Theater dept wins Sammy

In the midst of another successful theater season, the ARHS Theater Company will be acclaimed for its successes beyond the school community.

On April 26, 2018, at 6 p.m., the Amherst Regional High School Theater Program will receive the Samuel Minot Jones Award for significant contribution to Amherst’s literary culture. The event will take place at the Mead Art Museum on the Amherst College campus.

The Samuel Minot Jones Awards for Literary Achievement, often referred to as ‘the Sammys’, is “Amherst’s signature event honoring the community’s remarkable and vibrant literary heritage,” said Sharon Sharry, director of the Jones Library and one of the founding members of the Sammys Coordinating Committee.

John Bechtold, head of the ARHS theater department, who will be accepting the award along with a “couple of theater company elders,” discovered the news while on sabbatical in Europe.

“I hadn’t had phone service for two days and I got this random email from the Jones Library congratulating me for an award that I didn’t know that we were getting,” said Mr. Bechtold. “It came out of the blue!”

Mr. Bechtold feels “excited that there was some kind of recognition from beyond the school.

I think it was a very encouraging thing to know that our work is noted and appreciated by others that are not immediately affixed with us.”

There is no doubt that the ARHS Theater Program deserves this award. When asked why the program was chosen, Sharry responded ,“a better question is, why wasn’t the Theater Program chosen sooner?”

Principal Mark Jackson noted student leadership and involvement as reasons why the department is deserving of this award.

“The ARHS Theater Program, under the direction of John Bechtold, is one of the jewels in the ARHS crown,” Mr. Jackson said. “Year after year, and multiple times a year, the programs provide hundreds of ARHS students the opportunity to immerse themselves in the world of theater.”

“They build sets, hang lights, design costumes, apply makeup, master Shakespeare and, in the process, arrive at new discoveries not just about the wonders of theater, but, more importantly, about themselves and the range of their capacities,” he added.

For all of this, the Sammy Award is “a fitting tribute,” he said.

Mr. Bechtold sees the awards as a recognition of the students at ARHS and the work they do.

“I hope it validates the quality and the type of work that we do,” Mr. Bechtold said. “I think high school theatre is often treated like high school theatre, fun, but inconsequential as far as the work itself.”

“It’s just kind of a great experience for kids. And the fact that we got an award for making a literary contribution to the community is a statement that the work itself is valid and interesting beyond the high school,” he added.