RED BANK: BASIE AWARDS FOR H.S. THESPIANS

Christian Brothers Academy’s ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ presentation at the Basie Awards Wednesday night.

Winners were announced [Wednesday] evening at the 13th annual BASIE AWARDS, honoring excellence in high school theater in Monmouth County.

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RED BANK: BASIES GO TO RFH, RBC, RBR

Phoenix Productions exec director Tom Martini — pictured fifth from left, during the 2015 ribbon-cutting of the troupe’s new Chestnut Street headquarters — was honored with the 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award during the 12th annual Basie Awards on Wednesday night. (photo by Rich Kowalski) 

Students and faculty from five high schools in the greater Red Bank area were honored for excellence in high school theater productions — and the co-founder of a favorite borough-based performing arts company received a Lifetime Achievement recognition — when the 12th annual Basie Awards ceremony took place at the Count Basie Theatre on the evening of May 24.

The big winner among local schools was Red Bank Catholic High School, whose nine nominations for the spring production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Cinderella resulted in three Basie wins: for Shawn Mack (Outstanding Musical Direction), Samantha Siriani (Outstanding Supporting Actress), and Kelly Gemellaro (Outstanding Choreography, shared with Jacqui Fisher for the Middletown High School South staging of The Producers).

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RED BANK: ‘BASIES’ BUZZ IN THE AIR TONIGHT

The Red Bank Regional production of Arthur Miller’s ‘The Crucible’ has garnered seven nominations in the Basie Awards for excellence in local high school theater, as the 12th annual ceremony rolls out the red carpet tonight.

In a pop-culture landscape that’s littered with the sharp metal edges of way too many awards and honors, you could make the case that this is the only trophyfest that matters — the kind that recognizes, nurtures and inspires the next generation of acting, singing, dancing and technical talent.

When the 12th annual Basie Awards ceremony takes the famous stage of the Count Basie Theatre tonight, May 24, students and faculty from nearly 20 public, private and parochial high schools in Monmouth County — seven of them located here within the Greater Red Bank Green — will be vying for a chance to deliver their acceptance speech, in a field that, in the words of Basie education director Yvonne Lamb Scudiery, continues “to set the bar higher and higher, resulting in outstanding professional quality work…and certainly making the job or our evaluation team a very difficult yet gratifying one.”

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NJ MONTHLY LISTS RBR IN TOP 100 SCHOOLS

NJMonthly2016Press release from Red Bank Regional High School

For the past decade, Red Bank Regional High School has made the prestigious New Jersey Monthly list of Top 100 High Schools in New Jersey. The magazine’s website made the list public on September 1, with RBR sharing this year’s spotlight with eight other Monmouth County High Schools: Rumson-Fair Haven, Middletown High School South, Holmdel, Marlboro, Shore Regional, Colts Neck, Wall and Manalapan.

In a statement, Principal Risa Clay was “thrilled” to have once again been selected for the prestigious list; going on to attribute the school’s consistent high marks to  “a talented and dedicated staff that supports our students in their quest for advancement.”

“Our exemplary Visual and Performing Arts Program delivers one of the most outstanding arts education in the state,” the principal continued. “We offer a multitude of AP and IB courses coupled with solid supports for all students. Most recently, we introduced a policy of open enrollment allowing students who have the desire to take the most challenging courses offered at RBR.’’

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RED BANK AREA SCHOOLS BIG BASIE WINNERS

OPENING-NUMBER-BASIE-AWARDS-2016A multi-school ensemble, led by Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama winner Laura Diorio, opened the Basie ceremony. (Photo by Andrew Musser – Count Basie Theatre)

HOT-TOPIC_03Students and faculty from five Red Bank area schools dominated the balloting in the 11th annual Basie Awards, presented  Wednesday night to honor excellence in Monmouth County high school theatrical productions.

Musicals and dramatic presentations from Red Bank Catholic, Red Bank Regional, Rumson-Fair Haven Regional, Mater Dei Prep and Middletown High School South combined to take or tie for top honors in 17 of 27 categories.

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RED BANK: WHO’S UP FOR BASIE AWARDS?

MHSS American Idiot Ayo OladejiThe Middletown South production of Green Day’s “American Idiot” (above) score big in musical nominations — while RBR’s Patrick Monaghan (at right below, with Davis Bush) earned a dramatic acting nomination for “Amadeus.”  (Photo above by Ayo Oladeji)

Amadeus Davis Bush Pat MonaghanIt’s Red Bank’s own homegrown answer to the Tonys, the Obies, and any other major accolade for live stage performance. What else but the BASIES, the awards that honor tomorrow’s talents today — or rather this Wednesday, May 18, when the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank once again celebrates excellence in dramatic and musical productions among Monmouth County high schools, with the presentation of the 11th annual Basie Awards.

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A SHOE-IN FOR MIDDLETOWN SOUTH ARTISTS?

shoe designersMiddletown South teacher Christen Tummillo, right, with student shoe designers. Front row: Evelyn Merino, left, and Caitlin Mendina. Back row: Megan Doyle, Courtney Walsh, Eric Molloy and Jesse Price.

