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2023-06-26 Jimmy Awards_Step and Repeat-14.jpg

With Director/Producer Van Kaplan

While all eyes will be on the 96 talented performers on the Minskoff Theatre stage on June 26, one other offstage honoree has already been anounced for the 2023 Jimmy Awards.

Vanessa Lock Gelinas of Oakton High School (Vienna, Virginia) will be bestowed with the Inspiring Teacher Award, presented by Wells Fargo. She receives this honor after being chosen by a selection committee of Broadway League members as recognition of her role in providing valuable guidance and encouragement for her student, Joshua Lemons, who excelled during last year's Jimmy Awards.

We chatted with Vanessa to learn more about her teaching style and find out what makes her an inspiring teacher. 

Congratulations on this very special honor! How does it make you feel to be singled out?

Well it was a complete shock to get the email telling me about the award. I read it out loud to my husband and said, “Do you think this is a spam email?” Once I read it over a couple of times it started to sink in and I was just so touched and honored. I’ve taught theatre 19 years. This is quite a cherry on top.

What was it like watching Josh perform at last year's ceremony?

I couldn’t stop smiling. Here is a young man who I had taught and directed since he was 14. I taught his sister as well and am very close with his family. We had all gone through the awfulness of covid on-line school/theatre together - so to have this be the finale of his high school experience was just such a gift.

What kind of advice did you give him going into his Jimmy Awards experience?

Just to be a sponge and take it all in. Josh is such a thoughtful young man and an honest performer. I knew that he recognized how special this opportunity was and wouldn’t take it for granted.

What is the most fulfilling part about being a theatre teacher?  

My relationships with the students. I call them “my chickens.” I take a lot of pride in how much ownership I allow them and love watching them risk and take chances whether they are on stage or behind the scenes. They know I’m there to catch them if they need me, but they rarely do. Seeing who they become from freshman year to senior year is such an incredible journey to witness. 

Why do you think that arts education is so important?  

Very few of my students go on to work in the theatre, but when they graduate I challenge them to always keep theatre in their lives. Go to community stages. Read to your kids in character voices. Make the presentation you have to give to the client exciting to watch. Be a doctor with an incredible bedside manner. Sell that closing argument in front of the judge and jury. Always be a storyteller. We are all performers no matter what career we choose. The theatre gives you a safe space to take chances, be messy, be vulnerable, and gain confidence in yourself and your voice. It’s a magical world.

Are you excited to take the stage on the 26th?

I have a bucket list I keep on my phone. #1 is to perform on a Broadway stage. I’ll get to walk out and wave on the 26th, which is pretty amazing. But I still hope to perform one day too. #2 is to take part in a cranberry harvest. I think it would be cool to be in a flooded bog, and I love cranberries. There are 9 others, but I won’t bore you!

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