Jul 7, 2023

Taking Center Stage at the Dazzle Awards

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The 2023 Dazzle Awards presented by Pat & John Chapman took place at the KeyBank State Theatre on May 20, 2023. The program offers arts education opportunities throughout the school year and culminates at Playhouse Square with the annual ceremony, which recognizes outstanding musical theater productions and participating students.

Dazzle Awards Student Reporter Britta Sevcik went behind-the-scenes at rehearsals and this year's ceremony and spoke with student performers about their experience.

The Dazzle Awards are a glittering night full of Cleveland’s youngest and brightest that showcases the musical theater programs of the high schools in the area. Every May, schools in the greater Cleveland area come together to celebrate excellence in high school musical theater. While schools receive nominations for their respective shows, students are also nominated in the Individual Performance categories.

In an environment where the stakes are so high, one would expect the tensions to be high, as well. But, it is the opposite that is actually true. For the nominees, the week leading up to the Dazzle Awards is stacked full of nightly rehearsals focused on singing and dancing. And with all of this time spent together a sort of family is formed.

When interviewed, many nominees and participants talked about how their favorite part of this experience was the new people they had met along the way. On the night of the Dazzle Awards, the Best Actor and Actress nominees were even seen doing a team huddle before they took the stage. So, it is safe to say these friendships that were forged will not be forgotten anytime soon.

Photo May 20 2023, 9 28 04 PM.jpgIn the Best Supporting Actor and Actress categories, there are seven actors and seven actresses nominated based on their adjudication scores. The scores are established on points given by the judges as they watched each high school production. After the actors receive their nominations, they and the lead actors get professional headshots taken.

Jacob Rentas, a Best Supporting Actor nominee from Lutheran High School West, shared how this year as a nominee he got to participate in headshot day, which was “really awesome” and took him “completely out of [his] comfort zone.” He also mused how the recognition from the nomination alone felt great to experience.

The Individual Performance nominees, along with the ensemble cast, are given the opportunity to submit placement videos for solos and featured performances in the opening and closing numbers at the Dazzle Awards Ceremony. Soloists who were selected varied from school representatives to supporting nominees to best actor and actress nominees.

This year’s winners for Best Supporting Actress and Actor were Nora Stipanovich from Magnificat High School and Graham Wilde from Mayfield High School.

Earlier in the week, Graham mentioned how this experience taught him that “drama and theater are very broad and it’s such a great community. And, how this experience has been so fun.” After his win, Graham relished how “everything is coming together for me and I am really proud of myself,” and “how winning the award meant that all of his work had been going towards something.” After winning her award, Nora Stipanovich shared how thankful she was for everyone that believed in her and how this award made her feel “elated.”

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In the Best Actor and Best Actress categories, nominees are selected based on their adjudication scores along with auditions that occur before the Dazzle Awards. And, as an added bonus, the winners of this category get to participate in the Jimmy Awards this summer in New York City. This year’s winners, who will represent Northeast Ohio at the Jimmy Awards, are Savon Harris and Calista Zajac. Savon goes to Mayfield High School and Calista goes to Magnificat High School. For Calista, this was her third time being nominated for Best Actress, and she expressed how thankful she was for this experience. She also said the Jimmy Awards are “something that I have always watched on T.V. every summer,” and that “I always look up to all of the kids at the Jimmys. I am really excited that I get to be in the Jimmys.”

The Individual Performance categories are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the programs that the Dazzle Awards highlight. But, these shining stars who were supported by this program definitely have a bright future ahead of them thanks to the “amazing opportunity” that this experience provided.

For more information on the Dazzle Awards, including the Student Reporter program, please visit playhousesquare.org/dazzleawards