Palmetto HS Heads to Prestigious Thespian Festival

Miami Palmetto Senior High School’s Troupe 1298 is riding high these days. The group was selected to perform their production of the Tony award-winning smash hit musical “The Drowsy Chaperone” at the Florida State Thespian Festival in Tampa on March 21.


It’s the first time in decades a Miami-Dade Public School has been invited to perform at the Festival - the largest in the world, with more than 10,000 students participating. Further, Palmetto High School will be on the mainstage (Morsani Hall) in the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. With over 2600 seats, the theater dwarfs Broadway and the Adrienne Arsht Center in capacity and stage size. More importantly, scouts will be on hand to potentially propel the school into the national spotlight and might even take four students (Ethan Rousso, Jake Zimelman, Katherine Diez and Natalia Fernandez) closer to winning a Jimmy Award.

Gianfranco Madonia, Ethan Rousso and Katherine Diez before the show

Gianfranco Madonia, Ethan Rousso and Katherine Diez before the show

The Jimmy Awards are presented by The Broadway League Foundation and are the high school equivalent of a Tony Award. For years, Drama Teacher Robin Barson has been looking for a path for her students to be recognized at a national level. It looks as if that’s about to happen.


The cast and crew have been inspired by the concept that they are the ‘Little Engine That Could’. Barson explains, “This is an incredible honor for Miami Palmetto Senior High School, our community, and particularly for the thespians. Our students will take the same stage where touring Broadway productions perform. In addition, this special production has received nine regional nominations for the National High School Musical Theatre Awards (NHSMTA). We are enormously proud of the dedication and hard work of our talented student cast and crew.”


“With the endless number of hours and love we’ve put into this, the experience is going to be not only something we deserve but that we will cherish forever,” reflects actor Gianfranco Madonia. “Ever since the 6th grade, my dad has helped influence my decisions and to go out and give and get pleasure in Tampa and make our names know is so special. This will help me in college and is a great stepping stone to my future.”


Lead actress Katherine Diez is not only excited about the festival, but the chance to be selected for a Jimmy Award. “It would validate the hard work I’ve put into this craft since the 4th grade and even though this may not be my major, it would be a thrill to have it happen. I look forward to having a great time in Tampa with my classmates.”


 “It feels amazing and surreal to me that this is even happening. It means the world to me. We started this show about a year ago and Ms. Barson told us she wanted to take the long-shot of getting us to mainstage in Tampa. It is extraordinary that we got chosen and there are no words to describe where we are right now,” gushed lead actor Ethan Rousso. “We are getting our one shot to perform and take this opportunity as far as we can!”


Performing in Tampa involves moving lots of people, the sets and other equipment. Fundraising is underway to raise $30,000. You can support the effort by going to