The Jester Awards are tailor-made for Wichita kids like Timothy TV Cao, Stevie Ann Mack, Faith Northcutt and Edward Sturm.
Launched in 2002 through the efforts of Belden Mills, longtime board member of Music Theatre of Wichita, the awards recognize and encourage talented youngsters in Wichita and south central Kansas, says Angela Trotter.
“Our judges look for excellence both on stage and backstage,” says Trotter, who has worked with the awards for five years and been in charge of them the past two. “There are 23 categories that cover everything from performance to costumes to technical to lobby displays. We want to encourage all aspects of theater.”
Teens like Timothy, Faith, Stevie and Edward have made names for themselves not only in their individual schools, Trotter says, but also in other theater venues, including professionally, both locally and as far away as New York and California.
The annual ceremony to honor these rising stars will be at 7 p.m. Friday in the Orpheum Theatre. After recipients in the 23 categories are revealed, the top production will be named along with one male and female performer, who will receive $2,000 cash scholarships.
There are 41 schools in the running for Jesters – named after the beloved sculpture in front of Century II Concert Hall – from Garden City on the west, to Hays and Salina on the north to Independence on the east.
Nominees are determined by a panel of about 85 volunteer judges drawn from the community, including theater teachers, performance professionals and arts patrons, who fan out across the state to see the plays and performers in action.
“We like to have several judges at each show, and we need so many because most of the plays happen simultaneously on two weekends – one in the fall and one in spring – when there are no sporting events,” Trotter says.
Judges rate performances and shows from 1 to 10, and officials tally up the results numerically to decide the recipients.
“We use the word ‘recipient’ rather than ‘winner’ because there may be multiple awards in various categories, depending upon the numbers,” says Wayne Bryan, Music Theatre’s producing artistic director. “We are recognizing a lot of outstanding work, not just singling out one ‘best.’ ”
The four teens profiled here were selected by Music Theater officials as representative of the nominees that embody the Jester Awards ideals. A complete list of the nominees is at www.mtwichita.com.
Timothy TV Cao
Wichita native, age 12, son of Hai and Orelle Cao, one older sister.
Stevie Ann Mack
Wichita native, just turned 18, daughter of Tom and Valerie Mack, one younger brother who she says is “the funniest person I know.”
Wichita native, age 15, daughter of Jim and Jana Northcutt, two older sisters.
Born in Alabama, age 12, lived in Ohio and Arkansas before moving to Wichita in second grade, son of Tim and Beth Sturm, one younger sister.