Totem Pole Playhouse Award WINNERS Announced!

May 22, 2017


FAYETTEVILLE, PA (May 21, 2017) – Totem Pole Playhouse, Pennsylvania’s premiere summer theatre, presented their annual Totem Pole Playhouse Awards last evening for outstanding production and performances by area high school students in a ceremony at Gettysburg College’s Majestic Theater. The playhouse’s fourth annual presentation was filled with the usual enthusiastic performances by the participating high school students, the surprise appearance of a four-time Emmy Award-winning TV star as a guest presenter, and $4,000.00 in new scholarship money.

Seniors Maggie Dennis, from Waynesboro Area Senior High School, and Luke Hershey, Shippensburg Area Senior High School, took home the awards for Outstanding Performance by an Actress and an Actor in a Leading Role along with a $1,000.00 William M. Moore, Jr. college scholarship for each recipient. This was Ms. Dennis’ second win for Outstanding Actress, having won the 2015 Totem Pole Playhouse Award for her performance as ‘Audrey’ in Waynesboro’s production of Little Shop of Horrors.

Waynesboro student Tatyana Valentin won the award for Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role for her performance as the ‘Cowardly Lion’ in The Wizard of Oz and Fulton County’s McConnellsburg High School student, Brice Feagley, won the Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role Award for the role of ‘Pharoah’ in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Each also received a William M. Moore, Jr. college scholarship in the amount of $500.00.

McConnellsburg High School’s production of Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat took home the top prize, the Carl Schurr Award for Outstanding Production of a Musical. The high school’s drama club was also awarded $1,000.00 in prize money from the playhouse.

According to the event’s program, Totem Pole Playhouse recently received an endowment from the estate of William “Bill” Moore, Jr., a teacher for 43 years in the Frederick County (MD) Public Schools and the drama director for over a quarter of a century at Linganore High School. In 1983, after attending shows at Totem Pole with his parents for more than ten years, Totem Pole’s legendary producer, Bill Putch, cast Mr. Moore in a small role in Robert Sherwood’s play “The Petrified Forest” starring Putch’s wife, actress Jean Stapleton. Totem Pole Playhouse is honoring Moore’s memory and acknowledging his generosity, kindness, and love of theatre by creating the William M. Moore, Jr. college scholarships.

Four-time Emmy Award-winner, Michael Learned, best known for her role as ‘Olivia “Ma” Walton’ on the classic 1970s TV series The Waltons surprised the packed Majestic Theater audience when she appeared on stage to present the Jean Stapleton Award to one student from each of the participating high schools who gave the most to their school’s musical this year. Ms. Learned is set to open Totem Pole Playhouse’s 67th summer season next week starring in Driving Miss Daisy. She shared fond memories and stories of Ms. Stapleton who won three Emmy Awards as ‘Edith Bunker’ on All in the Family which appeared on CBS, the same network which aired Learned’s series for nine years from 1972 to 1981. Ms. Stapleton was married to Totem Pole’s longtime Producer, Bill Putch, and appeared for several decades each summer at the venerable playhouse. The winners of the Jean Stapleton Award for Outstanding Contribution to a High School Musical were: Arley Knepper, Forbes Road Jr./Sr. High School; Erin Heeschen, Gettysburg Area High School; Ricardo Aguilar, Biglerville High School; Lexi Lupey, McConnellsburg High School; Kate Frimet, Mercersburg Academy; Kaitlin Bigham, Shippensburg Area Senior High School; and Katey Benedict, Waynesboro Area Senior High School.

Outstanding Ensemble Actress and Actor honors went to Selina Xue from Mercersburg Academy’s production of Fiddler on the Roof and Logan Kanne from Little Shop of Horrors at Gettysburg Area High School.

Leading the vocal awards as Outstanding Female and Male Soloists were Carley Haskins for “Somewhere That’s Green” from Little Shop of Horrors and Luke Hershey for “If I Were a Rich Man” from Fiddler on the Roof from Gettysburg Area High School and Shippensburg Area Senior High School. Outstanding Vocal Duet was awarded to Waynesboro Area Senior High School students Maggie Dennis and Andy Barkdoll for their rendition of “We’re Off to See the Wizard” from The Wizard of Oz.

Shippensburg Area Senior High School won the award for Outstanding Musical Production Number for the song “Tradition” from Fiddler on the Roof and McConnellsburg High School was the recipient of the Outstanding Musical Chorus Award for their production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, with the award for Outstanding Stage Crew going to Shippensburg Area Senior High School.

Adding to the excitement, students from all seven participating high schools took to the Majestic stage during the ceremony with each school performing one production number from their school’s musical. The nominees in the Outstanding Female and Male Solo Vocal Performance categories also performed live in front of the capacity crowd.

In addition to Ms. Learned, serving as presenters during the awards were Drew Adams, Isaac Bucher, Chad-Alan Carr, Harry Hartman, Laura Martin, Elise Overcash, Paris Peet, Kelly Summerford, Tom Trgovac, Rose Tripi,  2016 Totem Pole Playhouse Award winner for Best Actor Grant Sanders, New Orleans actor Lance Nichols, who will be co-starring as ‘Hoke Colburn’ in Totem Pole Playhouse’s upcoming production of Driving Miss Daisy, and nationally renowned stage director, Michael Bloom, who is directing the production.

The evening marked the Totem Pole’s fourth year of presenting the popular awards and the first year that college scholarships were given.  The playhouse’s Producing Artistic Director, Rowan Joseph, once again served as the Master of Ceremony, noting that it was the award’s graduation year too. Joseph closed the ceremony by acknowledging, “My favorite part of these awards year after year has been watching with great pride as the participating students cheer and applaud each of the winning schools, demonstrating that the Totem Pole Awards are as much about camaraderie as they are about competition. After all, the best musical at each school every year is the one you students put on together, so you’re all winners in my eyes!”