School NewsMay 1, 2024

updated Jun 10, 2024

The Sound of Music(als)

Director of Theater and Dance Jenni Jordan adjudicates high school shows

MHS Director of Theater and Dance Jenni Jordan can’t get enough high school theater, especially musical theater.

Since joining MHS in 2006, Jenni has directed and produced 40(!) shows, including this year’s stellar Winter Musical Matilda. This spring, Jenni took in high school shows across Connecticut and Massachusetts in her role as an adjudicator for the Stephen Sondheim Awards, which celebrate excellence in high school musical theater.

Jenni Jordan

“I adore the energy high school students bring to theater, especially musicals – there’s so much heart in it,” says Jenni. “I was excited to see these young talents express themselves, and I discovered a few hidden musical gems and innovative approaches to directing and producing shows that may have escaped my usual consideration for our students."

Sondheim Award adjudicators provide feedback and scoring for each production they view, with all feedback shared at the end of the awards season with participating schools. The awards season culminates in May at an annual gala, where awards are presented in acting, directing, choreography, design, best musical, and best ensemble.

“To advocate for underrepresented voices was one of the key reasons I wanted to do it,” says Jenni. “Many public high school programs are underfunded and unrecognized, and I aspire to amplify some of those overlooked voices.”

The program is administered by Black Rock Theater, of Fairfield, Connecticut, and Jenni discovered the opportunity to adjudicate after receiving an email and exploring whether MHS might enter the contest. After applying, Jenni met with Black Rock representatives to review their rubric and scoring processes, then took online training.

“It’s a pretty intense commitment,” notes Jenni, who, by the way, was knee-deep directing and producing Matilda at the same time she was taking in as many other productions as she could.

And, unlike an MHS production, where Jenni is responsible for untold details large and small, she can sit back and just enjoy the show.

“I got to be a spectator, and I saw some amazing performances,” she adds. “I love the energy around high school students doing theater, it’s contagious. I always leave feeling great, even if the show isn’t perfect. The spirit and feeling of that community is completely infectious.”