Providing advocacy & resources for the field of theatre for young audiences.

The Harold Oaks National TYA Awards

The Harold Oaks National TYA Awards acknowledge the innovative contributions of individuals and organizations in the Theatre for Young Audiences field in the US.  Innovation, for the purposes of this award, is meant to include the introduction of new frameworks, ideas, aesthetics, and processes that have advanced the field. 

In 2018, we present the awards at New Visions/New Voices at the Kennedy Center (April 27-29, 2018).

Nominations will be accepted beginning in January 2018. Stay tuned for more information.

Read the 2017 Press Release!


Recipient History


Organization: Stages Theatre Company

Individual: Janet Stanford, Imagination Stage 

Presented at One Theatre World 2017, The Strand Theater, San Francisco, California, May 4, 2017.

Read the 2017 Press Release!


Organization: Children’s Theatre of Charlotte, Charlotte, North Carolina

Individual: Megan Alrutz, University of Texas Austin

Special Awards: Linda Hartzell (Seattle Children’s Theatre) and David Saar (Childsplay) in celebration of their contributions to the field as they retire from their Artistic Directorships of their respective companies.

Presented at OTW: Sessions, The Kennedy Center, Washington, DC, May 6, 2016

Suzan Zeder Presents Linda Hartzell & David Saar the Harold Oaks Awards

“Homage to Linda and David in the style of HAMILTON” by Suzan Zeder

        How did a lanky, Yankee, son of a preacher
        And a spunky, funky, actress and drama teacher
        Become the undisputed, highly reputed, leaders of the field
        In TYA /USA/ today?

        They had a vision, came to a decision
        That a lot of children’s theatre was a bore
        It could be more, so much more
        Than it had ever been before, just to get it up to par
        And you know just who they are….
                Linda Hartzell
                David Saar

        They were self-starters, worked harder
        Were smarter than they knew
        They started small, after all, doing all that they could do
        David in a van, and Linda in the zoo!
        Over many, many years, they built luminous careers
        Gaining staff and volunteers, and the respect of all their peers
        With their talents and abilities
        They built multi-million buck facilities
        Yes, they have come so very far….
                Linda Hartzell
                David Saar

        They were trail blazing, simply amazing
        With an obsession for professional expression
        and artistic parity…A rarity not just based on popularity
        But quality, over frivolity/
        And the plays that they commissioned exemplified their mission
        Never pandered, never slandered,
        And they set a whole new standard
        Finding the neat spot, the sweet spot, not the elite spot
        Between box office surly and artistic purity
        Oh, yes, they really raised the bar
                        Linda Hartzell
                        David Saar

        But it wasn’t easy, feeling queasy, trying to hold it all together on a tether
        Weathering boards and budgets, trying never to begrudged it.
        Keeping colleagues, cutting losses and defectors
        and managing directors
        Fighting financial recession and depression
        Sometimes it wasn’t easy, sometimes it was sad
        But we are all so very glad
        That they cheered and persevered, even when things got bizarre
        Yes, you know who they are
                        Linda Hartzell
                        David Saar

        Now they say that they’re retired
        They haven’t vanished or expired
        They’re still directing and connecting, at the theaters they made great
        And I do not overstate, when I say that every adult and every kid
        And even critics, God forbid, will remember them not for what they did, but who they are!
                Linda Hartzell,
                 David Saar.


Organization: Adventure Theatre MTC, Glen Echo, Maryland

Individual: Gayle Sergel, Dramatic Publishing

Presented at One Theatre World, The Palmer House, Chicago, Illinois, May 7, 2015

Sarah Brunow accepts the award for Adventure Theatre MTC.

Roger Bedard presents the award to Gayle Sergel. Photos by Johnny Knight Photo.


Organization: Metro Theatre Company, St. Louis, Missouri

Individual: Scot Copeland, Nashville Children’s Theatre

Presented at OTW: Sessions, The Kennedy Center, May 16, 2014


Organization: People’s Light & Theatre Company, Malvern, Pennsylvania

Individual: Joette Pelster, The Coterie, Kansas City, Missouri

Presented at One Theatre World, Cleveland, May 2013.

About Harold Oaks

Harold Oaks was President of ASSITEJ International (1999-2002); President of ASSITEJ/USA (1988-1995); President, The American Alliance for Theatre and Education (1987-88); and has been an officer of the National Association of Schools of Theatre; The American Theatre Association and The Children’s Theatre Association of America.

Dr. Oaks is an emeritus Professor of Theatre at Brigham Young University where he was Associate Dean of the College of Fine Arts & Communications and Coordinator of the Drama/Theatre for Young People program.  He chaired the BYU Department of Theatre & Film for twelve years. He has also taught and directed at colleges and universities in Minnesota, Maryland, Nebraska and Colorado.

He has directed more than forty-five plays, including performances at festivals in the US, Norway, Austria, and the former Yugoslavia. He has written over one hundred articles, reviews and publications and edited Outstanding Plays for Young Audiences International Bibliography, Volumes 2-6. He was also founding editor of ASSITEJ International Hot Line with circulation to seventy-two international centers, five times a year.

He continues to serve young people throughout the world creating puppet shows that teach about substance abuse and hygiene. They have been translated into over seventeen languages and used in over twenty-five countries.

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