Every year, we acknowledge the dedication of talented Youth Education program participants. Announcing the Youth Initiative Awards and Youth Achievement Award for 2015-2016. Congratulations to all six recipients!

The winners of this year’s youth awards are:

Youth Initiative Awards

The Youth Initiative Award is a special award given to an RLT Teaching Assistant in recognition of his or her dedication to the art of teaching Theatre. Their love of and respect for theatre is so contagious that they not only inspire the students in their care but the teachers they assist as well.

Youth Achievement Award

The Youth Achievement Award is the highest awarded honor a member of the Youth Program at RLT can receive. It is contingent upon a participant’s dedication to the theatre, school and community, their dedication to service, and their persevering pursuit of knowledge in the theatre arts at RLT.

2016 Youth Award Winners with Linda O’Day Young and Kathleen Rudolph (l-r): William Taylor, Parker Perry, Connor Gerney, and Ben Mygatt

Youth Initiative Award: Dylan McKeand

Presented by Kathleen Rudolph

This recipient of the Youth Initiative Award is not here today and is actually in Australia. Most of you probably don’t know Dylan McKeand, as he TAs only in Apex for me! Dylan was four years old when he first announced he wanted to be an actor. He was hooked from his first role as a werewolf at Spooky Story Theater at the local public library. A year has not passed since then that he hasn’t been involved in theater. Dylan has a special love of improv, and his love of music has drawn him to theatrical sound design. In fact, he runs the sound board for many of the youth shows here at RLT.

Music and technology are a passion. He has studied piano since first grade and participated in many recitals and competitions over the years. A veteran homeschooler, he has maintained a 4.0 average into his high school career, including his present dual-enrollment at Durham Tech. His family and friends often comment on his kind and warm nature, introspective and always feeling positive toward the people around him.

I’ve worked with Dylan – as has Connor – for about 8 years. These past few years both Connor and Dylan TA’d my Apex Players class and I just turned over the directing to them. The one thing I truly admire about Dylan is that he says ‘yes’ to anything asked. In fact, in our Apex Players play this past semester, Dylan dressed like a frog. You gotta love that!

So, the Youth Initiative Award goes to Dylan McKeand.

Youth Initiative Award: William Taylor

Presented by Linda O’Day Young.

The recipient of the Youth Initiative Award started taking classes here in 2005. He was in my Creative Drama Class. After a couple of years, though we lost him to the demands of the Raleigh Boy Choir from 2007-20013.

But luckily for us, he returned and became a part of Teens On Stage in Animal Farm, Fiddler on the Roof, Runaways and this year’s show, Bat Boy, the Musical. Shows outside of RLT include, Catch Me If You Can, A Few Good Men and Little Women at Cardinal Gibbons High School. He also appeared in Nutcracker with the North Carolina Ballet and Les Enfants Terribles, Carmen and The Turn of the Screw with the North Carolina Opera. His other activities include piano, guitar, High School chorus, North Carolina Master Chorale and Boy Scouts.

He is also an altar server and canter at his Church and lead singer and guitar/bass player in the alternative band “Endless Neighborhood”. He is a well-rounded and talented young man but what we are honoring him for today is his service here as a Teaching Assistant. As a Teaching Assistant, he greets students and their parents with a welcoming smile. In class he leads by example by being the best student in the class displaying enthusiasm and a willingness to throw himself into any exercise the teacher initiates.

He is gracious, gentle and kind. He is a great ambassador for RLT. The Youth Initiative Award goes to William Taylor.

Youth Achievement Award: Connor Gerney

Presented by Kathleen Rudolph.

This recipient began taking classes with RLT in Apex at the age of ten and has been a TA for 6 years. He has appeared in numerous productions at RLT: Really Rosie, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, The Brementown Musicians, Fiddler on the Roof, OPQRS, Miss Nelson is Missing and is currently in rehearsals for Bat Boy, the Musical.

Well, most of you know I am speaking about Connor Gerney. With all the above shows I’ve mentioned, it’s hard to believe that he has any time to do other things – but he does! He has been in The Scottish Play twice – once with BARE Theatre and most recently in the Fight Cast of Carolina Ballet’s production. Connor is currently participating in 2 locally written plays at Sonorous Road – one of which HE is the playwright.

Besides having the acting bug – Connor also loves to fight. He has taken stage combat classes with Jeff Jones for several years, and is currently certified in Unarmed, Sword/Shield, Single Sword and has had extensive training and performed with Broadsword. RLT actually hired him to teach class in Apex where young children learned the basics and fundamentals of stage violence including shoves, slaps, falls, pulls and arm locks. How fun is that?

This past spring Connor choreographed all the fighting in a play I directed called Don’t Dress for Dinner where a bunch of old people my age had to fight and jump on top of each other – all without breaking a bone!

Connor attained the rank of Eagle Scout after he completed his Eagle project for the Women’s Center of Wake County on Cox. Ave. He created a lovely seating area where he constructed 2 Adirondack chairs and a fence and then also removed significant amounts of brush, shrubs, and vines, the spreading of mulch, and laying of stepping stones.

He is an artist, a musician and even a Pirate and Spiderman at birthday parties! Connor has completed high school with 12 credits from Wake Tech and will attend ECU in the fall to major in Theatre.

