Josette Axne had to dig deep to find the proper motivation for her character in Cherokee Trail's production of the musical comedy "The Addams Family."
Playing Alice Beineke, a middle-age mother with a son set to be married, the 15-year-old sophomore couldn't draw inspiration from her immediate experiences. Instead, she did the careful and studied job any good actor would do, carefully deconstructing the character and finding the proper motivation.
"I'm used to playing those damsel in distress, ingénue roles. This was so challenging – I played a Midwestern mom whose son is going to college, she's unhappy with her marriage," Axne said. "I'm 15. I haven't experienced any of that. Having to grasp what that would actually be like if I were in that position took me a little while to understand."
That in-depth analysis paid off. Axne won the 2015 Bobby G Award for Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role during a glitzy ceremony held May 28 at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Denver. The awards, launched three years ago and named after Colorado theater luminary Robert Garner, recognize outstanding achievements in high school musical theater across the state.
Axne wasn't the only aspiring performer from the Cherry Creek School District to win recognition during the event, now in its third year. Cherry Creek Schools students nabbed nominations in categories across the board, ranging from outstanding overall production to a special achievement award for sound design. All told, CCSD picked up 16 nominations and took home four awards.
"We got a lot of nominations, we got a lot of great response," said Cherry Creek High School Director of Theater Jim Mille. The CCHS production of "Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella" picked up nine nominations, an impressive sweep that followed last year's award-winning production of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat." "When my students walk out of the door after four years here, I want them to have the skills to transition right into college or right onto the stage. I'm running the department as if it were a theater company."
Denver Center Attractions President Randy Weeks founded the Bobby G Awards as a way to offer high school students involved in musical theater the same kind of recognition available to high-school athletes. Less than five years after its inception, the honors have become a valuable and serious goal for students like Tessa Robinson from Cherokee Trail, who was nominated for Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role for her tour as Wednesday Addams. For Robinson, who graduated last month, the recognition was a perfect cap to four years spent heavily involved in the school's theater department.
"I'm happy to end on such a great note," Robinson said. "I'm so thankful to have been able to experience so much growth. I think that's more rewarding that starting from a place of success. It's definitely bittersweet, but I'm excited to see where Cherokee Trail theater goes. My friends are still in it, so I'm still going to come back and see shows when I can."
The theater program and the guidance from teacher Cindy Poinsett has been invaluable for Robinson, who plans to pursue theater in college after taking a gap year. But the achievement and growth represented by the Bobby G nominations also hold value for students like Caden Montgomery, a Cherokee Trail graduated senior who picked up a nomination for Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role for his role as Lucas Beineke. Montgomery plans to eventually enroll in a pre-med program, after completing a religious mission for his church.
But Montgomery's four years involved in CT's theater department have left a lasting legacy. Whether it's pursuing a spiritual mission or studying to become a physician, Montgomery will forever be changed by his time on the stage.
"It was fantastic," Montgomery said. "I've been in every theater production since my freshman year. To finally feel like we've made a name for ourselves out here … for me, it's a testament to what we've done."
2015 BOBBY G AWARD NOMINEES AND WINNERS FROM CCSD
Outstanding Achievement in Hair and Make-up Design
"The Addams Family," Cherokee Trail, McKenzie Boyd, McKenzie Campbell and Esther Ekberg
"Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella," Cherry Creek, Miranda Cochran
Outstanding Achievement in Costume Design
"Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella," Cherry Creek, Jim Miller and Weldon Steinke -- WINNER
Outstanding Achievement in Lighting Design
"Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella," Cherry Creek, Yasmin Farsad
Outstanding Achievement in Scenic Design
"Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella," Cherry Creek, Jack Hagen, Yukki Hashimoto, Max Post and Joe Woodard
Outstanding Achievement in Choreography
"Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella," Cherry Creek, Ronni Gallup
"Thoroughly Modern Millie," Grandview, Piper Arpan
Outstanding Achievement in Musical Direction
"Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella," Cherry Creek, Adam Cave and Sara Wynes
Outstanding Performance by a Chorus
"Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella," Cherry Creek
Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
"The Addams Family," Cherokee Trail, Josette Axne, Alice Beineke - WINNER
"The Addams Family," Cherokee Trail, Tessa Robinson, Wednesday Addams
Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
"The Addams Family," Cherokee Trail, Caden Montgomery, Lucas Beineke
"Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella," Cherry Creek, Luccio Dellepiane, Herald – WINNER
Outstanding Overall Production of a Musical
"The Addams Family," Cherokee Trail
Special Achievement Award Winner -- Achievement in Sound Design
"The Addams Family," Cherokee Trail, Abigail Kieffer -- WINNER