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Impact of theater education celebrated in Seattle

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Strong high school and university theater programs lead to a vibrant arts community in Seattle, a message often repeated at two ceremonies this month.

At Benaroya Hall last night, high school theater programs were celebrated. More than 2,000 students dressed in costumes representing their schools’ musical theater productions cheered and clapped through The 12th Annual 5th Avenue Awards Honoring High School Musical Theater.

The show that received the greatest number of awards for the evening was University High School’sJekyll & Hyde” with three 5th Avenue Awards. Edmonds Heights K-12 received the Outstanding Overall Musical Production for their hit show, “Pippin.” Thirteen other high schools were recognized with the remaining awards.

Also awarded on Monday night was the Third Annual Special Honor for Outstanding Educator. This year, the award went to Theatre Arts Director at Richland High School Ellicia Mertens Elliott. She had directed more than 40 shows at the school and taught a variety of theater subjects. After receiving a Bachelor’s degree in Theatre Arts Education and a Master’s degree in Theatre Production from Central Washington University, Elliott continued her theatre training at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and through a fellowship at Seattle Repertory Theatre.

Last week, friends, colleagues, and former students gathered at the Jones Theatre to send off University of Washington’s School of Drama’s Executive Director Sarah Nash Gates. Retiring after twenty years at the helm, Gates also served the local theater community as past president of USITT, immediate Past President of U/RTA, and a founding board member of Theatre Puget Sound. She is a current board member at the 5th Avenue Theatre. An accomplished costume designer, her work has been seen at A Contemporary Theatre, Denver Center Theatre Company, Intiman Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Pennsylvania Opera Theatre, the Aspen Music Festival, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Seattle Children's Theatre, Seattle Opera, Pacific Performance Project, and Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus.

The recently announced Sarah Nash Gates Endowed Graduate Student Support Fund at UW will support graduate students in acting, directing, design, theatre history, and theory and criticism. School of Drama advisory board member Therese Barnette already has raised more than $64,000 for the fund.

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