Press release from Middletown High School South  

MHSS Vans shoesSeveral students at Middletown High School South received some exciting news recently when their shoe design entries were selected as semi-finalists, representing the Northeast Region, in the Vans Custom Culture design competition.

Vans Custom Culture is a national high school design competition that aims to raise awareness of diminishing arts education budgets across the country, and to help students express their #RightToArt. The winner of the final selection will bring $50,000 back to their school’s art department.

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RED BANK: A BIT OF TOMS RIVER AT TWO RIVER

Alexis Kozak (horiz) COLORPlaywright and Middletown High School South faculty member Alexis Kozak premieres his original script, “Toms River Anthology,” at the Count Basie Theatre’s new Performing Arts Academy on June 12.

As Alexis Kozak explains things, it’s “a meditation on death in New Jersey,” one that “toys with the question of why we pass through Toms River, but why Toms River won’t just g–damn die?!”

Beginning on Friday, June 12 and continuing for three performances over the weekend, Kozak will host the world premiere of his original play Toms River Anthologynot in Toms River but in the new Red Bank headquarters of the Count Basie Theatre’s Performing Arts Academy (the onetime WaWa store at 111 Monmouth Street that until very recently served as rehearsal space for the Phoenix Productions stage troupe).

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RED BANK AREA SCHOOLS DOMINATE BASIES

BasiesStudent performers from over a dozen area schools are the stars of the show at Wednesday’s tenth annual Basie Awards.

Broadway has its well-established Tonys; Off Broadway its Obies — and every other branch of show business its various Grammys, Emmys, and Academys. And when the 10th annual Basie Awards roll out the red carpet in front of the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank Wednesday night they’ll be doing what they’ve done so well: honoring tomorrow’s talents in the performing arts, both on stage and behind the scenes.

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RED BANK: BASIE ‘FX’ THE FUTURE OF FILM

Lambert-StampThe Sony Pictures Classics rockumentary LAMBERT AND STAMP is screened as part of statewide student film competition Project FX, with finalists in the High School and College categories showcased at the Count Basie this Sunday, April 19.

They hail from places like Middletown High School South, Christian Brothers Academy and Brookdale Community College — and for a few minutes at least, they’re peers on a par with such Jersey-bred filmmakers, movers and shakers as Kevin Smith, John Sayles, Danny De Vito — even Tom Edison and his Black Maria studio.

The revolution that placed pro-grade videography and editing tech into the hands of aspiring filmmakers everywhere — and the social media mechanism that allows neighborhood auteurs to have their work be viewed by mass audiences — is at the heart of Project FX, the Count Basie Theatre’s statewide film competition for students of New Jersey high schools and colleges.

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MIDDLETOWN: HOW TO MAKE A ‘DIAMOND’

MHSS playElias Kotsis and Jessica Fisher (center) are featured in the cast of Middletown High School South’s THE DIAMOND AS BIG AS THE RITZ, director Alexis Kozak’s own adaptation of the story by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

If comedy is as hard as they say it is, then satire (which the conventional wisdom says “is what closes on Saturday night”) is even harder — and a diamond, whether in the rough or on the résumé, is the hardest thing known to mankind.

When Middletown High School South theater arts teacher Alexis Kozak got down to selecting the school’s fall dramatic production for the 2014-2015 academic year, he bypassed the tried-and-true tropes of the community-stage canon — gambling in favor of a never-before-presented script, by a largely unknown scribe: Alexis Kozak.

With a Masters degree in playwriting — and a portfolio of original work that includes the full-length Zero Days Since the Last Miracle (produced last year by The Black Box, the Asbury Park-based arts collective on whose board he sits) — Kozak is hardly a dilettante dabbler. And his script, The Diamond as Big as the Ritz, comes backed by the full faith and credit of one of the great American authors, F. Scott Fitzgerald. Set in 1920s Montana, this adaptation of Fitzgerald’s “Jazz Age” novella follows innocent prep-school boy John T. Unger (Elias Kotsis) as he accompanies his ultra-rich friend Percy Washington home for the summer to his family chateau — where he discovers that the source of the family’s wealth is a secret worth dying for.

“I did see this as an opportunity to beat Broadway to the punch,” says Kozak about Diamond, which has just come into the public domain, (and is also being adapted as a Broadway musical, purportedly scheduled for opening later this year). “I have always loved Fitzgerald and The Great Gatsby…so, in some ways, this is a love letter to him and his work.”

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RFH, M’TOWN SOUTH WIN BIG AT BASIES

3muskThe Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School staging of THE THREE MUSKETEERS won Outstanding Drama honors at the ninth annual Basie Awards, Wednesday night.

Productions of Evita by Middletown High School South and The Three Musketeers by Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School took top honors at Wednesday evening’s Basie Awards, the ninth annual installment of the Count Basie Theatre’s celebration and recognition of excellence and achievement in high school theatre.

Both Evita and The Three Musketeers nabbed Outstanding Direction and Outstanding Production trophies for their respective categories – Evita for musicals and The Three Musketeers for drama. Combined, the productions took home an astounding ten Basies, including The Three Muskeeters’ Christopher Brodsky for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama, Christopher Tuttle for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama and the trophy for Outstanding Lighting Design in a Drama.

