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Theatre Students Earn Seven CAPA Marquee Awards Nominations
Stars are definitely born in the Licking Heights theatre department.

This is the second year the students have participated in the CAPA Marquee Awards, a Tony Awards-style regional competition amongst Central Ohio high school theatre programs. Last year, students earned three nominations for their production of Catch Me If You Can. 

This year, they earned seven nominations with their production of the comedy The Wedding Singer. 

Cast members will perform along with 21 other schools during the Marquee Awards on Thursday, June 6 at the Ohio Theatre. Winners will be officially announced during the performance. The show is open to the public and tickets are available online.

Heights’ 2024 CAPA Marquee nominations include:

—Best Musical Production
—Outstanding Dance Execution
—Best Actor in a Supporting Role for senior Lucas Gleim
—Best Actress in a Supporting Role for sophomore Kaylee Vance
—Best Direction for theatre teacher Johanna Whetstone
—Outstanding Student Designer for senior Betty Solomon

Rounding out the seven nominations, junior Giada Ferrell was a semifinalist for Best Actress in a Leading Role with her performance as Holly. Ferrell competed against 14 other students for a spot in the finals, an experience she described as stressful but rewarding.

“With the role of Holly, the biggest thing for me was developing confidence. Her character is very out there, and I’m a more reserved person,” she says. “Knowing someone saw our show and was like, ‘hey, she’s good’ was a nice feeling.”

While the Heights theatre department has plenty of longtime members, multiple nominees are new to the district–and even the stage. This is Whetstone’s first year at Heights, and both Vance and Ferrell only started acting in the fall.

“I am floored and so excited. I felt the whole time these kids could win Best Musical Production, and I’ve been saying it from the very beginning,” Whetstone says. “To have that validated was very exciting. I’m more excited for kids to have this opportunity than anything.”

Whetstone says it is especially impressive for Heights to earn so many nominations considering how big and well-funded some of the other competing programs are. She hopes this opportunity will allow students who are considering pursuing theatre professionally to see how it feels to perform and compete in a setting like the Ohio Theatre and inspire other students to get involved with an award-winning department next school year.

“Our nominations put us on the map in a way that says excellence is not defined by budget,” she says.

For Whetstone, theatre provides students with an escape from everyday life and the chance to form a family while creating something beautiful together. Each of her nominated students agree that anyone interested in theatre should just give it a try–a whole new group of friends can await.

Kaylee Vance, who played Frenchie in Grease in the fall, says she had the confidence this year to finally join theatre. The inviting environment and friends she made brought her back for The Wedding Singer, where she played another comedic role with Grandma Rosie. 

“I really do believe theatre creates a family,” she says. 

Her love of dancing also drew her to the department, and she even got to add some gymnastic elements, like backflips, to her role.

“Earning this nomination is huge to me. It shows my accomplishments and how far I’ve come this year,” Vance says. “I never even knew I was going to do theatre last year, much less be nominated. I’m really proud of myself.”

While Whetstone chose The Wedding Singer based on the skills and talents of her students, the path to performance certainly was not easy. Students navigated inclement weather on opening night–including a tornado in Pataskala–illness among leads, and reshuffling of roles and understudies. Through it all, her students exemplified teamwork and professionalism as they rallied around each other. 

Costume designer Betty Solomon is no stranger to hard work. In the last month and a half leading up to opening night, she says she was working constantly to pull all details together–sometimes late into the night. 

Solomon describes her approach to costume design as “like playing Barbie dress-up” where she experimented with different styles to match a character’s personality and how each of her castmates played their role.

“When I found out I was up for Best Designer, I screamed for like two minutes and blew my voice out right before a choir concert,” she laughs. “Even if I don’t win, the nomination itself makes me feel like my work is worth something.”

Lucas Gleim, who played Sammy, transitioned to acting from crew during his sophomore year. He says he crafted his role by using the movie version of The Wedding Singer as inspiration, adding elements of his own personality into Sammy’s interactions with other characters.

“To actually be here, receiving this nomination, it brings me completeness,” Gleim says. “I can do something I never thought was possible.”

Seeing her students develop into talented, confident, determined actors is what brings Whetstone the most joy as an educator.

“My favorite part of being a theatre teacher is the very visible growth of my students,” Whetstone says. “The level of trust at Heights from the administration and from my kids is what allows me to do this job and do it well. I hope they continue to support the arts in this way. The arts are forever.”

Photo credit: Mark Holland Photography.