By Meladi Brewer
VERSAILLES — Two Versailles High School students are making their way to Broadway.
“Every theater kid dreams of being on Broadway. It’s the top of the top. You can’t go any higher in the theater world,” Linsey Ausborn said.
When Isabel Rawlins learned she and her best friend Zach Ahrens had been nominated for The Jimmy Awards, that is exactly how she described it felt. Like a dream.
“My first reaction was complete shock. I was in denial, I didn’t believe it,” Rawlins said. “I honestly had to pinch myself. Stuff like this happens in movies, so to be embarking on a life long dream felt out of reach.
Ahrens and Rawlins have been named the Miami Valley High Theater Awards Jimmy Nominees. The Awards will be held at the Minskoff Theater on Broadway on June 27. Not only will they be representing the Miami Valley in NYC, but they will also be representing Versailles High School Musical Theater.
“Being nominated was so surreal,” Rawlins said. “It felt like a dream and the fact that I am going with one of my best friends was hard to wrap my mind around, but I am so grateful and excited.”
The National High School Musical Theater Awards, more commonly known as the Jimmy Awards, are awards given annually to recognize musical theater performances by high school students in the United States. There are two main awards given each year: Best Performance by an Actress and Best Performance by an Actor.
Both rising seniors have been involved with theater from a young age. Ahrens has been in theater for nine years, starting in community theater and working his way up to High School Productions, and Rawlins has been involved from the young age of seven.
Versailles Musical Director Robin Brown, can attest to Rawlins’ musical upbringing as she has been a director for 32 year, and started directing at Versailles High School 12 years ago. She personally got to witness both students grow up on the stage.
“They have definitely grown up on stage,” Brown said. “Isabel comes from a theatrical family. I acted on stage with her mom when she was barely out of high school, and her dad is also very involved in theater, bands, and many other aspects of the performing arts.
She continues on to say before Isabel performed in a high school musical, she was backstage, helping, with a headset on, moving set pieces.
“I have always been a performer and always will be,” Rawlins said.
The first time Brown made a connection with Ahrens on stage was when he auditioned for Towne & Country Players production of Oliver in 2018. Brown was looking for the perfect “Artful Dodger”, and when he entered the room to sing his audition song, her head popped up with the very first note. He ended up getting the part.
Ausborn, daughter of Brown, has grown up helping her mom direct, choreograph, and even acted herself. She had the opportunity to work with both Rawlins and Ahrens on the stage as well, stating it was evident, both Rawlins and Ahrens have a special gift.
“We have been able to watch them grow up on the Versailles stage and have seen first hand how much time and energy they put into every role,” Ausborn said. “They know what hard work is and seeing all their years of hard work paying off in such a huge way is so exciting and inspiring.”
“Both kids have grown so much over their high school career and have become very accomplished on the stage. Isabel has such strong comedic timing and theatrical sense when performing and Zach just lights up the stage with his body language and smile,” Brown added.
In an interview with Good Day Dayton, Rawlins spoke out about how the two were selected for the program.
“We were first selected by the Miami Valley High School Theater Awards. They have adjudicators come out to people’s shows and give scores and feedback,” Rawlins said.
If the actors receive high enough scores, they are then able to go to a workshop for more personalized feedback. From there, individuals are selected for the opportunity to go to The Jimmy Awards in New York City.
Ahrens stated he expects to learn a lot as there are going to be professionals there whom he is excited to work with. Rawlins too is excited to be able to work with professionals, as she always knew performing was something she just could never stop.
“I am most excited for the growth I will make not only as a performer but as a person. Right now I’m at a point in my life where growth is a fundamental step, and I am beyond excited I get to take that step with some of the most talented and open hearted people in the industry,” Rawlins said.
Ausborn is excited and blessed she is able to accompany Ahrens and Rawlins by traveling to New York to support them in person.
“Being there to watch them live out this dream and perform on Broadway is an absolute joy. When that curtain goes up and we see them standing on the Broadway Stage… just thinking about it brings tears to my eyes,” Ausborn said. “We will be watching dreams come true right in front of our eyes.”
For those who would like to watch LIVE as these students’ dreams come true, there will be a streaming party at the Versailles Schools Monday, June 27 at 7:30 p.m. Doors will open at 7. Concessions will be provided, but families are welcome to bring their own school friendly snacks.
To contact Daily Advocate Reporter Meladi Brewer, email [email protected]