Local students were recognized for their commendable efforts as part of their high school theater productions through the 1st annual Excellence in School Theater Arts Awards (ESTA) ceremony April 28. Students from high schools received award plaques at the reception held at the Ramada Inn in Clarks Summit, for various categories related to their involvement in theater, such as Best Executed Choreography and Best Overall Production.
Although similar awards exist in other areas, the ESTA awards are new to Northeastern Pa., with the help of founders and organizers Jillian Kemmerer, 27, of Clarks Summit, and Rachel Strayer, 30, also of Clarks Summit. Kemmerer and Strayer have dedicated their life to theater, starting out with performances at a young age and pursued their interests through high school and college. Both women are active members of Ghostlight Productions of Clarks Summit and were able to receive support toward the ESTA awards through the theater company.
Kemmerer discussed the idea behind creating the awards, “I had been involved in something like this back in high school, and I noticed there are several awards like this in Pennsylvania, but just nothing in this area.”
This year the five participating high schools included Riverside, Scranton High, Abington Heights, Lackawanna Trail and Valley View. Attendance of the event included a mix of nominated students, teachers, parents, directors and other supporters of the students.
The nomination process began with score sheets created by Kemmerer and Strayer, which were given to judges who were sent to the local high schools to observe the students on various categories that came down to detailed elements such as diction and movement on stage.
“We tried to make the criteria as detailed as possible so that we could really draw a conclusion overall who stands out on top and is doing excellent work,” said Strayer regarding the judging process.
Although this is only the first year for the ESTA awards, the response from students, schools and faculty was better than projected, according to its organizers.
“It’s really been an incredible response, and I do think it has potential to become something much bigger than it is,” said Kemmerer.
Strayer said her hope for the outcome of the awards is a sense of achievement for students.
“Something I really hope they get out of this is not only a sense of accomplishment and encouragement, but the ability to recognize when something is done well.”
Kemmerer hopes as a result of the ESTA awards more students will be bit by the theater bug.
“I hope it encourages students to continue doing the awards and to maybe get their friends involved and really just to develop a passion for the arts and theater.”
Both women are also looking forward to expansion and continuation of the awards in the upcoming years, as Kemmerer said, “I would love to do it for as many years as it will keep on going.”