Theatre Night Awards

Theatre Night Awards recognizes excellence in the production of high school and middle school straight plays throughout New Jersey.

Our Mission

Our goal is to promote and advance the commitment to high quality straight play production in New Jersey’s secondary schools. The awards honor the accomplishments of individual achievement of both students and educators in the areas of performance, direction, design, and technical theatre, as well as outstanding productions in the following genres: Drama, Comedy, Classical, and New Work.

We endeavor to raise the bar in the area of straight play production in New Jersey schools. Theatre Night Awards has positively affected the level of directing, acting, design, and production work in straight plays. Educators are choosing from a wider and more sophisticated range of plays for production and are experimenting with updated methods and styles of staging plays.

By rewarding challenging choices in the production of new plays and classics, we have observed that more school theatre programs are producing Greek and Shakespeare plays, challenging works by such modern writers as Bertolt Brecht, Brian Friel, Arthur Miller, George S. Kaufman & Moss Hart, as well as new plays and original works.

Our History

Theatre Night Awards has been an increasingly significant and well-attended event each year since its inception in 2009. Theatre and Dance Department professor Susan Kerner and Mahwah High School teacher JoAnne Fox conceived the event to provide a balance for the popularity of the high school musical and its celebration at well-established awards ceremonies in New Jersey and the region.

The event is a positive educationally based community building experience.  Students are able to share their work with other students and to be recognized outside their own high schools.  This outside recognition has direct benefits for students and teachers in districts throughout the state.  In a time when theatre arts programs are in peril this outside recognition helps maintain and even build quality high school theatre programs.  

Theatre Night Awards Submission Guidelines:

  • Straight plays only—no musicals
  • Only the first 75 high schools registered will be accepted.
  • Judging will be based on the submitted videotaped performance of your Spring 2015 or Fall 2015 production submitted to MSU via YouTube. Please see details below.
  • Nominations will be announced on our website April 15, 2016.
  • Schools nominated for an award will be able to purchase tickets on a “first-come, first-served” basis for Theatre Night Awards.


  • The registration fee is $60. This includes a complimentary ticket to Theatre Night Awards for the director/teacher who submitted their production.
  • Though submitting multiple productions is allowed, each production must have a separate application and registration fee in order to be judged.   
  • Click on the link below for an application and indicate the YouTube URL on the form.
    • Theatre Night Awards 2016 Nomination Application
    • Please include an electronic or hard copy of your cast list/program for reviewing/nominating purposes.
    • Personal checks, purchase orders/school checks, and credit cards are accepted. Please make all checks payable to Montclair State University. If using a credit card, please submit your credit card information along with the application using the form below.

Theatre Night Awards

Attn: Lana Abdo

Montclair State University

Theatre and Dance Department – Life Hall 050

Montclair, NJ 07043

  • All materials must be received by January 10, 2016 to be considered for nominations.

New! YouTube Link Submission

Only YouTube submissions will be accepted.

  • To learn how to upload your video to YouTube, please watch the link below.
  • Please upload your performance to YouTube as an UNLISTED video to ensure the privacy of your performance. This can be done as your video is uploading or after it has uploaded. When made unlisted, only those who have the specific URL can access the video. The YouTube URLs will only be shared with the judging panel. Please do not make the videos public for copyright purposes. Please do not make the videos private because only the YouTube account holder responsible for the upload is able to see private videos.
  • We highly suggest uploading your performance to YouTube from the original video file on your computer. Please note: If you are uploading your performance to YouTube directly from a DVD, it will upload as 4-7 different videos. If a video file copy cannot be located and the performance must be uploaded from a DVD, please include all URLs on the registration form.
  • If you are having trouble uploading your performance to YouTube, please call Lana Abdo at (973) 655-7000.

 The Evaluation Process

Over sixty middle schools and high schools participated in the 2015 Theatre Night Awards. They submitted DVDs of their plays produced in 2014 for evaluation by panels of Montclair State University graduate students, undergraduate theatre majors and professors as well as industry professionals. The nominees and recipients of the Theatre Night Awards are selected through a rigorous, multi-stage adjudication process.

The Jo Anne Fox Award

Mahwah High School theatre teacher JoAnne Fox, co-founder of Theatre Night Awards, passed away suddenly shortly after the 1st Theatre Night Awards in 2009 following a rehearsal at her school. The Jo Anne Fox Award has been given in her memory for the past 4 years to a theatre teacher who is an inspiration to his/her students, whose passion for theatre is infectious, and who creates a community, a loving extended family in his/her school in the process of producing high quality productions. The trophy received by all award winners was dubbed the Foxy in 2014 in honor of the late Jo Anne Fox. To nominate your beloved teacher for this event, please email Robin Irwin at for more information.

The Event

Award nominations are posted in April, and teachers and students participate in preparing for the event by creating short videos, rehearsing selected moments for live presentation, and purchasing tickets. Over five hundred students, teachers, and family members attended the 7th annual Theatre Night Awards on May 11, 2015 in Memorial Auditorium on the Montclair State University campus.

Over the years the event has become increasingly student driven as well as influenced by the opportunities afforded by video technology. The event begins with a professionally produced video montage of exciting moments from all participating productions. Scattered throughout the evening short videos submitted by the teachers express the students’ meaningful personal and artistic growth through participation in their school productions. A highlight of the evening are collages of 90-second scenes chosen from productions identified as outstanding in several categories and rehearsed with Professor Susan Kerner on the day of the event. Backstage high school stage managers assist MSU student stage manager Nicole Mageros, herself a former high school participant.

Past presenters of the Theatre Night Awards have included stars of stage, screen and television. Award-winning author and theatre critic Peter Filichia served as the emcee of the 2014 Theatre Night Awards.  MSU alums and working actors Bret Lada and Elizabeth Mackintosh presented awards to students and educators along with Broadway stars Michael Cerveris and Brian D’Arcy James who presented awards to outstanding actors on video. A former high school Theatre Night Awards winner, now a professional pianist, provided piano accompaniment.


There is a significant ripple effect that results from Theatre Night Awards. In addition to many individuals receiving well-deserved recognition for their commitment to excellence in play production, state legislators and district administrators take notice of the achievements of the talented students and educators in their communities and further appreciate the importance of supporting arts programming.

By sharing their work with peers throughout the state, students and teachers have the opportunity to observe and learn from the high standards, extraordinary creativity and risk taking artistic choices made by outstanding theatre educators and their students.

Teachers participate in a valuable educational network that has developed as a result of MSU’s professional development programs. Teachers and students are introduced to the excellent opportunities in the BA, BFA, and MA programs in the Theatre and Dance Department at Montclair State University. When theatre students arrive as freshmen or as graduate students at MSU, they encounter professors who are already familiar with their considerable achievements as theatre artists in their secondary school communities.

Have you been nominated for an Award?

If so, you are invited to:

MSU’s Department of Theatre and Dance Presents:

The 8th Annual Theatre Night Awards

Tuesday, May 24, 2016 at 7:00pm

 Memorial Auditorium

Please use the link below to purchase your tickets for the 8th Annual Theatre Night Awards. All tickets are general admission. Seating is reserved on a first come, first serve basis the night of the event.

Keyword TNA2016


After Party!

To honor the nominees and winners of the 2016 Theatre Night Awards, join us for the official after party directly following the event. There will be desserts, music, dancing, and of course a celebration of all the students’ theatrical accomplishments. Students, parents, and family members are all welcome to attend. Come and join the fun! Tickets can be purchased in advance through