Danny Awards: CUSD’s top drama students claim big night on the red carpet

A pair of Clovis Unified drama students get ready to walk the red carpet into Mercedes Edwards Theatre for the 47th Annual Danny Awards, May 15, 2018. (Courtesy of Ron Webb/CUSD)

Visual and Performing Arts students from all five Clovis Unified high schools gathered in fancy attire as they walked the red carpet into Mercedes Edwards Theatre while friends and family cheered during the 47th Annual Danny Awards on May 15.

The annual Hollywood-style gala awards show celebrates the district’s most talented actors and actresses who performed in plays and musicals this school year.

“They are the ‘cream of the crop’ across the board at all schools,” said Joel Abels, a drama resource teacher at Clovis Unified and producer of the event. “They are really exceptional kids with good hearts.”

The awards are named after local theater icon Dan Pessano, who was one of Clovis Unified’s early drama teachers before moving on to run Good Company Players and Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater.

CUSD spokeswoman Kelly Avants said Pessano started the tradition by handing the awards to his students at Clovis High. Although it was a very casual, small venue, in-house thing, it definitely grew over time.

“Our theater students work extraordinarily hard at their craft, and the Dannys are our chance as a school district to illustrate that we recognize their hard work and appreciate it,” Avants said. “It also gives our high schools a chance to come together and support each other’s programs.” 

The Danny Awards – originally celebrated amongst two schools – is now a district wide event including all five high schools within Clovis Unified. Each school puts on two shows for a total of 10 plays throughout the entire district. Nominees are seen and judged by local professionals in the industry in both a musical and non-musical production.  

“The standard has always been set high for our visual and performing arts programs, and each year our amazing teachers/directors come up with new ways to set that standard higher,” said Avants. “For example, this year our district theater teachers advocated for an investment in a flying rig for Mercedes Edwards Theatre. So, not only can student actors learn how to use this professional theater tool, but so can our tech theater students – many of whom go onto to work behind the scenes in the entertainment industry.”

2018 Danny Awards winners

Best Actor: Bryant Howard, as Lloyd Dallas in “Noises Off”

Best Actress: Grace Pennell, as Dotty Otley in “Noises Off” and Serena Myers, as Tansy McGinnis in “The Nerd”

Best Featured Actor: Isaac Gudino, as Warnock Waldgrave in “The Nerd”

Best Featured Actress: Khadija Ahmed, as Maria in “Lend Me A Tenor”

Best Supporting Actor: Luke Colvard, as Rick Steadman in “The Nerd”

Best Supporting Actress: Autumn Anderson, as Clelia Waldgrave in “The Nerd”

Best Actor – Musical: Erik Olson, as Bert in “Mary Poppins”

Best Actress – Musical: Ellen Hauxhurst & Mikayla Rockwell, as Mary Poppins in “Mary Poppins”

Best Featured Actor – Musical: Michael Judge Ferrer, as Piraguero-Piragua Guy in “In the Heights”

Best Featured Actress – Musical: Erika Balakid, as Daniela in “In the Heights”

Best Supporting Actor – Musical: Luke Colvard, as Harry MacAfee in “Bye Bye Birdie”

Best Supporting Actress – Musical: Sydney Ennis, as Winifred Banks in “Mary Poppins”

Directors Awards winners (2 from each school, chosen by the drama teacher)

  • Kay Ferry
  • Kristin Macom
  • Sunshine De Castro
  • Abigail Nicholson
  • Emelia Cameron
  • Kyra Smith
  • Cameron Barger
  • Kamryn Hemaidan
  • Caitlin Mosesian
  • Caleb Arizmendez

Technical Achievement Awards winners (2 from each theater, chosen by staff at each facility – PAC and MET)

  • Matthew Barile
  • Anyssa Chua
  • Kay Ferry
  • Ismael Serrano

Outstanding Contribution to CUSD Drama: Dave Berardi

Student Choice Awards (awarded to the straight play and musical that gets highest number of votes from those drama students who have seen every one throughout the year):

Student Choice Best Musical: “Mary Poppins” – Clovis North

Student Choice Best Play: “Noises Off” – Buchanan High

2018 Danny Awards Lifetime M.V.P.: Dennis Runge (recently retired, longtime MET employee)