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Students headed to New York for acting competition

Updated: 2013-06-18T21:27:22Z

By SARA BEANE

Special to The Star

It may not be the Tony Awards, but for recent Lee’s Summit North High School graduate Patrick Graham, receiving a local acting award offers him a chance to compete in New York later this month for a prestigious national honor.

Not bad for someone who has no plans to pursue acting as a career.

Graham was named outstanding actor in a lead role at during last month’s Blue Star awards at Starlight Theatre. He was recognized for his portrayal of Sweeney Todd in his school’s production of the musical “Sweeney Todd.”

Lily Kaufmann, who just graduated from Shawnee Mission East High School, was named outstanding actress in a lead role at the Blue Star awards for her portrayal of Janet Van De Graaf in “The Drowsy Chaperone.”

The awards program is sponsored by Blue Cross and Blue Shield and recognizes excellence in local high school musical theater.

Ask Kaufmann and Graham how they felt about winning the award and not surprisingly, they will tell you it was an honor just to be nominated. As for the win?

“I was in complete and utter disbelief,” Kaufmann said. “I did not think I was going to win.”

“It was like a blur going up on stage and giving my speech,” Graham said.

More than 20 different awards were handed out, honoring everything from acting and set design to makeup and lighting. A panel of 22 judges spent the 2012-2013 school year attending local high school productions and coming up with a list of 116 nominees.

For Kaufmann and Graham, this is just the beginning of their awards’ season.

Both now qualify to compete against more than 60 students nationwide at the National High School Musical Theater Awards in New York City later this month. The award show is nicknamed The Jimmy awards after James M. Nederlander, a legendary Broadway theater owner.

The two will undergo an intensive five days of private coaching, master classes and rehearsals before performing at The Jimmys. At the end of the show, judges will select a best actress and best actor winner, both of whom will win a scholarship.

For Kaufmann, who plans to pursue a career on Broadway after graduating from college, the chance to network with theater professionals is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“I am planning on moving to New York after college and working towards Broadway,” Kaufmann said. “My dream is to perform on Broadway and make it there.”

Kaufmann has been performing in theater productions since fifth grade. She has compiled quite a local resume including performances at the New Theatre Restaurant and Shawnee Mission’s Theatre in the Park. This summer she will perform in “Footloose” at Starlight before beginning college at Florida State University where she will major in musical theater.

Graham will pursue a double major in journalism and vocal performance when he heads to the University of Missouri this fall. And although he loves performing, his career plans don’t include the bright lights of Broadway.

“I don’t have any Broadway dreams right now,” Graham said. “If it comes knocking I wouldn’t say no, but I won’t be pursuing it. I would like to do strategic communications for a political office.”

Both teenagers share a love for performing that they know they will probably have for life.

”I love theater because it is kind of an escape,” Graham said. “I get to be someone else. It is cool to put all of my energy into something that I am so passionate about.”

“I was one of those kids that has been saying that I wanted to be on Broadway since I was 5, and people would say isn’t that cute, but I really wasn’t kidding,” Kaufmann said. “I can express myself in such an open way. I can play a different person and pretend for a couple of hours.”

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