In addition to earning hardware for overall production and direction, Evita also earned awards for Outstanding Choreography (Jacqui Mazza) and Outstanding Chorus in a Musical.

The Basies also bestowed its Lifetime Achievement Award to Joan and Robert Rechnitz, who founded the renowned Two River Theater Company two decades ago.

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COUNSELORS HONOR STUDENT HEROES AT BCC

DawnandandSarahRed Bank Regional student Sarah Vates (left) accepted a Caring Award from RBR guidance counselor Dawn Kaszuba at a March 20 event sponsored by the Monmouth County Guidance Director’s Association. The senior from Holmdel won the award for her work in spearheading Cinderella’s Closet, a nonprofit that provides prom clothes for teens from low income households. 

Press release from Red Bank Regional High School

Red Bank Regional High School’s Guidance Director Dawn Kaszuba and her peers look forward each year to a special event held at Brookdale Community College. As President of the Monmouth County Guidance Director’s Association (MCGDA), she has the pleasure of honoring the community service stars in Monmouth County’s high schools. Thirty-four students were so honored on March 20, where a video in their own words signified why each student was selected to receive the MCGDA Caring Award.

The recipients were each chosen by the Guidance Directors in their respective high schools. Kaszuba, who also serves as President of the Monmouth County Guidance Director’s Association, which sponsors the Caring Award, was pleased to present the honor to RBR student Sarah Vates. The senior from Holmdel won the award for her work with Cinderella’s Closet, a charity that provides teenagers with affordable clothing and accessories to attend prom.

Sarah has spearheaded Cinderella’s Closet for several years. Its mission is to bring affordable prom clothes to those who might otherwise not be able to participate in this high school milestone event. She stated in her video, “What makes this activity so special is the look on the girl’s face when she finds that perfect prom dress, or the swagger of the young man when he finds that perfect suit.”

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PORTER, M’TOWN TEEN HONORED AT MLK EVENT

Y MLKAt left, Pilgrim Baptist Pastor Terrence K. Porter (center) accepts a proclamation from Red Bank Council members Kathleen Horgan and Edward Zipprich. At right, Middletown HS South senior Aisha Boori (center) displays the Humanitarian Award presented to her during the annual YMCA Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Breakfast. Flanking her are essay contest winners Xavier Norman and Sahar Akbarzai.

A Middletown Township teen was the recipient of an annual Humanitarian Award from the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, at a January 20 event that also saw a proclamation honoring the pastor of Red Bank’s Pilgrim Baptist Curch.

During the 25th annual YMCA Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Breakfast, Aisha Boori was presented with the award given each year to a Monmouth County student who “exemplifies the definition of a humanitarian and conveys the character values of the Y: caring, honesty, respect and responsibility.”

The Middletown High School South senior was recognized for her co-founding of a non-profit organization, Dreamers Without Borders, dedicated to collecting food supplies for Afghan refugees who are housed at an immigration center, as well as Tibetan refugees from a village school in India.The award was presented by First Assistant Prosecutor Marc C. LeMieux.

Pilgrim Baptist Pastor Terrence K. Porter delivered the keynote address to a crowd of approximately 300 people gathered at Branches Catering in West Long Branch.The pastor also received a proclamation from Red Bank Mayor Pasquale Menna and council, for his dedicated service to the Red Bank community.

Each year, teens enrolled in Monmouth County YMCA programs are invited to submit essays reflecting on Dr. King’s words, on how they can follow in his footsteps to improve the welfare of others and serve their community.This year’s essay winners were Xavier Norman, a freshman at Monmouth Regional High School, and Sahar Akbarzai, a senior at Old Bridge Regional High School. The essay winners were each rewarded with a $500 scholarship.

The annual breakfast was hosted by The Community YMCA and the YMCA of Western Monmouth County, and sponsored by Meridian Health and Sunrise Optimist Club.In addition to presenting the awards, the Ys collected non-perishable food items to support Lunch Break of Red Bank.

AND THE BASIE GOES TO…

Crew members from the Count Basie Theatre’s Performing Arts Academy prepare the set for Wednesday night’s seventh annual Basie Awards show.

To all those who believe that there are simply Too Many Award Shows — well, we certainly won’t argue the point.

That said, when the red carpet rolls and the paparazzi bulbs pop this Wednesday evening on Monmouth Street in Red Bank, it may just herald the only trophyfest that matters — possibly even a ground-floor investment in the next generation of acting, singing, dancing talent on the greater Green.

The Basie Awards extravaganza that goes up Wednesday night at the Count Basie Theatre will mark the seventh annual edition of the program that recognizes excellence in drama and musical productions among Monmouth County high schools. It’s an event that’s boasted such guest hosts and presenters as E Street busker Max Weinberg and Tony nominee Lou Liberatore, as well as SNL veterans Joe Piscopo and Siobhan Fallon Hogan. But it’s really all about the kids, of course — and when the Basie envelopes are fumbled open on the landmark stage, a collection of young performers from 19 local high schools (including five in the Red Bank area) will be among those hoping that this can be the first milestone item in a glittering trophy case.

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