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Triangle Rising Stars Event Celebrates Local Talent and Showcases Support for the Arts

Sterling Jones (left) and Mya Ison won Triangle Rising Stars (photo by Areon Mobasher Photography)

Sterling Jones (left) and Mya Ison won Triangle Rising Stars (photo by Areon Mobasher Photography)

Back in 2011, Durham Performing Arts Center created “Triangle Rising Stars,” a regional qualifying event that’s part of the National High School Musical Theatre Awards. As part of the event, carefully-selected high school theatre students from Central and Eastern North Carolina perform musical theatre and compete for the chance to represent DPAC in the national finals in New York City.

The culminating event- and the beginning one for two lucky and talented young winners- took place last night on the DPAC stage. The Triangle Rising Stars showcase and awards show was a spectacular and inspiring event displaying some of the finest young talent in North Carolina.

Emceed by ABC 11’s Amber Rupinta, the event kicked off with a spirited opening number featuring all 20 young finalists performing “Magic to Do” from Pippin. Complete with super-high energy, tons of color, and an assortment of many familiar-looking characters, the opening number set the bar high for a spectacular evening.

After a video that more fully-explained the Triangle Rising Stars program and a brief “welcome” from title sponsor, Marchael Bayne, it was time to enjoy solo performances from each of the contenders.

While twenty solos might seem like a lot to sit through, Director David Henderson smartly broke the performers into groups of five. Each group’s performances had a uniting theme, and sometimes the young performers even worked off of one another. While each young actor and actress sang their heart out, standout performances came from Tyler Ellis, Tara Clinkscales, Dylan Gibson, Mya Ison, Garrett Noga, Elena Holder, Sterling Jones, and Caroline Segars. The performers chose their performances from a wide range of shows, including In the Heights, The Secret Garden, Seussical, Catch Me if You Can, The Drowsy Chaperone, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Once Upon a Mattress, Beauty and the Beast, Ragtime, Annie, Thoroughly Modern Millie, and The Wedding Singer.

With the solo performances done, the female performers gave a slickly-choreographed (Freddie-Lee Heath) and funny rendition of “Cell Block Tango” from Chicago, followed by the young men in “Jet Song” from West Side Story.

Then, it was time for some awards! Best Ensemble Award went to Cary High School for its production of The Secret Garden while The Marchael Bayne Award for Best Musical Presentation went to Enloe High School for its production of Ragtime. Both award winners received $1000 each for use in future productions.

After those awards, Sterling Jones was presented with a new award for 2018- the Triangle Shining Star Award, which is given to the competitor who had the most positive attitude and interactions with others. Think of it as a theatrical “Miss Congeniality’ with a $250 shopping spree from Crabtree Valley Mall attached.

Finally, after a lovely performance of “The World Will Remember Us” from Bonnie and Clyde by last year’s winners, Nicholas Kraft and Kaylee Terrell, it was time to name the “big winners” of the evening, though it’s easy to see all these young people are winners in their own right.

2018’s Best Actor Award went to a tearful Sterling Jones, while an elated Mya Ison took home the 2018 Best Actress Award. Following the final awards, the whole cast performed a beautiful, haunting rendition of “You Will Be Found” from Dear Evan Hanson, a perfect note on which to end this lovely evening.

While the production itself was a joy to watch, what is most impressive, aside from the talent displayed onstage, is that an organization would do so much to fund the arts and make a difference in the lives of young, aspiring actors and actresses everywhere. All the work and effort that went into giving these performers the chance of a lifetime is entirely commendable.

Twenty finalists competed in Triangle Rising Stars (photo by Areon Mobasher Photography)

Twenty finalists competed in Triangle Rising Stars (photo by Areon Mobasher Photography)

TRIANGLE RISING STARS (Marchael Bayne, May 15 at the Durham Performing Arts Center in Durham).

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Susie Potter is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer and editor. She is a 2009 graduate of Raleigh’s Meredith College, where she majored in English. She holds graduate degrees in teaching and American literature from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. In addition to her work for Triangle Arts and Entertainment, she is an award-winning author of short fiction. Her works have appeared in The Colton Review, Raleigh Quarterly, Broken Plate Magazine, Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley, the Chaffey Review, and Existere. To read all of Susie Potter’s Triangle Arts and Entertainment articles and reviews, click To read more of her writings, click,, and

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Categorised in: A&E Theatre Reviews, Lead Story, Reviews