Georgia high school theater award will change to non-gendered category

The Georgia High School Musical Theatre Awards, also known as the Shuler Awards, recognizes young performers and high school theater departments. (Courtesy ArtsBridge Foundation)
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The Georgia High School Musical Theatre Awards, also known as the Shuler Awards, recognizes young performers and high school theater departments. (Courtesy ArtsBridge Foundation)

A group that runs an annual competition to recognize Georgia high school theater troupes is introducing a non-gendered award category.

The Georgia High School Musical Theatre Awards, also known as the Shuler Awards, honors young performers in a ceremony reminiscent of Broadway’s Tony Awards.

The April 21 awards program will merge the previous categories of “supporting actress” and “supporting actor” into a non-gendered category called “supporting performer.”

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“This category will recognize and celebrate students of any gender who performed in supporting roles in their school’s production, and the two highest-scoring students will be jointly awarded as this year’s recipients for the supporting performer award, a change to greater serve Georgia high school musical theatre students who identify across the entire gender spectrum,” said Angela Farr Schiller, director of arts education for ArtsBridge Foundation, the nonprofit that oversees the competition.

Georgia’s high school theater competition is the first in the nation to make such a change, the organization recently announced.

The Shuler Awards will continue to recognize performers in the categories of “leading actress” and “leading actor.” Georgia’s two winners will go on to compete in a national awards program in June.

In a written statement, Farr Schiller said the change was made to the supporting performer category because the state organization has the ability “to tailor criteria” for that award. She said they’ve received requests over the last several years from educators to create a non-gendered category.

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Fifty Georgia high schools will compete in this year’s awards, now in its 14th year.

In previous years, up to 75 schools were allowed to enter. Organizers down-sized this year’s program to give the volunteer adjudicators who watch each school’s performance more time to assess each show.

Awards are handed out in 17 categories, including choreography, costumes, direction, and performances.