Local Teacher to be Honored at Tony Awards

South Plantation High School theater teacher Jason Zembuch Young will be honored at the Tony Awards on June 11. Credit: The Tony Awards.

On Sunday, South Plantation High School theater teacher Jason Zembuch Young will be honored at the 76th annual Tony Awards in New York City, along with the top Broadway productions, performers, creatives and tradespeople of the season.

Zembuch Young will be presented with the 2023 Excellence in Theatre Education Award, co-founded in 2014 by the Tony Awards and Carnegie-Mellon University to celebrate and encourage arts education.

The award recognizes a K-12 theater educator in the U.S. who has demonstrated exemplary impact on the lives of students and who embodies the highest standards of the profession. He was selected by a blue-ribbon panel from hundreds of nominations across the country.

Accessibility has been a passion for Zembuch Young over his 20-year teaching career: Each year, he produces two full-length main stage productions, a play and a musical, in both voice and American Sign Language. 

As an advocate for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community, Zembuch Young has worked to provide interpreters during and after school to teach his hearing and hearing-impaired actors and crew how to better communicate and perform.

“As a high school theater teacher, I’ve had the opportunity to work with many students from different backgrounds with varying exceptionalities. When we are inclusive in the theater, everyone is better for it. Everyone deserves to have a voice,” said Zembuch Young in a statement. “It is in the theater that we have an opportunity to give our students a platform to use that voice, regardless of who they are, where they come from, or what language they use to communicate.”

And, despite having virtually no budget, Zembuch Young’s students consistently excel, including top finishes in International Thespian Society district and state competitions and eight Florida CAPPIE awards for best play or musical. 

When school closes for the summer break, he operates a six-week summer-stock theater camp for elementary and middle school students, using high school drama students as counselors and mentors.

Zembuch Young will be awarded $10,000 for the school’s theater program, and his students will also receive a visiting master class taught by Carnegie-Mellon drama professors.

As noted in the award announcement, his drive to help others overcome disability or life circumstances doesn’t stop when the school bell rings. 

He and his husband Michael have fostered more than 35 abused and underprivileged children. Zembuch Young facilitated the adoption of foster kids in his care and became an adoptive parent himself. He offers free admission to all performances for foster families so that they can experience live theater.

“We are thrilled to present the 2023 Excellence in Theatre Education Award to Jason Zembuch Young,” said Charlotte St. Martin, president of the Broadway League, and Heather Hitchens, president and CEO of the American Theatre Wing. “Jason’s exceptional commitment to empowering every student to make and be part of theater has won the hearts and appreciation of his local community and now the Broadway community, as well.”

The 76th annual Tony Awards will be broadcast live on CBS from the United Palace in Washington Heights, New York City, on June 11 at 8 p.m. Check local listings for stations. More information at TonyAwards.com.


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