Rising Star Awards Guidelines

New Jersey’s Statewide High School Musical Theater Competition Now Accepting Registrations

Paper Mill Playhouse is now accepting registrations for the Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards for Excellence in High School Musical Theater Presented by the Investors Foundation. Since their inception in 1996, the Rising Star Awards have ignited the careers of many notable performers including Academy Award winner Anne Hathaway (Les Misérables), Tony Award winners Laura Benanti (Gypsy) and Nikki M. James (The Book of Mormon), Tony nominee Rob McClure (Chaplin), Shanice Williams, star of NBC’s The Wiz Live!, and Olivier Award nominee Jared Gertner (The Book of Mormon).

paper mill playhouse rising star awards high school musical theater competition

Rising Star Awards 2017

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on area high schools, causing rolling school building closures, split attendance schedules and social distancing restrictions, leaving many New Jersey high schools unable to produce a traditional musical with a live audience. Theater educators, however, are finding new ways to teach students remotely and are developing exploring how to create musical product through virtual rehearsals and performances.

With this in mind, Paper Mill is launching an abridged Rising Star Awards program that preserves essential elements that serve both students and teachers and will continue to provide a meaningful recognition platform for the school community. Paper Mill will welcome video submissions of student performances for a shorter list of categories: Outstanding Performance by an Actor, Actress, Small Ensemble and Large Ensemble; the Student Achievement Awards for non-performance contributions, the Rising Star Scholarships for graduating seniors and the “Theater for Everyone” Inclusion and Access Award. A new honor, the Outstanding Educator Award, has been added. More details about the 2021 Rising Star program are available by clicking here.

To participate in the program and submit students for awards, New Jersey high schools must first complete the registration process. Registration is accepted on a first-come, first-served basis for the first 100 schools that respond. The deadline to register is January 15, 2021, at 5:00PM, and forms are available now online at 2021 Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards Registration.

The final nominees will be announced in May, and the 2021 Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards Presented by the Investors Foundation ceremony will take place Monday, June 7, at 7:00PM.
In addition to recognizing performances, Paper Mill Playhouse will award scholarships as well. Five $1,000 cash scholarships will be given to outstanding students who plan to continue studying theater performance, theater education or technical theater in college. Through a partnership with the New Jersey Theatre Alliance and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, the 2021 Rising Star “Theater for Everyone” Inclusion and Access Award provides $1,000 to a participating school in recognition of excellence in the promotion and practice of creative inclusion of students and adults with disabilities as performers, designers, musicians and production staff. This award may also recognize and reward a school that takes steps to ensure their performances are accessible to audiences with disabilities.

New to the Rising Star Awards in 2021 is the Outstanding Educator Award, which will shine the spotlight on an educator who has been nominated by their home school for distinguished service to their students and theater programs. A $1,000 prize will be granted to the recipient’s school theater program.

Finally, students who receive a Final Nomination in the Outstanding Performance by an Actor or Actress categories will receive a scholarship to attend Paper Mill Playhouse’s competitive professional training program – the Summer Musical Theater Conservatory. Conservatory students participate in advanced-level classes in singing, acting, dance and other disciplines, and will appear in the New Voices of 2021 showcase performance.

Paper Mill Playhouse Education & Outreach are generously sponsored by The Goren Family & the Harmony Helper App.

Rising Star scholarships are made possible by Ruth Bedford in memory of Jane Burgio, Walt Santner in honor of Janet Sovey, and the Douglas Michael Krueger Scholarship Fund Trust.