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South Florida high school theater teacher to be honored at 76th Annual Tony Awards

By CBS Miami Team,


PLANTATION -- A South Florida high school theater teacher will be celebrated on Broadway's biggest night.

The Tony Awards and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) announced Wednesday that theater director and teacher Jason Zembuch Young of South Plantation High School in Plantation will receive the 2023 Excellence in Theatre Education Award.

"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, in a joint statement.

"Jason's exceptional commitment to empowering every student to make and be part of theatre has won the hearts and appreciation of his local community and now the Broadway community, as well."

The Excellence in Theatre Education Award recognizes K-12 American theater educators who have demonstrated exemplary impact on students' lives and embody the highest standards of the profession. With this award, Zembuch Young will receive $10,000 for South Plantation High School's theater program and tickets to the Tony Awards and Gala. His students will also receive a visiting Master Class taught by CMU Drama professors.

The hallmark of Zembuch Young's 20-year career as a drama teacher has been making theater accessible for all audiences. Every year, he produces two full-length mainstage productions — a play and a musical — in both voice and American Sign Language (ASL). As an advocate for the deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) population, Zembuch Young has reshaped policies to provide interpreters during and after school to teach his hearing and DHH actors and crew how to 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 theatre, everyone is better for it. Everyone deserves to have a voice," Zembuch Young said.

"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 runs a one-person, zero-budget public school theater department with upwards of 150 students participating in performances. He also runs a six-week summer-stock theater camp for elementary and middle school students with high schoolers serving as counselors and mentors.

With his South Plantation School students, Zembuch Young participates in International Thespian district and state competitions and is an eight-time South Florida CAPPIE winner for Best Play or Musical. He also annually fundraises to provide four $1,000 scholarships for graduating seniors.

Helping others doesn't stop when the school bell rings or when the curtain drops for Zembuch Young. He and his husband Michael have also fostered more than 35 abused and underprivileged children, facilitated the adoption of foster kids in his care and became an adoptive parent himself. Additionally, he offers free admission to all performances for foster families so they can experience the theater.

A panel of theater experts from the American Theatre Wing, The Broadway League and CMU selected Zembuch Young from nationwide calls for entries.

"New trails are blazed when teachers challenge paradigms in the name of art, expression and accessibility," CMU President Farnam Jahanian said.

"Jason Zembuch Young is an extraordinary educator who has used the power of theatre to profoundly impact the lives of his students. CMU is proud to present this award to Jason in recognition of his positive influence and remarkable achievements."

South Floridians can tune into the 76th Annual Tony Awards on Sunday, June 11, at 8 p.m. Eastern Time on CBS and streaming live and on demand on Paramount+.

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