What began as a 10-minute presentation on the Shea’s stage before the opening night of the Broadway tour of Guys and Dolls has grown into a year-long educational initiative which includes performances, numerous awards, theatre workshops, and a fully realized ceremony open to the public. “The Kenny” was created in 1993 in honor of the late Dr. Ken Lipke, the founder of Gibraltar Steel. This award is a testimony to Dr. Lipke’s passion and dedication to the arts and to his belief that the business community is an integral pillar of support for the arts.
The purpose of the Kenny Awards is to recognize, reward, and encourage student talent and achievement in high school musical theatre productions. We aim to highlight student effort, skill, and talent, not the efforts and abilities of the professionals guiding them.
Congratulations to the 2022 Kenny Nominees:
Starpoint High School, Newsies: the Broadway Musical. March 10-12
Nardin Academy, Disney’s Freaky Friday the Musical. December 16-18, 2021
Williamsville East High School, Seussical. March 3-5
Pine Valley Jr/Sr High School, Little Shop of Horrors. April 1-2
Dunkirk High School, Beauty and the Beast. March 11-13
Eden High School, Guys and Dolls. March 10-13
John F. Kennedy High School, Mary Poppins. March 11-13
Tonawanda Middle/High School, Matilda the Musical. March 17-20
Elba Central School, Annie. March 18-19
Barker High School, Little Women the Musical. March 11-13
East Aurora High School, Shrek the Musical. February 11-13
Maple Grove High School, Into the Woods. March 25-27
St. Mary’s High School, Little Shop of Horrors. March 17-19
Iroquois High School, The Wedding Singer. April 1-2
Amherst Central High School, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (school edition) March 10-12
Lewiston-Porter High School, Little Shop of Horrors. February 18-20
Lancaster High School, Catch Me If You Can. February 17-19
All qualifying schools/productions (up to 30) will be accepted into the program. There is no longer an interview process, nor a limit of 10 schools. Program directors are asked to participate in one of three virtual Directors’ Meetings which will be offered twice in December and once in early January.
All public, private, and charter schools in Erie, Niagara, Allegany, Cattaraugus, and Chautauqua counties producing a full-length musical production are eligible and encouraged to apply for and participate in the Kenny Awards. This includes ‘School Editions’ but not Broadway Junior or TYA shows. Participating casts must be largely made up of students in grades 9-12. Participating programs must acquire proper licensing for their production and let the licensing house know that they are participating in this program (please contact Jen Mysliwy at JMysliwy@sheas.com if you have any issues with your licensing process).
Individual awards, such as the Leading, Supporting, and Blossom Cohan Awards, are only given to students in grades 9-12. Students from other schools or a homeschool program can participate in your production, but they must be cast based on audition. This year, students in grades 9-12 whose schools are not involved CAN audition to be considered for Outstanding Leading Performer Awards and a chance to represent WNY at The Jimmy Awards Additionally, performance students can also submit to earn a spot in the new Shea’s Spotlight Ensemble. The Ensemble will get the chance to be coached by industry professionals for five to six weeks in late spring, and they will create an original performance piece to premiere on the Shea’s stage at the 2022 Kenny Awards.
Award nominations are chosen based on the evaluations of multiple adjudicators viewing the participating productions. Evaluations are completed based on the information provided by the finalist programs during the application process and through the season.
Only the names of the nominees and winners in each category will made public. Directors will receive general feedback about their school’s production to help strengthen their program. All feedback is based on what the adjudicators saw at the performance and what they know about the program from the application process. Feedback is intended for the directors only and is not for sharing with students. We do not share the judges’ scores.
Nominations will be announced in late-April of each year. This year, the nominations will be announced in a virtual format.
In 2022, there will be five nominees in each award category except for the Leading Actor and Actress awards, which will have six nominees each. Leading nominees are required to participate in a secondary week-long evaluation process to be considered to win the award. If the nominee is unavailable or not interested in participating in the evaluation process, they may retain their nomination but will not be considered to win.
All award decisions are final.
Shea’s Performing Arts Center and The Lipke Foundation retain the right to all decision-making in matters requiring interpretation of the above-stated rules and regulations and for special circumstances not directly addressed.
Hundreds of outstanding musical productions and students from local high schools have been recognized and honored by the Kenny Awards. The school that wins The Kenny for Outstanding Musical Production will receive a $10,000 grant from the Lipke Foundation to support their theatre department. “The Kenny,” a crystal trophy commissioned and designed exclusively for the program, is on permanent display at Shea’s and stands as a tribute to young talent throughout Western New York.
In addition, the two students who receive the awards for Outstanding Leading Performer in a Male Role and Outstanding Leading Performer in a Female Role will participate in The Jimmy Awards, the national high school musical theatre awards, in New York City and will make their Broadway debut.
The Kenny Awards adjudicators consist of qualified arts professionals and educators. All adjudicators must attend regular meetings that consist of training, orientation, idea sharing, and program updates. In this unique program year, all adjudicators will watch live shows and individual audition submissions and evaluate the performances using specific award/performance criteria rubrics.
Our goal is to encourage and support all school musical programs to get involved with The Kennys, however, we do acknowledge that not all schools produce a musical. We also want to support non-traditional students in becoming Kenny participants too. For the 2022 Kenny Awards program there are two options for individual students to be involved. Option #1 is to submit an audition tape to be considered as an Outstanding Leading Performer for the 2022 Kenny Awards. This track is titled “Kenny Leading Performer” and you can find eligibility rules and all requirements listed within the application and in the Participation Handbook. Option #2 is to audition to be a member of the “Shea’s Spotlight Ensemble.” This track was created to highlight individuals who excel in any performance art form. This can be a traditional skill such as singing or dancing, but also can include any performance art such as beat boxing, magic, juggling, spoken word etc. 12 Students will be selected from their video audition submissions to become a member of the Shea’s Spotlight Ensemble. This ensemble group will receive training from an industry professional and create a unique performance for the 2022 Kenny Awards on May 21, 2022. Other opportunities are also in the works. Find audition requirements and eligibility rules for this option in the Shea’s Spotlight Ensemble application and in the Participation Handbook.
The Kenny Awards program began in 1993 with a purpose to recognize, reward, and encourage student talent and achievement in local high school musical theatre productions. That mission continues, but as we grow and change, we are committing to hearing and thriving in truth. We acknowledge that harm caused by racist systems must be challenged and stopped. An art form created by sharing human stories cannot ignore human injustice.
We recognize that this commitment is not simply placing words on paper or attending trainings, but rather an outlook that we must learn to apply to everything we do. The Kenny Awards endeavors to enrich the experiences of all students, staff, and audiences, cultivate the practice of theatre in its various and evolving forms, traditions, and culture throughout our region, and advocate for musical theatre and all performance art as a necessary and vital component of a compassionate, inclusive, and equitable society.
This journey has just begun. We agree to be transparent in our actions and growth to beginning this allyship. The Kenny Awards happen once a year, but we are an education program every day of the year. We will continue to work towards being the regional awards program that Buffalo truly deserves