Return to Headlines

Tonawanda junior’s dedication to theatre earns her Kenny Award

Emily Kuhn

TONAWANDA (May 17, 2018) – Emily Kuhn began to cry when she heard the first syllable of her name.

In that moment, she became an award-winning actress – and she still has another year of high school left.

Emily represented the Tonawanda City School District during the Western New York Kenny Awards’ landmark 25th anniversary at Shea’s Performing Arts Center in Buffalo this month. She was nominated for Outstanding Actress in a Leading Role for her role as Lucy Harris in the high school staging of the dark musical “Jekyll & Hyde.”

“I realized when they said my name that this was an important point in my life,” the junior stated. “I realized if I can make it this far, I can make it anywhere.”

The Kenny Awards, presented by Shea’s and the Lipke Foundation, recognizes the talent, dedication and efforts of local high school youth in theatre programs.

Emily began her life in theatre by trying out for “Cinderella” in eighth grade and landing the lead role. She pointed out she didn’t know what to expect, but she realized the stage was a place she loved to be.

“The support from the directors really got me into it,” she said. “They showed us we have potential.”

With only a few years in theatre under her belt, Emily already boasts a number of musical performances, including the title role in “Peter Pan” and Elle Woods in “Legally Blonde” her freshman year; Fiona in “Shrek” and Cinderella in “Into the Woods” her sophomore year; and, of course, Lucy Harris in “Jekyll & Hyde” and Brittany Marie in the play “You Can’t Beat the House” her junior year.

As part of her Kenny award, Emily will be able to compete in the national Jimmy Awards for the title of Best Actress. She will also have the opportunity to test out the Broadway waters as part of a series of workshops in New York City, with all expenses paid. The trip takes place June 18-26.

“All the info I learn will help me in college,” Emily noted. “I’m excited to meet new people and make Broadway connections.”

“I’m very proud of Emily's accomplishments and I’m so excited for her to have this amazing opportunity,” said Amanda Urbaniak, Emily’s choral teacher at Tonawanda High School. “She's a young lady who's been blessed with natural talent, but she also had to put a lot of hard work in throughout the entire process. She stretched and pushed herself as a performer and as a vocalist to portray this difficult role. She truly shines onstage; it's where she belongs, and I'm certain she has a bright future ahead of her.”

“I could not be more proud of and excited for Emily,” added Daniel Lynch, Tonawanda art teacher and theatre producer. “Emily has grown so much in the Tonawanda theatre program. To see her evolve from Cinderella in eighth grade to Lucy Harris in 11th grade has been amazing. She has worked so hard and is truly deserving of this recognition. There’s no doubt in my mind we’ll see her name on a Broadway marquee someday.”

One of the features of theatre that Emily enjoys so much is being able to play a different person on stage with a new way of talking, a new demeanor and a new personality apart from her own.

“And when the applause fills the auditorium, it’s a really good feeling to know you’re doing something right,” she added.

After her senior year of high school, Emily plans to get her Bachelor of Fine Arts, majoring in musical theatre and minoring in interior design.

Emily pointed out she could not have won her award without Mr. Lynch and Mrs. Urbaniak as her mentors, teaching her and helping her through the paperwork and the process. She added the cast and crew for “Jekyll & Hyde” were phenomenal and leaned on each other for support. Fellow cast member Benjamin Thurston, who played Jekyll and Hyde, was extremely dedicated and a great partner, Emily mentioned.

Tonawanda’s “Jekyll & Hyde” was also nominated for Kennys for Outstanding Technical Design, Outstanding Scenic Design, Outstanding Dramatic Performance and Outstanding Actor in a Leading Role (for Benjamin’s role as Jekyll and Hyde).

“Jekyll & Hyde” fleshes out an epic struggle between good and evil. It is based on the classic story by Robert Louis Stevenson and features a thrilling score of pop rock hits from multi-Grammy- and Tony-nominated Frank Wildhorn and double-Oscar- and Grammy-winning Leslie Bricusse.

An evocative tale of two men – one, a doctor, passionate and romantic; the other, a terrifying madman – and two women – one, beautiful and trusting; the other, beautiful and trusting only herself – both women in love with the same man and both unaware of his dark secret. A devoted man of science, Dr. Henry Jekyll is driven to find a chemical breakthrough that can solve some of mankind's most challenging medical dilemmas. Rebuffed by the powers that be, he decides to make himself the subject of his own experimental treatments, accidentally unleashing his inner demons along with the man that the world would come to know as Mr. Hyde.

Emily Kuhn performing

Emily Kuhn performing

Emily Kuhn performing