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ArtsBridge, an arts education nonprofit, hosts the awards for Georgia, known as the Shuler Awards, in honor of Schuler Hensley, the Atlanta-born star of the stage and screen who typically emcees the annual ceremony in the tradition of the Tony Awards. Even though there won’t be a grand ceremony this year, ArtsBridge decided it was best to celebrate the accomplishments and carry on for those who made it through the judging.
But several in the arts community — parents, teachers and performers — are calling foul.
A parent sent a long complaint to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution asking for an investigation. When contacted for comment, she said she didn’t want to cause any adverse effects to her daughter’s career and didn’t want to give her name or speak about it further.
Several people who complained on a Facebook page called “OnStage Blog” were contacted by The AJC but refused to comment further and asked that their names not be used in print. On the social media site, they called for a boycott of the awards and said that continuing the competition without the schools who weren’t judged wasn’t fair. They’re concerned that students, especially seniors, missed out on a chance of a lifetime.
Dawn Abernathy Parker has taught dance for 30 years and is now head of the theater department at Kennesaw Mountain High School. She was one of the few who agree with ArtsBridge that the show should go on.
“It is tragic that eight schools didn’t get to participate; however, ArtsBridge has been open about finding ways to honor those schools. I fail to understand how penalizing 67 schools for an unforeseen pandemic furthers the spirit of theater. As I told my kids, we worked months for a show we might only have gotten to perform once. ONCE — with all its technical issues and one night jitters! It’s sucks — it’s life!”
Parker said she hopes that cooler heads prevail and everyone tunes in Friday for the livestream announcement of the nominees for the 17 categories. Scholarship recipients will also be announced then. The winners will be announced in an online ceremony in May. That date hasn’t been set.
Normally the Shulers are part of a larger national competition, the National High School Musical Theatre Awards, also know as The Jimmys. Each year, thousands of musical theater students descend upon New York City for workshops and other learning opportunities besides the award show itself. The coronavirus pandemic has prompted organizers to cancel the 2020 awards ceremony.
“Is it fair? Nothing is fair … this whole situation isn’t fair — what about we teach our kids that life has disappointments and times of uncertainty?” Parker commented on the Facebook page. “What about we celebrate the schools that did get to perform?”
Nominations for the 12th annual Georgia High School Musical Awards, also know as the Shulers, will be livestreamed at noon Friday at this link: https://www.gpb.org/shuler-2020