'Sweeney Todd' gets Jester nod


'Sweeney Todd' gets Jester nod

'Sweeney Todd' gets Jester nod



The Garden City High School drama department has achieved a rare feat, particularly for the southwest Kansas area. The cast and crew recently picked up five nominations for the 13th Annual Jester Awards from the Music Theatre of Wichita for its production of "Sweeney Todd," the school edition.

"I am really happy with what we were nominated for, especially this being our first time ever. And, actually, I think this is the first time that Jesters has come this far west in Kansas," said GCHS drama teacher Barbara Hilt. "I don't know if they expected that we would have something that they would nominate or not, but here we are."

Each year, trained volunteer judges attend dozens of performances to screen the shows. This year, 79 judges attended 116 performances of 41 shows, involving more than 2,500 students and 36 schools across the state.

Hilt tried to get judges out for last year's production of "Guys and Dolls," but was told it was too far.

"And then this year, I just applied again, and I was like, 'I'm just going to keep hounding them until they come out here,'" she said.

The nominations are for scenic crew, all crew members; costume design, Robyn Hilt; scenic design, Alex Booker; sound design, Max McCallum; and production number, The Ballad of Sweeney Todd/Prologue, cast and crew.

Hilt is especially hopeful about the nomination for the production number category.

"To me, it's really nice to be nominated for something like that, rather than individual awards," she said. "I mean those are great, too, but it means that at least on one number, they really liked us enough that it was an all-inclusive thing, tech and actors. I think that's great that our cast is nominated, as well, because I feel like we could have maybe picked up some nominations there that we didn't get, but we'll work on it for next year."

Several students made up the scenic crew, and Hilt said many of them performed double duty.

Costume design is another category for which Robyn Hilt, who is also an English teacher at GCHS, is being nominated.

"We built 60-plus garments for this production between me and Hailey, and we had help from Deb Jarmer, my mom, and Johnetta Hebrlee," Robyn Hilt said, adding that out of 50 other shows she has worked on, this will be her first nomination of any kind. "I'm excited. The first time trying for Jester and (being nominated) right out of the gate is cool."

Hailey Robinson, junior, said that sewing that many costumes was a lot of work.

"People would like rip off their buttons, and I think buttons is the worst part of the whole thing," Robinson said. "I think that was the hardest part. You would sit there for 30 minutes and do two buttons."

Booker, a recent graduate of GCHS, is nominated for scenic design.

"Really, all of the technical theater class helped in the design, but Alex drafted out the whole thing for us, and him and I had a lot of long conversations about how to build the cube, and how to make all the things he was going to weld, and so that's why I gave him the main credit for scenic design is because he probably put in the most work, as far as design goes," Barbara Hilt said, adding that several students were involved in the set's actual construction, including sophomore Ryan Strecker and junior Eric Maxwell.

Strecker said there was a lot of work involved in building it because it was essentially a cube that turned 360 degrees, allowing for quick scene changes.

Robyn Hilt said the set could not have worked without the running crew, which ran in between scenes to change the sets.

McCallum is nominated for sound design.

"We have a big auditorium out there, so I just made sure that everyone could hear the actors," McCallum said.

Barbara Hilt said that McCallum not only had to keep track of cueing the correct microphones for the actors, but that he also had to play background music on cue.

Robyn Hilt is attending the awards ceremony with juniors Cindy Hernandez and Tim Perez Friday. Hernandez was ecstatic when she heard the news.

"I got so excited, and I just, I don't know why, but I was just like, 'Oh my gosh! Jesters!' Because I know Miss Hilt was really excited about it, so it kind of just rubbed off on me," Hernandez said.

Maxwell said that because it's the first time any of them have been nominated, they don't understand the magnitude of it just yet.

"Maybe we'll realize what this actually means after this weekend," Maxwell said.

The Jester Awards Ceremony is being held at 7 p.m. Friday at the Orpheum Theatre in Wichita, where the winners in each of 23 categories will be announced.

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