Hennepin Theatre Trust announces Spotlight Education honors for Minnesota high school theater students

January 24, 2024

Evaluators completed 255 evaluations for 54 Minnesota high school theater productions

MINNEAPOLIS (Jan. 24, 2024) — Hennepin Theatre Trust today announced the accomplishments of Minnesota high schools and students participating in the Trust’s Spotlight Education program for the 2023 fall semester. Evaluators attended 54 productions at high schools throughout Minnesota that submitted their fall musical for production assessment by theater professionals and educators on behalf of the Trust. These critiques provided detailed educational feedback for the students in categories ranging from overall production to individual performances.

Spotlight Education provides valuable experiences for more than 8,000 students more than 100 high schools throughout Minnesota this year. These activities foster essential life skills such as collaboration, communication, problem-solving and self-expression, which students carry into their adult lives. Spotlight’s fall evaluators completed 255 evaluations, honored 231 individual student performers and 184 individual student technicians.

“We are proud to recognize the honors that Spotlight Education schools and students have received for their achievements in their schools’ fall productions,” said Todd Duesing, president and CEO of Hennepin Theatre Trust. “Spotlight Education is a transformative force that empowers young minds throughout the state by shaping Minnesota’s future leaders, building a sense of community and nurturing creativity.” Duesing also highlighted the role that the Spotlight Education program plays in enriching the art curriculums across the state.

Spotlight provides us access to workshops and feedback to help us grow as a program and as individual students,” said Joshua Mann, theater director, social studies teacher at St. Michael-Albertville High School, and 2023 Minnesota Teacher of the Year finalist. “Students love the opportunity to travel to the Twin Cities and learn from professionals at Spotlight Showcase! Our favorite part is having an opportunity to collaborate, encourage and cheer on our fellow thespians. Spotlight is a wonderful program and one of the best decisions we have made for the growth of our program! We love Spotlight!”

This year’s 2023 fall honorees include students and productions from the following schools:

  • Alexandria Area High School
  • Apple Valley High School
  • Belle Plaine Junior-Senior High
  • Bemidji High School
  • Breck School (Golden Valley)
  • Cambridge-Isanti High School
  • Champlin Park High School
  • Chanhassen High School
  • Chaska High School
  • Chisago Lakes High School
  • Columbia Heights High School
  • Concordia Academy (Roseville)
  • Creative Arts Secondary School (St. Paul)
  • Duluth East High School
  • Eagan High School
  • East Ridge High School (Woodbury)
  • Eden Prairie High School
  • Edina High School
  • Forest Lake Area High School
  • Fridley High School
  • Glencoe-Silver Lake Senior High School
  • Great River School (St. Paul)
  • Hutchinson High School
  • Irondale High School (New Brighton)
  • Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton High School
  • Kennedy High School (Bloomington)
  • Lakeville North High School
  • Legacy Christian Academy (Andover)
  • Maple Grove Senior High School
  • Math and Science Academy (Woodbury)
  • Mayo High School (Rochester)
  • Minnetonka High School
  • Moorhead High School
  • New Life Academy (Woodbury)
  • New Prague High School
  • Orono High School
  • Prior Lake High School
  • Randolph High School
  • Rogers High School
  • Roseville Area High School
  • Sauk Rapids-Rice High School
  • Shakopee High School
  • South St. Paul Secondary School
  • Anthony Village High School
  • Michael-Albertville High School
  • Paul Academy and Summit School
  • Thomas Edison High School (Minneapolis)
  • Totino-Grace High School (Fridley)
  • Waconia High School
  • Wayzata High School
  • White Bear Lake Area High School
  • Woodbury High School
  • Zimmerman High School

A complete list of specific honors is available here.

Hennepin Theatre Trust’s Spotlight Education program is an essential part of arts education in many Minnesota schools. Spotlight Education supplements and enhances arts curricula through production assessments, workshops and arts journalism, increasing equitable access to quality theater education. Additionally, Spotlight Education partners with community organizations and elementary schools to create inclusive and sustainable arts experiences:

Production Assessments
For Minnesota high school students and school communities, Spotlight Education’s Production Assessment is the only noncompetitive, integrated theater experience among all state-wide high school programs. Providing educational feedback and formal recognition allows theater arts programs to flourish and creates meaningful ways to build confidence, critical thinking, knowledge and appreciation of all aspects of theater.

Spotlight Showcase
Spotlight Showcase, the Trust’s annual recognition event, is Minnesota’s largest celebration of high school theater and provides 1,600 students the opportunity to perform at the historic State Theatre.

Student Opportunities
Spotlight facilitates in-person and virtual workshops for students to learn new skills, build community and connect with leading industry professionals. Spotlight opportunities supplement and enhance theater curriculum and introduce students to the world of professional theater from both a local and national perspective. Students who attend a Spotlight high school can attend any session for free.

Disney Musicals in Schools
Disney Musicals in Schools (DMIS) is a program that develops sustainable musical theater programs in public elementary schools. Hennepin Theatre Trust pairs professional teaching artists with teams of school-based educators to produce a 30-minute version of a Disney musical, helping to foster positive relationships between students, faculty, staff, parents and the community. DMIS helps to develop the wide spectrum of skills needed when producing a piece of musical theater, including critical thinking, problem solving, ensemble building, communication, self-confidence and interpersonal skills.

Critical Review
Critical Review is a rigorous writing program that aims to develop critical thinking skills through arts journalism. Students attend and review productions through Hennepin Theatre Trust’s Broadway Season and participate in workshops led by experts in the fields of musical theater, writing and journalism. Student reviews are edited for content and style, discussed with program leaders, and posted through an online portal. Internet access is a requirement to participate.

New York Experiences
Each year, Spotlight Education escorts students to New York City to participate in: The Triple Threat New York Experience fueled by Sun Country Airlines, the Technical Theater New York Experience, and The National High School Musical Theatre Awards (The Jimmy® Awards) made possible by United Properties. During the New York Experience trips, students participate in workshops, meet and train alongside industry professionals and see Broadway and Off-Broadway shows.

Professional Development Series
Spotlight Education partners with locally and nationally recognized professional development programs to facilitate learning opportunities for Minnesota theater educators. Sessions focus on building professional skills, accessibility in the classroom, equity and inclusion and other areas of arts and theater pedagogy.

Unpacking the Show
Unpacking The Show is a resource program that equips educators (and by extension, students and audiences) with tools to critically and responsibly approach the canon of musical theatre. The program’s objective is to dig deeper into the dramaturgical content of the musicals produced at the high school level and to develop, in collaboration with directors and educators, a set of best practices on discussing and staging these stories so that everyone in the room feels safe and heard.

Spotlight Education is made possible with support from PNC Bank, Sun Country Airlines, United Properties and the Xcel Energy Foundation.

Follow Spotlight Education at:
Instagram: @spotlight_MN
Facebook: /SpotlightMN
Twitter: @spotlightMN
Hennepin Theatre Trust drives cultural and economic vitality in Minnesota through leadership of the dynamic Hennepin Theatre District in downtown Minneapolis and educational programming that reaches every area of the state. Its historic theatres — Orpheum, State and Pantages — and event center at 900 Hennepin Avenue light up Hennepin Avenue with top-tier entertainment, including the best of Broadway and a wide variety of arts programming. Hennepin Theatre Trust is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. Learn more at HennepinTheatreTrust.org.

This activity is made possible by voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.