As a storm raged outside the Mishler Theatre in Altoona on Sunday night, the thunder coming from inside wasn't due to the weather.
It was the thunder of applause.
Audience members in the seemingly packed theater were there to honor the hundreds of local high school thespians for the annual Isaac Awards. A total of 11 regional high schools were up for awards in 10 categories. The night was also packed with performances, including numbers from "Godspell," "Bye Bye, Birdie" and "Guys and Dolls."
Mirror photos by Patrick Waksmunski
Emily Dennis of State College Area High?School, winner of the Best Actress in a Leading Role award, sings “As We Stumble Along” from the school’s production of “The Drowsy Chaperone” at the Isaac Awards on Sunday night at the Mishler Theatre in?Altoona.
Seth Hull from Bishop?Carroll Catholic High?School, the winner of the Best Actor or Actress in a Featured Role Isaac Award, sings “Conjunction Junction” from the school’s production of “Schoolhouse Rock Live.”
WTAJ-TV evening anchor Carolyn Donaldson acted as Mistress of Ceremonies for the event.
"You are in for a treat," she said to the audience as the festivities began, inviting everyone to appreciate the hours the students spent readying their productions. "The bar keeps getting raised for the talent in the arts."
State College High School came away as the big winner of the night with its production of "The Drowsy Chaperone," winning awards for Best Actress in a Leading Role, Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Best Musical Number and Best Overall Production. Erin McQuay, 16, a junior at State College High School who played Mrs. Tottendale in the show and won the award for best actress in a supporting role, said she'd been waiting for this moment since her first trip to the Isaacs.
And the winners are...
BEST ACTOR OR ACTRESS IN A FEATURED ROLE: Bishop Carroll Catholic High School student Seth Hull as George in "Schoolhouse Rock Live"
BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE:?Bald Eagle Area High School student Benjamin Laskovansky as Conrad Birdie in "Bye Bye, Birdie"
BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE:?State College Area High School student Erin McQuay as Mrs. Tottendale in "The Drowsy Chaperone"
ACHIEVEMENT IN DESIGN AWARD:?Bishop Carroll Catholic High School students Tracy Eckenrode and Olivia McCall for choreography in "Schoolhouse Rock Live"
BEST ENSEMBLE AWARD:?A tie between West Branch High School students playing The Disciples in "Godspell" and Philipsburg- Osceola High School students playing The Shriners in "Bye Bye, Birdie"
BEST MUSICAL NUMBER AWARD:?State College Area High School in "As We Stumble Along" from "The Drowsy Chaperone"
JUDGES' DISCRETIONARY AWARD: RISING STAR:?Daniel Slogosky as Randolph MacAfee in Philipsburg-Osceola High School's production of "Bye Bye, Birdie"
BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE:?State College Area High School student Emily Dennis as the Drowsy Chaperone in "The Drowsy Chaperone"
BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE:?Bishop Guilfoyle High School student Ben Unpingco as J. Pierrepont Finch in "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying"
BEST FEATURED DANCE AWARD:?Philipsburg-Osceola High School students in "The Shriner's Ballet" in "Bye Bye, Birdie"
BEST PRODUCTION AWARD:?State College Area High School for "The Drowsy Chaperone"
RECIPIENT OF $1,000 ISAAC'S BOOSTER CHECK:?Bald Eagle Area High School
"This is my third year here, so I was just imagining when I was a freshmen, I was like, 'I want to be called. I want to win an award,'" she said. "So this is so amazing."
McQuay said she's loved theater since she was little, and was brought up with it being important to her and her family. But not every one of the night's honorees were veterans of the stage. The dancers from the "The Shriner's Ballet" number in Philipsburg-Osceola High School's production of "Bye Bye, Birdie" tied with West Branch High School's production of "Godspell" for the Best Ensemble Award and won the Best Featured Dance Award. The number included one female dancer and more than a dozen male dancers doing cartwheels, toe touches and kicklines. Many of the male dancers were also athletes who decided to do the musical for the first time this year.
"It was fun, I'd do it again definitely," said Dallas Thompson, 15, a sophomore at Philipsburg-Osceola High School who also plays football and runs track. "There's a lot of work in the show and a lot of practice, but it's worth it in the end... when the show nights came and everyone was cheering for us. We were all really happy."
Winners of individual awards each received $500 scholarships, and Bald Eagle Area High School came away with the $1,000 Isaacs Booster Check to help fund its next dramatic production.
Steve Helsel, operations manager for Altoona Community Theatre and host for the event, said at the end of the show he believed it went well and provides the recognition for these students that they otherwise may not get.
"The thing is, it's all about the kids, and I think you can tell from the excitement of the kids what it means to them," he said. "At so many high schools, you know, the recognition goes to the sports programs, it doesn't go to the arts programs. This is just one way we're trying to say to the community and say to everybody that the arts can do so much for your kids."
Mirror Staff Writer Beth Ann Downey is at 946-7520.