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.


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.

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 2017 or Fall 2017 production submitted to MSU via YouTube or DVD submission. Please see details below.
  • Nominations will be announced on our website April 15, 2018.
  • 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 $75. This includes ONE 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.   
  • Please fill out ALL forms listed below in their entirety to the best of your abilities. Please submit the online registration form and fee by January 15, 2018 to avoid a $15 late fee.  Registration forms submitted after January 15, 2018 will be charged a $15 late fee and will only be accepted if the 75 production maximum has not been reached.  
  • All forms do NOT have to be sent to us at the same time on the same day. Failure to submit forms could result in your production not being judged in certain categories and/or will result in a late fee charge unless prior arrangements are made with Robin Irwin or Christina Cruz.
    • Please note that we do understand that many things can happen during the registration process, whether it be issues with your video, videographer, administration, payment, etc. In order for our reviewing process to go as smoothly as possible, please make sure to be in communication with us. That’s what we’re here for!
  • 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: Christina Cruz
Montclair State University
Theatre and Dance Department – Life Hall 050
Montclair, NJ 07043

YouTube Link Submission

In order to make the submission process even easier, YouTube submissions and Google Drive submissions will be accepted in addition to DVD submissions.

  • To learn how to upload your video to YouTube, please watch this tutorial.
  • 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.
  • If you have selected to submit your production via DVD, please send to the address above no later than January 15, 2018 to avoid the late fee of $15.   

The Evaluation Process

Over seventy middle schools and high schools participated in the 2017 Theatre Night Awards. They submitted YouTube or Google Drive links of their plays produced in 2016 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.

All nominations will be posted by April 15, 2018.

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 six hundred students, teachers, and family members attended the 9th annual Theatre Night Awards 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.

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 presented awards to students and educators along with Broadway stars who presented awards to outstanding actors on video.

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.

If you are a principal and would like to nominate your teacher for this prestigious award, please submit the form below by May 1, 2018.

2018 Jo Anne Fox Nomination Form

Have you been nominated for an Award?

If so, you are invited to:

MSU’s Department of Theatre and Dance Presents:

The 10th Annual Theatre Night Awards

Monday, May 14, 2018 at 7:00pm

Memorial Auditorium

Please use the link below to purchase your tickets for the 10th 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 TNA2018

2017 Nominees

Congratulations on another season of brave and bold work with young artists!  Please find attached the final nominations for the 2016-2017 calendar year. Hundreds of hours and loads of care have gone into honoring and valuing the work that you and your students have created.

We'd like to personally thank you for the time, talent, and patience that have clearly gone into making theatre come alive and inspiring your communities.

We've added two new categories this year. Outstanding Ensemble of a Classical Play and The New Heights Award. This gem just invited itself to the party through the evident passion and spirit of play represented by both you the directors and the investment of the kids. It celebrates sustained excellence, growth, and development in theatre arts programs in New Jersey.

2018 Nominees will be posted April 15, 2018.

90 Second Scene

If your play is nominated in the following categories: Outstanding Achievement for a Comedy; Drama; Innovative/Inventive; or Classical Play we would be delighted if you would consider submitting a clean 90 second cut from that production.

  • Please email the name of the play and name of all students in the scene to Robin Irwin (email listed below).
  • All scenes will be timed at dress rehearsal the day of Theatre Night Awards and will be edited accordingly. Please time your scene prior to dress rehearsal to ensure that no cuts will need to be made the day of.
  • No more than THREE kids in the scene. A monologue is fine. Light costuming is welcome but know that your students are entirely responsible for their care and maintenance of said costume.
  • Rehearsal for the scenes is at 3pm, May 14, 2018. This rehearsal the day of Theatre Night Awards is MANDATORY. Your students WILL NOT perform if they do not attend this rehearsal. If you will be late to rehearsal because of distance or school obligations, you MUST let us know beforehand. Please email Robin Irwin at if you have any concerns.
  • We must receive the cut scene by May 1, 2018. We will likely cut off the number of scenes at 12 this year.
  • 90 Scene Online Registration Form

Video Testimonials:


If you submit both a 90 Second Scene AND  a Student Video, only one of them will be chosen.

Student Testimonial Videos can be pretty much anything you want them to be, but also no more than 2 minutes. If you leave this to the kids to produce, that's fine, please just take a look at it before you send it to me so you know it is coherent, appropriate, and represents your kids and program in a positive light.  It's not clips of your show!  It should be about how this play and doing theatre impacts their lives.

To submit your video testimonial, please visit: 2018 Video Testimonial Submissions

2016-2017 Winners

Did something special happen on the Montclair State University Campus on Monday, May 15th, 2017? It sure did! The best and brightest of New Jersey’s theatre educators, designers, and young artists gathered in Memorial Auditorium to celebrate the phenomenal work of the 2016-2017 performing season. It is our distinct pleasure to encourage and recognize the passion, drive, and dedication of so many talented teachers, designers, and students!

Congratulations on another great season! We look forward to seeing what profound and fabulously creative theatre you generate in 2017-2018!

Tell stories! Create Art! And by all means; Stay Foxy!