Two Blaine High School students have been named Minnesota Scholars of Distinction in the field of theater arts.
Michael Voit, a junior who recently acted as J.B Biggley in the school’s spring musical, “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” won the honor in the playwright category, while Michael Schermann, a senior, won in the comprehensive technical category.
Adam Wells, a senior at the high school, was named a finalist in the acting category.
Statewide, 34 students were honored as scholars of distinction in the areas of science, mathematics, social studies, leadership and theater arts.
Blaine High School is the only school in Minnesota to produce two scholars of distinction in theater arts this year.
Minnesota Scholars of Distinction in Theater Arts is an awards program supported by the Perpich Center for Arts and Education (PCAE) in collaboration with the Minnesota Department of Education.
To earn the recognition, students must complete challenging individual projects in a months-long application process and demonstrate mastery of complex subject material.
Michael Voit, playwright
“It’s an honor to be named a state scholar of distinction,” said Voit. “I know it is a very sought-after title and it’s great to know the judges thought my work was deserving of it.”
As part of the award requirements, Voit submitted a sample of his original plays. He wrote an analysis on “The Importance of Being Earnest” and underwent an interview. He also wrote a monologue and performed it.
To date Voit has written about eight one-acts. Earlier this year he wrote “Seventy-six Bones,” a reader’s theater piece adapted for stage, which was performed in Blaine High School’s In the Limelight one-acts showcase.
Voit has brought a level of professionalism to Blaine’s theater group, said Blaine’s theater director Cynthia Hess. Fellow students strive to emulate his strong work ethic.
“This comes from his drive to research information so that he has an understanding for what he is writing and/or performing on the stage,” Hess said.
For Voit the best part of writing a play is seeing the story unfold. “Once you have well-defined characters along with a clear problem and a central goal, the story kind of writes itself and you just let the characters speak and act through the pen (or keyboard),” he said in an e-mail.
Similar to many writers, the most challenging part of writing plays is starting out with the blank page. “However, once I get a few lines in, things start to become less intimidating,” he said.
Voit said he hopes to be a writer and director of film and theater in the future.
Voit recently learned he has received a 2012 spring SpotLight Award from Minneapolis’ Hennepin Theatre Trust for oustanding performance in a supporting role for his portrayal of J. B. Biggley in “How to Succeed”. Voit has also appeared in Blaine High School’s “All in the Timing,” “Much Ado About Nothing” and “The Booby Trap, Wheels, Deals and Ungodly Pollution.”
Michael Schermann, tech and stage manager
Schermann, a senior, has been involved in theater technology since he was a freshman.
When he recently received a voice mail stating he was selected as a Scholar of Distinction in Theatre Arts for Comprehensive Technical Theater, he hardly heard the rest of the message.
“All I could hear in my head was ‘Yes! Yes! Yes!’,” Schermann said.
Schermann started out as an actor but found himself on the technical end of theater and thoroughly enjoying it.
“I made a bunch of friends and I loved it,” he said.
To his credit, this year Schermann was stage manager for Blaine’s fall play “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” He also managed In the Limelight. This spring he managed “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.”
Throughout his years, he has worked on props, lights and sound. Last year, he directed a 10-minute one act, “The Mercury and the Magic.”
To earn the scholar of distinction honor he submitted to a panel of three judges a portfolio that included a script analysis of “The Importance of Being Earnest” and a review of “The Lion King,” which ran at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis. He submitted costume designs and a prompt book of a past stage production. His portfolio also included an original one-act comedy he penned titled “A Grimm Tale,” based on the Brothers Grimm. In April he submitted a hypothetical set, light and stage management design for Blaine High’s “How to Succeed.”
In addition to gratifying work, challenges go along with the job of stage managing.
There’s little recognition and as stage manager, the job is to uphold the artistic vision of the designers and directors, Schermann said. Sometimes, when you have differing opinions, it’s difficult to hold your tongue, Schermann said.
“But you remain calm and nice,” he said.
Hess describes Schermann as conscientious, detail oriented and focused on his theater responsibilities.
“He handles his duties with ease and professionalism and he is passing down his expertise, knowledge and success to the underclassmen who are going to be taking his place for the 2012-13 school year,” Hess said.
Schermann is also president of the school’s Thespian Troupe No. 4745.
Schermann plans to attend the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, next year. At this time he is undecided about what course of study he’ll take, but “theater is definitely on the list,” he said.
In March both he and Voit received superior ratings at the Minnesota Thespian Conferences. Schermann for stage management and Voit for short film. They will advance to the International Thespian Festival in Lincoln, Neb., at the end of June.
Voit and Schermann were honored at a ceremony as Minnesota Scholars of Distinction May 19 at the Perpich Center for Arts Education (PCAE) in Golden Valley.
This is not the first time a Blaine High School student has been designated a state scholar of distinction. Last year Jenn Kuberka, a 2011 graduate, received the honor for creating a strong portfolio in technical design in theater.
Elyse Kaner is at [email protected]