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“How to succeed in musical theater by trying really hard for seven years…” is how one Trumbull High School alumna put it in her social media post on Monday night after cheering on her alma mater at the 2016 Connecticut High School Musical Theater Awards gala.

Trumbull High School went into the evening having earned 13 nominations for its 2016 production of How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, including nods for Outstanding Lead Actor and Outstanding Production of the Year, which offered two performance opportunities at the gala.

During the evening of musical numbers and awards, the entire cast reprised a medley of songs from the show, including senior Michael Lepore’s performance of “I Believe in You” backed up by his fellow businessmen.

When the evening was over, the production team had won a total of nine awards, including the top prize for Outstanding Production of the Year.

After seven consecutive years of receiving a nomination in the top category but walking home empty handed, Trumbull students and teachers were able to celebrate with the elusive trophy in their grasp.

The March production of How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying was adjudicated by three judges during its weekend of performances and then reviewed by a panel of theater industry professionals via photos, video excerpts, and samples of student technical work. Nominations were determined by the professional panel and then the entire cadre of adjudicators reconvenes to choose the winners in each category.

Performing again

The gala line-up Monday night included performances by all the nominees for Outstanding Lead Actor and Actress, as well as the seven schools nominated for Outstanding Production of the Year.

Trumbull’s cast and crew was heavily populated by seniors who have been in the program all four years and have held leadership roles both on and off the stage since they were underclassmen.

Many of them have explored different roles throughout their tenure, sometimes appearing on stage and then other times doing behind the scenes work.

Outstanding Supporting Actress nominee, senior Katherine Griffin, recently co-directed the fall production of Charley’s Aunt with Lepore, who went on to win Outstanding Lead Actor Monday night.

Recipients of the Student Achievement Award for Dramaturgy, seniors Elena Kemper and Martha Hegley, also performed in the ensemble.

Also recognized were winners of a Student Achievement Award for Producing — seniors Lindsey McMorris, Julianne Mirmina, and Gabby Tropp and freshman Britley Learnard.

Trumbull High School sophomore Mandee Rosario won for Outstanding Make-up Design.

Co-advisors to the THeSpian society — Jessica Spillane, Shannon Bolan and Matthew Bracksieck — believe that this flexibility and willingness to take new risks comes from having a solid, supportive program with a deep commitment to mentorship.

“We feel that, as an educational program, we have an obligation to our students to offer them challenging opportunities. If any job can be done well — or assisted well — by a student, it should be done by a student,” said Spillane, the show’s artistic director.  

This commitment to mentoring and student leadership led to Trumbull High School receiving the Arts in Education Award, a special recognition only awarded when a school demonstrates its deliberate and substantial connections between curricular content and production objectives. Citing collaboration with THS’s Honors Dramaturgy course — a senior Honors English elective — and CAD and wood shop classes offered through the Tech Education department, as well as intersections with the district’s programming to address emotional intelligence as flagship programs, CHSMTA recognized the program’s commitment to engaging and empowering students.

Standout moments during the gala ceremony included senior Zac Gottschall performing a solo as last year’s Outstanding Lead Actor winner and the spontaneous cheers and applause from the packed house during “Brotherhood of Man.”

As Trumbull students made their acceptance speeches, a common theme was their thanks to one another, their gracious recognition of the other exemplary programs and students present at the gala, and their sentiment that THS Theater is “a family.”

A complete list of awards for Trumbull High School:


  • Outstanding Chorus

  • Outstanding Lead Actor

  • Outstanding Choreography

  • Outstanding Hair and Make-up Design

  • Outstanding Direction

  • Student Achievement in Dramaturgy

  • Student Achievement in Producing

  • Arts in Education Award

  • Outstanding Production of the Year