South Florida Teacher Honored With 2023 Excellence in Theatre Education Tony Award
The Tony Awards and Carnegie Mellon University announced today that theatre director/teacher Jason Zembuch Young of South Plantation High School in Plantation, Florida, will receive the 2023 Excellence in Theatre Education Award.
The Excellence in Theatre Education Award was co-founded in 2014 by the Tony Awards and CMU to recognize top K-12 drama teachers and to celebrate arts education. Zembuch Young will receive his award at The 76th Annual Tony Awards on Sunday, June 11, at the historic United Palace in New York City’s Washington Heights.
Making theatre accessible for all audiences has been the hallmark of Zembuch Young’s 20 years as a drama teacher. Each year, he produces two full-length mainstage productions, a play and a musical, in both voice and American Sign Language. As an advocate for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing population, Zembuch Young has reshaped policies to provide interpreters during and after school to teach his hearing and DHH actors and crew how to communicate and perform.
“As a high school theatre teacher, I’ve had the opportunity to work with many students from different backgrounds with varying exceptionalities. When we are inclusive in the theatre, everyone is better for it. Everyone deserves to have a voice,” said Zembuch Young. “It is in the theatre that we have an opportunity to give our students a platform to use that voice, regardless of who they are, where they come from, or what language they use to communicate.”
Zembuch Young runs a one-person, zero-budget public school theatre department with upwards of 150 students participating in performances. He also operates a six-week summer-stock theatre camp for elementary and middle school students, using high school drama students as counselors and mentors. With his South Plantation School students, he participates in International Thespian district and state competitions and is an eight-time South Florida CAPPIE winner for Best Play or Musical. Zembuch Young fundraises annually to provide four $1,000 scholarships to help graduating seniors.
Helping others overcome disability or life circumstances doesn’t stop when the school bell rings for Zembuch Young. He and his husband Michael have fostered more than 35 abused and underprivileged children. He’s facilitated the adoption of foster kids in his care and became an adoptive parent himself. He offers free admission to all performances for foster families so that they can experience live theatre.
A panel of theatre experts from the American Theatre Wing, The Broadway League and Carnegie Mellon University selected Zembuch Young from a nationwide call for entries.
“We are thrilled to present the 2023 Excellence in Theatre Education Award to Jason Zembuch Young,” said Charlotte St. Martin, President of The Broadway League, and Heather Hitchens, President and CEO of the American Theatre Wing. “Jason’s exceptional commitment to empowering every student to make and be part of theatre has won the hearts and appreciation of his local community and now the Broadway community, as well.”
The Excellence in Theatre Education Award recognizes a K-12 theatre educator in the U.S. who has demonstrated exemplary impact on the lives of students and who embodies the highest standards of the profession. Zembuch Young will receive $10,000 for South Plantation High School’s theatre program and tickets to The Tony Awards and Gala. Zembuch Young’s students will also receive a visiting Master Class taught by CMU Drama professors.
“New trails are blazed when teachers challenge paradigms in the name of art, expression and accessibility,” said Carnegie Mellon University President Farnam Jahanian. “Jason Zembuch Young is an extraordinary educator who has used the power of theatre to profoundly impact the lives of his students. CMU is proud to present this award to Jason in recognition of his positive influence and remarkable achievements.”
The 76th Annual Tony Awards will air live on Sunday, June 11, 2023 from the historic United Palace in Washington Heights in New York City from 8:00-11:00 PM on the CBS Television Network, and streaming live and on demand on Paramount+.