Jason Zembuch Young, a theater director and teacher from Plantation, Florida, has been announced as the recipient of the 2023 Excellence in Theatre Education Award. The award, which honors the accomplishments of a K-12 theater educator, was co-founded in 2014 and is presented by the Tony Awards and Carnegie Mellon University. A panel of theater experts, along with recommendations and endorsements from peers and students on behalf of the educator, help to determine an annual recipient.
During his 20 years as a drama teacher, Zembuch Young has striven to make theater more accessible for all audiences. Each year at South Plantation High School, Zembuch Young produces two full-length productions (a play and a musical) in voice as well as American Sign Language. Zembuch Young has reformed policies to provide interpreters during and after school to teach both hearing and Deaf and Hard of Hearing performers and crew members to communicate.
At South Plantation High School, Zembuch Young often works without a budget, despite having upwards of 150 students participating in each performance. With his high school students as counselors and mentors, Zembuch Young operates a six-week theater camp for elementary and middle school students. His high school students participate in International Thespian district and state competitions and have won eight South Florida Cappie theater awards for Best Play or Musical during Zembuch Young’s tenure. In addition, he fundraises each year to provide four scholarships worth $1,000 to graduating seniors.
“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,” Zembuch Young said 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.”
Zembuch Young will receive $10,000 for his school’s theater program as well as tickets to the Tony Awards and Gala. His students will receive a master class taught by Carnegie Mellon University drama professors.
Zembuch Young will be recognized during the 76th annual Tony Awards ceremony on June 11.
The 2022 winner of the Tony Award for Excellence in Theatre Education was Roshunda Jones-Koumba of Houston, Texas.