhersh, during the opening night curtain call of John Patrick Shanley's 'Doubt' at Broadway's Walter Kerr Theatre, Thursday March 31, 2005 in New York. The play recouped its 2 Million dollar investment in mid-June. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg)
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Actress Cherry Jones accepts her award for best performance by a leading actress in a play for her role in 'Doubt' at the 2005 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall in New York Sunday, June 5, 2005. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
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Rene Auberjonois, a 1962 grad of the Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama, won the 1970 Tony for Actor, Supporting or Featured (Musical), for 'Coco'
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Actress Sada Thompson poses in New York City on Nov. 9, 1987. Thompson is starring in 'Real Estate,' an Off-Broadway production at St. Peter's Church. (AP Photo/Marty Reichenthal)

Carnegie Mellon University and the Tony Awards presenting organizations are launching a new national recognition program to honor theater educators who work with students in kindergarten through high school.

The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing, which jointly present the annual Tony Awards, have signed a three-year agreement with Carnegie Mellon University to collaborate in creating the “Tony Honor for Excellence in Theatre Education presented by Carnegie Mellon University.”

“We have a lot of similar goals,” Charlotte St. Martin, executive director of the Broadway League, says. “Carnegie Mellon University has a long tradition of creating great talent. That makes it easier to form a partnership.”

The award will recognize individuals, programs or schools that have demonstrated a positive impact on the lives of students, advanced the theater profession and shown a commitment to excellence.

“It’s a thrilling thing for the school to be involved with,” says Peter Cooke, professor and head of the CMU School of Drama. “I do think it’s recognition of teachers and the excellence of people who have been here a long time.”

But, Cooke adds, the most important thing is that the program encourages and honors theater educators who work with and encourage young people.

Heather Hitchens, executive director of the American Theatre Wing, says Carnegie Mellon was chosen because of its tradition of excellence in educating theater artists.

The oldest drama degree-granting program in the United States, the Carnegie Mellon School of Drama has produced hundreds of Tony nominees and 31 Tony winners, including eight winners in 2013. In addition, the university has been home to 19 Nobel Laureates, 99 Emmy winners and six Oscar winners.

“We both care about excellence on Broadway, and we both care about education. It was a great fit for a partnership,” Hitchens says. “We want to make sure we have the next generation onstage, behind the scenes and in the audience.”

The first award will be presented onstage at the 2015 Tony Awards.

The public will be invited to submit online nominations of individuals, schools and programs that connect students in kindergarten through grade 12 to the theater arts. Nomination forms will be available in September at www.tonyawards.com and www.cmu.com.

A panel of judges from the American Theatre Wing, The Broadway League, Carnegie Mellon and other theater-industry leaders will select the finalists.

The winner will receive a trip to New York City to accept the award onstage. Additionally, a financial contribution, yet to be determined, will be made to the theater-arts program at the winner’s school.

Information about the new program will be included in the 2014 Tony Awards show, hosted by Hugh Jackman, during the live broadcast from Radio City Music Hall in New York City on June 8 on CBS.

As part of the segment on the new award, the broadcast will feature an on-air tribute to Carnegie Mellon’s School of Drama’s century of producing theater talent.

Being showcased on the Tony Awards is a good way to get the school’s name better known internationally and to showcase its graduates who have had successful careers, not just as Tony-winning Broadway actors and directors, but as people who have transformed the movie and television industries both on camera and behind the scenes.

But, Cooke adds: “The most important thing is the recognition that young people are being encouraged by their teachers.”

Alice T. Carter is the theater critic for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808 or [email protected] or via Twitter @ATCarter_Trib

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