Rising Star Awards 2024

Modeled after Broadway’s Tony Awards, the Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards was created in 1996 to encourage and reward exceptional accomplishments in the production of New Jersey high school musicals. The Rising Star Awards is a statewide high school recognition program and has been replicated in several regions nationwide with Paper Mill Playhouse’s assistance.

Once again, we are providing partial and full scholarships to the nominees in our Supporting and Lead performance categories. In addition to performance awards, special awards will also be given in the categories of Student Achievement, Educational Impact, Inclusion & Access in the Arts, and Outstanding Educator. The Student Achievement Award recognizes individual student or group contributions to the greater production effort. The Educational Impact Award recognizes a school that extends their production into the curriculum in a meaningful way. The Rising Star “Theatre for Everyone” Inclusion & Access Award recognizes excellence in the promotion and practice of creative inclusion of students and adults with disabilities as performers, designers, musicians, and production staff. Additionally, this award also seeks to recognize and reward a school that takes steps to ensure their performances are accessible to audiences with disabilities. The Outstanding Educator Award recognizes those educators who bring the positive impact of theatre into their students’ curriculum and lives.

The Rising Star Awards also provide a variety of Scholarship Opportunities for participating high school seniors. Paper Mill Playhouse offers seven $1,000 cash awards to outstanding individual students participating in entered Rising Star Award productions, and who plan to continue studying theatre or technical theatre in college.

Inspired by the success of digital submissions and our continued desire to increase access to our program, we recently introduced an auxiliary category called “Outstanding Solo Performance.” This category will be an opportunity for schools who are not producing a fully realized musical to submit a student for consideration. The final nominees in this category will also be eligible for scholarships to attend Paper Mill Playhouse’s Summer Conservatory.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to risingstarawards@papermill.org

How to Participate

There is a 22-school weekend cap. Registration is on a first come first served basis. Registration will open November 15, 2023 at 9:00 AM.

Registration Form

Once registration is confirmed, schools must submit a registration fee. For information on a fee waiver, please contact us at risingstarawards@papermill.org.

Frequently Asked Questions

When is the deadline to register for the 2024 Rising Star Awards?
Registration forms are due by 5:00 PM on Wednesday, January 3, 2024.

When must our show be presented in order to enter the Rising Star Awards?
Schools producing a full musical and receiving in-person adjudication must perform on a weekend between January 18, 2024 and April 14, 2024. If you are submitting in the Outstanding Solo Performance category, the deadline to submit your student’s video is Monday, April 1, 2024 by 11:59pm.

How many schools are accepted into the program?
Each weekend has a 22-school cap.

Is there a registration fee?
Yes, there is a $75 registration fee for schools receiving in-person adjudication of a fully produced musical and a $25 registration fee for those submitting in the digital category. Fees will be invoiced once the school’s registration is confirmed. Cost should never prohibit a school from participating and fee waivers are available; please email risingstarawards@papermill.org for more information.

How will we know if our registration was received?
Paper Mill Playhouse will email a confirmation within 2 business days.

What if we don’t receive a confirmation email?
Please email risingstarawards@papermill.org

Will Paper Mill Playhouse accept a school purchase order or voucher for the application fee?
Yes, provided the forms arrive at Paper Mill Playhouse within ten business days of your confirmation email.

What categories will be adjudicated?
Each school receiving in person adjudication will be scored in the following categories:
Direction, Choreography, Music Direction, Orchestra, Scenic Design, Costume Design, Hair and Make Up Design, Chorus, Lead Performance in a Female Identified Role, Lead Performance in a Male Identified Role, Supporting Performance in a Male Identified Role, Supporting Performance in a Female Identified Role, Featured Performer, Ensemble Member*, and Ensemble Group.

The digitally-submitted Outstanding Solo Performance category is for schools not producing a fully realized musical.

Auxiliary Award categories are open to schools being adjudicated. Those categories are: Outstanding Educator, Educational Impact Award, Theater for Everyone Inclusion and Access Award, Student Achievement Awards, and Senior Scholarships.

*Ensemble Member is a teacher-submitted category and an optional category for our evaluators.

How will schools be adjudicated?
Evaluators will utilize the Standards of Excellence and Performance Response Forms. Samples of these forms will be made available to schools prior to the first production weekend.

What do I submit for Outstanding Solo Performance?
A Google Form link will be sent to you. Please provide the requested information and upload a video of the student’s performance. The performance must follow the following guidelines:

o The performance material must be a song in the musical theatre style from a published musical or an original work. We encourage students to use story driven material that shows off both acting and singing abilities equally. While the performance may include choreography, the emphasis of evaluation is on acting and singing.
o The submission must be a solo performance in which the performer performs a piece that is intended as a solo moment or individual song.
o The submission must not exceed 2 minutes.

How does a school receive a final nomination in consideration for an award?
All submissions will be reviewed by members of the Paper Mill Nomination Committee and evaluated using our Standards of Excellence Rubric and Response Form. A sample of these forms will be advanced to schools following registration. The Nomination Committee will utilize these scores and comments to discuss and determine nominees.

When will we know if we’ve been nominated?
Final Nominations will be announced on Paper Mill’s YouTube page Monday, April 29, 2024. A list of Final Nominations will be posted on our website immediately following.

Will we receive feedback?
Yes! Schools will receive a single document with scores and comments from each evaluator that attended their school’s production.

How to Watch the Rising Star Awards Ceremony

Join us on June 11 at 7:30 PM on the HTTV Website!
Live Stream of the 2024 Rising Star Awards

Rising Star Awards Program
cover of the Rising Star 2024 Award program

2024 Participating Schools
2024 Nominations
2024 Winners


Rising Star Awards – Presented by Citizens Philanthropic Foundation and Investors Foundation are supported by The Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation

Rising Star scholarships are made possible by Ruth Bedford in memory of Jane Burgio, Walt Santner in honor of Janet Sovey, in memory of late father and husband James K. Mosser, and the Douglas Michael Krueger Scholarship Fund Trust. The Theater for Everyone Inclusion and Access Award is supported by the New Jersey Theatre Alliance.

The Hearst Foundations are Paper Mill’s Education & Outreach Partner.


Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards are a part of the New Jersey Theatre Alliance 2022 Stages Festival, made possible by support from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts; Bank of America; The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey; OceanFirst Foundation; the George A. Ohl, Jr. Trust; New Jersey Historical Commission; and Fund for the New Jersey Blind. www.njtheatrealliance.org/stages