It may not be the Tony Awards, but for recent Shawnee Mission East High School graduate Lily Kaufmann, receiving a local acting award puts her one step closer to realizing her Broadway dreams.
Kaufmann won an outstanding actress in a lead role honor during last month’s Blue Star awards at Starlight Theatre. Kaufmann was recognized for her role as Janet Van De Graaf in her school’s production of “The Drowsy Chaperone.”
Patrick Graham, who just graduated from Lee’s Summit North High School, was named outstanding actor in a lead role at the Blue Star awards for his portrayal of Sweeney Todd in his school’s production of the musical “Sweeney Todd.”
The awards program is sponsored by Blue Cross and Blue Shield and recognizes excellence in local high school musical theater. 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.
Ask both 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, that was just unexpected icing on the cake.
“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.
For Kaufmann and Graham, this is just the beginning of their awards’ season. The two now qualify to compete against more than 60 students nationwide at the National High School Musical Theater Awards in New York City next week. 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, 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 Theater 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, he isn’t planning for a career that includes 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.”
Even though Graham and Kaufmann have different ideas on pursuing theater as a profession, they both 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 five, 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.”