USJ Theatre Students Win Orpheum High School Musical Awards

USJ was nominated in eight different categories for The Orpheum’s ninth annual High School Musical Theatre Awards. This award ceremony included 29 schools across West Tennessee and Mississippi.

USJ took home the Outstanding Artistic Achievement award for the “rain on stage” in the school’s production of Singin’ in the Rain. Upcoming junior Jake Booher won Best Supporting Actor for his role as Cosmo Brown in Singin’ in the Rain and performed a special number with his fellow nominees. Sophomore Keaton Miller was nominated for Best Actor and was also the youngest nominee in the Lead Actor category. Students Gabrielle Evans, Jared Koerner and Madison Maroney also represented the school as they performed in the opening and closing numbers of the awards ceremony.

“We were small fish in a big pond, up against schools that tripled us in size,” says Upper School Theatre Teacher Erica Davidson. “The fact that we were competing against them in eight different categories was pretty phenomenal. I was proud to be amongst schools in that caliber.”

The Orpheum Theatre Group’s High School Musical Theatre Awards program supports, promotes, and enhances high school musical theatre throughout the Mid-South. The award ceremony is modeled after the Tony Awards ™ and recognizes achievements in all areas of high school musical theatre. This program is part of the Jimmy Awards, the national high school musical theatre awards program that includes 37 programs from across the country.

Singin’ in the Rain nominated for eight awards at the 2018 Orpheum High School Musical Theatre Awards

We are so excited to announce that USJ’s production of Singin’ in the Rain was nominated for EIGHT awards in the 2018 Orpheum High School Musical Theatre Awards. Congratulations to Dr. Tammy Grant, Tom Grant and Erica Davidson for an outstanding show. Here are the categories for which they received nominations.

Outstanding Chorus (Company)
Outstanding Student Orchestra (Tom Grant)
Outstanding Dance Execution (Company)
Outstanding Choreography (Erica Davidson)
Outstanding Artistic Element (The Rain)
Outstanding Music Direction (Dr. Tammy Grant)
Jake Booher as Cosmo Brown for Outstanding Supporting Actor
Keaton Miller as Don Lockwood for Outstanding Lead Actor

This is such an honor. There was a total of 29 musical productions across West Tennessee and North Mississippi. Voting for People’s Choice Award will begin April 27 at 10 a.m. and closes May 20 at 4 p.m. You can vote online here. The awards will be held on May 24 at the Orpheum. If you wish to purchase tickets, please email Erica Davidson at edavidson@usjbruins.org.

Pride and Prejudice

The upper and middle school students have joined together to put on one of Jane Austen's classics, Pride and Prejudice, adapted by Jon Jory from Playscripts, Inc. The students have been hard at work to bring this romantic comedy about a young, prideful man of noble birth who finds love in a common girl with many prejudices against the world. The show is directed by Erica Davidson, theatre teacher.

Ms. Bennet, played by Jordan Henges (senior) is the mother of five daughters, and thinks of nothing but finding suitable husbands for her girls. She is ecstatic when she learns that a wealthy nobleman, Mr. Bingley, played by Keaton Mille (sophomore), and his friend, Mr. Darcy, played by Jared Koerner (junior), are to visit their town. Elizabeth Bennet, played by Sydney Lofton (senior) is the second eldest of the daughters and has a mind of her own. She does not share her mother's sentiments, and finds the match-making process to be absurd until she meets Darcy who turns her world upside down.

Joining them in the cast is Harrison Hamm (senior) who plays Mr. Bennet, Sadie Hanna (8th grade) playing Jane Bennet, Savannah Lofton (6th grade) as Mary Bennet, Annabelle Reese (senior) as Lydia Bennet and Meg Howell (senior) as Kitty Bennet. The show starts Thursday, April 5 at 7 p.m. There will be two more performances, one on Friday, April 6 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, April 8 at 2 p.m. Cost of admission to the show is $10 for adults and $7 for seniors and non-USJ students. All USJ students and faculty get in free.

A special thank you to Sarah Frix, senior, who designed the incredible poster for Pride and Prejudice.

Pride and Prejudice Cast of Characters

Student Written and Directed Play Selected to Perform at SETC’s Theatre for Youth Invitational Festival

The USJ theatre department was selected as one of three to perform at this year’s Southeastern Theatre Conference’s Theatre For Youth Festival. The annual SETC Convention brings over 4,000 members of our theatre community together for three and a half days of workshops, keynotes, performance festivals, auditions, college recruiting, job interviews.

USJ’s selected performance, The Branchman, was written and directed by senior Harrison Hamm. In the play, a girl is kidnapped supposedly by the town's legendary tree monster, The Branchman, and a group of teenagers band together to find her. Packed with absurd comedy, horror film homages, and punk rock music, this mystery is like no other.

“We are so excited to have this opportunity to perform this incredible show at such a prestigious festival. We were disappointed when it was over because the cast had become more like a family. This will be a great reunion, and a lasting memory. Not only am I excited for this experience, but I am so proud for Harrison Hamm, who wrote and directed this comedic play.” Said Theater Instructor, Erica Davidson.

SETC’s Theatre for Youth Invitational Festival is a non-competitive exhibition of theatre produced for young audiences and is open to all Convention attendees as well as children from schools in the surrounding area. The three performances took place on Thursday, March 8, 2018.

Partnering With Aspell Recovery Center

Once again, the community has seen the talents of the students at the University School of Jackson. Two years ago, WRAP teamed up with Erica Davidson, US theatre teacher, and four USJ students to write a play about domestic violence in attempts to educate the community on signs to recognize abuse and how to help the victims.

Now, they are teaming up with Aspell Recovery Center in hopes to break the stigma of drug addiction. Ms. Davidson has been guiding three upper school students--Harrison Hamm, Sydney Lofton and Lauren Nicola--in writing a heart-wrenching play about those who drug addiction really affects and the consequences behind the disease.

The play, entitled "Wake Up," will be performed on Friday, September 23 and Saturday, September 24 at 7 p.m., with a Sunday matinee on September 25 at 2 p.m. The cost of admission is $10 for adults and $7 for seniors and students. All proceeds will benefit Aspell Recovery Center.

"It was such an honor to be asked the first time to make such a contribution to our community. I was a little overwhelmed when we were asked the second time," said Davidson. "I knew with such talented students that we could, not only write a compelling script, but have the students to bring that script to life." Please join us in the Blankenship Theater the weekend of September 23 - 25 for the original production of "Wake Up." Please note this play is not suitable for children.