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Our Mission

The Philadelphia Independence Awards celebrates regional high school musical theater and its student artists by providing rigorous development for existing high school theater programs, promoting diverse elements of the professional theater community, and fostering support for under-resourced school theater programs. Achieving these measures requires:

  • Recruiting professional and community theater artists, theater educators, and theater/music graduate students to provide intensive, focused, and custom feedback to directors on their productions from which they may develop their respective programs.
  • Offering free workshops to students of participating schools on a wide-range of theater opportunities, both on and off the stage.
  • Hosting an awards ceremony for the principal purpose of recognizing outstanding achievements in high school theater, thereby cultivating community, collaboration, discipline, and artistic excellence.
  • Fundraising for under-resourced school theater programs in any stage of its development.





Board of Directors


Brian Weiner


Brian Weiner, a native of Lawrenceville, NJ, began his acting career on the high school stage. During high school, he worked professionally on voice-over and commercial work. He attended Muhlenberg...


Mickey Engel

Vice-President / Webmaster

Mickey started his musical theater career as a student actor at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School performing in West Side Story and Guys and Dolls. He continued performing through college...


Stephen Tornetta


Stephen Tornetta has worked both on stage and as a costume and set designer throughout the Philadelphia area. He has earned a M.A. in Theatre from Villanova University where he...


Antoine Johnson

Director of Marketing/Publicity

Antoine Johnson hails from New York City and is the owner and operator of House of Talent PA, a Philadelphia-based talent and PR management company since 2006. Antoine, a...


Jennifer Morris Grasso

Director of Adjudicators

Jennifer Morris Grasso is an accomplished actor, choreographer, teacher, and director. A member of Actor's Equity Association for 17 years, Jen performed in Broadway National Tours such as The Will...


CJ Celeiro

Director of Schools

C.J. Celeiro was born and raised in Tampa, FL, and began performing at the age of nine. When his hobby turned into a career aspiration, he enrolled at Howard W....


Alyssa Davidson

Co-Director of Education

Ms. Davidson is the choral director and elementary school music teacher in the Jenkintown School District. She teaches general music for grades 4-6, and conducts the elementary school choirs:...


Alan Blumenthal

Co-Director of Education

Although Alan Blumenthal has a Phd in chemistry and was an electro-optics engineer for 25 years, his true passion is theatre. He was co-founder of Act II Playhouse, was...


Eileen Fields

Director of Production Management

Eileen Fields has spent the last 23 years working as a music educator in the Upper Moreland School District. She has served as an accompanist for the Pennsylvania Youth Chorale...


Aileen Lynch-McCulloch

Director of Adjudicator Training

Aileen Lynch-McCulloch (BA Theatre Mary Washington University; MA Theatre Villanova University) is a director, actor, playwright and designer who has spent over 30 years in Theatre and Education. She was...


Marissa Emerson

Director of Awards Program

Marissa Emerson is a Junior Theater Major (Acting Concentration) and Spanish Minor at Temple University. Marissa earned four Greater Philadelphia Cappie Awards from 2015 through 2017 (Outstanding 9th and 10th Grade Critic,...

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Policy

We commit to embracing policies, practices, and decision-making that lead to an environment that is welcoming and accessible to all – students, artists, audiences, and Board members.
  • We will strive to make our Board of Directors and Adjudicators reflective of the communities that we serve.
  • We seek to offer opportunities to students of underrepresented communities through our "Give a Musical" grant.
  • We aspire to hire artists inclusive of those from underrepresented communities to coach and present workshops.
  • We pledge to explicitly train adjudicators not to critique students based on a performer's identity or socioeconomic privileges.