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Hennepin Theatre Trust announces the 2021-2022 Spotlight Education Triple Threat Broadway Experience and Technical Theater New York Experience award winners, and Minnesota’s nominees for the 2022 National High School Musical Theatre Awards®

June 15, 2022

Students from Bloomington, Eden Prairie, Edina, Maplewood, Rochester, St. Paul and Stillwater are recognized for their theatrical experience, skills and leadership earning them a trip to Broadway

MINNEAPOLIS (June 15, 2022) — Hennepin Theatre Trust announced its annual Spotlight Education awards and honors for Minnesota high school theater students possessing excellence in singing, dancing and acting, expertise in stagecraft and an overall demonstration of community leadership, teamwork and artistry. The announcement was made during Spotlight Showcase 2022: Heart of Hennepin (June 13-14) at the State Theatre in downtown Minneapolis. The Trust’s annual event formally recognizes the extraordinary achievements of the students and educators who make up Minnesota’s vibrant high school theater community.

The four students awarded with the 2021-2022 Triple Threat Broadway Experience are Mario Esteb (graduating senior, Hill-Murray School, Maplewood), Ezra Fraizer (outgoing junior, Saint Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists), Elise Karlstad (graduating senior, Stillwater High School) and Kianna Saunders (outgoing junior, Saint Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists). These students were selected after being evaluated through their performance auditions, a written essay and personal interviews. The Triple Threat Broadway Experience, fueled by Sun Country Airlines, is an all-expenses paid trip to New York City, where they will attend Broadway shows, meet with industry professionals and participate in workshops to hone their skills.

The two students awarded with the 2021-2022 Technical Theater New York Experience are Jonathan Engebretson (John F. Kennedy Senior High School, Bloomington) and Erin Stoeckig (Mayo High School, Rochester). This award recognizes graduating senior students who demonstrate an expertise in carpentry, wardrobe, electrics, audio, lighting and management. Through their organization, innovation and collaboration in the rehearsal process of Spotlight Showcase, they have won the Technical Theater New York Experience, an all-expenses paid trip to New York, where students will observe, meet and train alongside top technical theater professionals.

Hennepin Theatre Trust also announced that Adam Jones (graduating senior, Hill-Murray School, Maplewood) and Lizzie Semington (outgoing junior, Edina High School) will represent Minnesota at the National High School Musical Theatre Awards® (The Jimmy Awards®) on June 27, 2022 at Broadway’s Minksoff Theatre in New York City.

The Jimmy Awards®, presented by The Broadway League Foundation, are a national celebration of outstanding student achievement, recognizing individual artistry in vocal, dance and acting performance and elevating the importance of theatre arts education in schools. The 2022 ceremony will include 92 participants making their debut on a Broadway stage when they perform in an unforgettable talent showcase. During this event, a panel of judges will select two students for the coveted awards of Best Performance by an Actor and Best Performance by an Actress.

A new award this year is The Ferrell Dance Award which is dedicated to the memory of high school musical theatre dear friend and veteran Spotlight choreographer, Michael Matthew Ferrell. This award is presented to a senior Featured Dancer who demonstrated leadership, fearlessness and passion in the rehearsal and performance spaces. This year’s first-ever recipient is Dylan Peterson (graduating senior, PiM Arts High School, Eden Prairie).

Hennepin Theatre Trust’s Spotlight Education program is an essential part of arts education in many Minnesota schools. Annually, we help nearly 8,000 students in more than 100 high schools build confidence, critical thinking, empathy, sense of community and knowledge of theater. The program supplements and enhances arts curricula through production assessments, masterclasses, and theater review writing increasing equitable access to quality theater education.

Spotlight schools enhance their own theater curriculum through masterclasses and workshops. Students gain insights and inspiration from local and touring theater professionals covering topics such as audition techniques, theater resume building and technical skills.

Community Conversations
Spotlight teaching artists facilitate community conversations for directors and students on a variety of topics in a safe, inclusive space to discuss and share experiences leading to future programming, resources and conversations. The conversations also explore issues they face in their local communities.

Critical Review
This program gives high school students the opportunity to attend and review Broadway productions. A writing program, Critical Review enhances critical thinking and creative response skills. Students receive press kits for each show and attend workshops led by experts in the field on topics ranging from lighting design to choreography.

Production Assessments
Spotlight arranges for trained theater professionals and educators to assess participating schools’ theater productions. The production assessment is an educational tool to encourage, inspire and enhance Spotlight schools’ theater programs and strengthen the skills of student artists — onstage and offstage.

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. Additionally, Spotlight Education partners with community organizations and elementary schools to create inclusive and sustainable arts experiences.

Spotlight Education is made possible with support from PNC Bank, Sun Country Airlines, United Properties and Interstate Parking.

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

Heart of Hennepin – celebrating 100 years of the Hennepin Theatre District
To honor the centennial, Hennepin Theatre Trust is kicking off a yearlong celebration for the Orpheum, State and Pantages theatres, along with The Hennepin event center and 824 Hennepin, home to the Brave New Workshop comedy theatre. This year-long centennial celebration honors the history of the Hennepin Theatre District and looks ahead to what the future holds for the arts, the Trust and downtown neighbors.

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