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Music theater receives national recognition

“Oklahoma!” awarded third place by American Prize

Taylor Theatre’s fall 2016 performance of “Oklahoma!” continues its success. (Photograph by Hannah Bolds)

Taylor Theatre’s fall 2016 performance of “Oklahoma!” continues its success. (Photograph by Hannah Bolds)

By Emily Pawlowski | Echo

“I sometimes have been known to say that Taylor theater is like the best kept secret around,” Tracy Manning, assistant professor of theatre arts, department co-chair managing and artistic director of theatre said.

That secret is out now, because Taylor placed third in the American Prize competition with its production of “Oklahoma!”

“Oklahoma!” was produced by the Taylor musical theater in November of 2016. It featured senior Anna Kaye Schulte as Laurey Williams and senior John Broda as Curly McLain. Other leads include Ado Annie, played by senior Paige Kennedy, and Jud, played by junior Steven Mantel.

The American Prize is a nonprofit competition that recognizes different levels of ensembles and artists, from school groups to professional organizations. “Oklahoma!” was entered in the musical theater category, where it was judged next to other college productions from around the country.

“To come behind some really big schools with much bigger programs and bigger budgets than ours is an honor,” Manning said.

Manning feels that the cohesiveness of the show is what made it stand out from the competition. She thanks everyone involved in the program for the hard work and dedication that helped the show achieve its high level of quality.

Schulte agrees. Laurey Williams was her first role in the musical theatre, and she’s been involved in several productions since.

“Taylor Theatre thrives on being simple in the ways that what we do we do really well,” Schulte said. “So quality over quantity, especially in the productions we’ve decided to do as well as our resources and things like that. We pour a lot into the heart of it.”

This was the first year Taylor musical theatre submitted a show to the American Prize. Conor Angell, associate professor of music, theatre and dance, decided to do so after Manning reached out to him about the possibility of competing.

Angell also took interest in submitting to the competition due to past experiences with it. He was introduced to to it while working at another college, and was eager to have Taylor musical theatre’s work be evaluated by an external source.

“We want to keep submitting materials to be considered for awards because it is good validation for the students and for the program,” Angell said. “We definitely want high school students and their parents to know that good work is being done here so they think about Taylor as a place where they could be equipped and have a good experience.”

As it continues to grow and change, Taylor musical theatre is done being Upland’s best kept secret. Thanks to competitions like the American Prize, it’s finally stepping into the spotlight.

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