Center Stage: West Orange theater student performs at Jimmy Awards

Emma Heistand, a rising senior at West Orange High School, performed on Broadway at the end of June, as a part of the Jimmy Awards.

  • By
  • | 9:45 a.m. July 13, 2016
  • Arts + Entertainment
  • Arts + Culture
  • Share

If you recently have attended a musical production at West Orange High School, you’ve seen Emma Heistand. 

During the past school year, Heistand performed as the title character in “Mary Poppins” and then as Cinderella in “Into the Woods” on West Orange’s stage.

But at the end of June, Heistand, a rising senior, could be seen performing on Broadway. 

She was representing the Orlando area at the Jimmy Awards, the national high school musical-theater awards. It was an experience she considered formative for her acting career.

“You’re performing in front of judges who are casting agents, casting directors,” she said. “We got to meet Andrew Lloyd Webber, these incredible people in the theater industry that not any normal high schooler and 17-year-old could say that they have.”


The road to New York started during the school year, when Heistand played the roles of Cinderella and Mary Poppins at West Orange High School. Adjudicators from the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts were watching. Heistand was selected as an outstanding lead performer and competed in the center’s Applause Awards. 

A male and female performer were selected to represent Orlando and the the Dr. Phillips Center for thePerforming Arts Center at the Jimmy Awards. Heistand was chosen, along with Tony Moreno, a student at Trinity Preparatory School. 

This was the first year that the Applause Awards sent students to the Jimmy Awards. 


At the Jimmy Awards, she competed as Mary Poppins. 

There, 62 students sharing a passion for theater gathered together. The weeklong intensive concluded with a showcase at the Minskoff Theatre, where “The Lion King” is on Broadway. 

The opening number was a melding of different performances from musicals like “Waitress,” “Hamilton” and “School of Rock.” The closing was from “Les Miserables.” Heistand got to participate in a production number from the musical “On Your Feet!” 

Throughout the week, the students received one-on-one attention and coaching from people who had Broadway careers. 

“It’s just amazing to be able to work with people like that and get feedback from people like that,” she said. 

Ultimately, Heistand won a special recognition scholarship for her characterization, attitude and work ethic in the “On Your Feet!” number. 


“When everyone’s in their own schools, and everyone’s in their own mindset, their own schedules, you don’t really get to take a moment to realize how big the world really is,” she said. “It was like being a small fish in a huge pond. Some of these people were just incredible — the amount of talent that was there that whole week at NYU Tisch was incredibly talented; it was just breathtaking.”

During the week, the group stayed on campus at NYU Tisch School of the Arts, which encouraged her resolve to attend college, as did Broadway performers who spoke to the students and encouraged them to attend college. 

It stuck with her when she came home. 

“It was kind of a life-altering moment to come home, let everything sink in — that I’ve had my Broadway debut — and kind of let everything settle back down and start to focus more on my academics and on my ACT and also taking more voice lessons, and just making sure that everything is going to be prepared for my senior year,” she said.

During her final year of high school, Heistand looks forward to taking what she learned to mentor other drama students at West Orange High School, just as others mentored her through her high-school career. 


Contact Jennifer Nesslar at [email protected].


Latest News