Congratulations Connor!

Youth Achievement Award: Maddy Kunkel

Presented by Linda O’Day Young.

This next recipient of the Youth Achievement Award began taking classes at RLT when she was in the 4th grade and she started serving as a Teaching Assistant when she was 13. She is the beaming, joyful face welcoming students and parents to RLT. In the classes for which she TA’s, she is supportive and encouraging.

My first experience directing this young woman was when she played Wanda in The Hundred Dresses. She absolutely captivate the audience not with her lines but with her character’s presence. She was nominated for a Cantey for it too. She also appeared in Sideways Stories from Wayside School, Nate, the Great, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and Junie B. Jones in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells.

She was a member of the Storytellers To Go production of Blackbeard and a cast member in the Teens On Stage productions of Gooney Bird Greene and Her True Life Adventures and East of the Sun and West of the Moon and she served as my right hand woman, my stage manager for Fiddler on the Roof. As such, she demonstrated the perfect balance between nurturing mother and demanding drill sergeant. It is a difficult thing to do, managing people your same age but she did it well.

In High School, she also appeared in Vacancy in Paradise and The Odd Couple. She is a member of the International Thespian Society her school’s Honors Theatre Class. She has also been involved in PEPI (Physical Education Pupil Instructed) program at Leesville where she taught PE classes at various schools in the area and volunteered for the Special Olympics. She was also the student director of the blood drives at Leesville High School this year. She received a scholarship from the American Red Cross for her hard work.

This young woman captivated me and stole my heart the day I met her. She is kind. She is jovial. She is positive. She is humble although she has much about which to brag. Soon she moves on to UNC Wilmington. It is hard to imagine RLT without her. This Youth Achievement Award goes to Maddy Kunkel.

Youth Achievement Award: Ben Mygatt

Presented by Linda O’Day Young.

This young man started taking classes in 2004. He was in my Creative Drama classes for 6 and 7 year olds. He played the Dragonfly in I Wish I Were A Butterfly and he also took on the demanding role of Koi in the West African tale, Koi and the Kola Nuts. He continued taking classes and then was a cast member in our trouping ensemble, RLT Players To Go! In addition he has been a valuable teaching Assistant for 5 years. In fact he was awarded the Youth Initiative Award in 2014.

In 2008, he was cast as one of the Lost Boys in Peter Pan. He also appeared as Jack Beagles in The Hundred Dresses, Mowgli in Jungal Book and as a Dead Rat and a Cow in Sideways Stories from Wayside School. He spent four summers with us as a cast member in our Teens On Stage productions of East of the Sun and West of the Moon, Gooney Bird Greene and Her True Life Adventures, Animal Farm and Fiddler on the Roof. He played the Fiddler. And fiddle he can! Thirteen years ago, the violin chose him.

He has been involved in the Philharmonic Association Youth Orchestras for the past 7 years. He was also in the Philharmonic Association’s Honors Quartet playing at various events in the community. In 2015 he was awarded a merit scholarship to study at Brevard Music Institute for six weeks. He was also invited by his future teacher at Willliams College in Massachusetts to attend her master class in Vienna this summer. In High School he was a member of the National Honor Society, the German Honor Society and the Tri-M Music Honor Society.

This young man has been a part of my life for the past 12 years, as a TA, a volunteer, an actor and a student. I have admired his talent,his intelligence, his easy going manner, his good humor and his charming ways. I can still close my eyes and see the smiling six year old telling me, “I’m gonna take you to lunch, Ms. Linda.”

Thank-you Ben. I will miss you.

Youth Achievement Award: Parker Perry

Presented by Kathleen Rudolph.

The next recipient of the Youth Achievement Award started taking classes in 2009. He has also served as a teaching assistant. Outside activities include singing at Church services and volunteering at vacation bible school at Hayes Barton UMC. He also volunteers at Wee Care, a local non-profit preschool for low income children. He was selected for the North Carolina Honors Chorus 3 consecutive years and was in Honors chorus at Longleaf School of the Arts.

There is one thing certain, he loves the stage and the stage loves him. Here is a list of his work. For the Hayes Barton Methodist Church Ensemble, he played Benjamin in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. He was a soloist and ensemble member in Miscast at North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre. This year he participated in Divas! our fundraising vocal competition event coming in as number 2.

At Raleigh Little Theatre he appeared in Jungalbook, Merry Christmas, Strega Nona, Dear Edwina, Jr., The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, The Bremantown Musicians, Spring Awakening, Pinocchio, Hairspray, Cinderella XXXI and Cinderella XXXII and Spamalot for which he is nominated for a Cantey this year.

He has also appeared in the several Teens Onstage productions as Catman in Gooney Bird Greene and Her True Life Adventures, a Hag in East of the Sun and West of the Moon, Squealer in Animal Farm, Motel in Fiddler on the Roof and will be playing the role of Bat Boy in this year’s production of Bat Boy, the Musical.

Linda has directed this young man in ten of these shows and says, “It has been a joy. He is positive, humble and witty. What I love most about this person is his ability to go outside his comfort zone in order to grow as an actor. There is nothing that he will not try.” We will all miss him as he goes off to UNCG.

The recipient of this Youth Achievement Award is Parker Perry.