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Jimmy Baker named Oswald award winner; directs 'Once Upon a Mattress' Thurs-Sat

3/20/2012 —


St. Joseph High School Spring Production
7:00 p.m., Thurday and Friday, March 22 and 23
2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Saturday, March 24
Forum Theatre, Penn State New Kensington

James “Jimmy” Baker, a senior communications major at Penn State New Kensington, was honored March 18 with the John W. Oswald Award for Creative and Performing Arts by the Division of Student Affairs at Penn State.

The University-wide award recognizes graduating seniors who have provided outstanding leadership in creative and performing arts.  Previously, Baker earned a "Best Performer" award from the campus’ annual Academic and Student Achievement Awards ceremony.

“Jimmy is an outstanding student who contributes greatly to student life on campus,” said Director of Student Affairs Theresa Bonk, who nominated Baker for the award. “He is one of our most active student performing artists and he holds numerous leadership positions on campus.”

Since matriculating in fall 2008, Baker has been on stage for every campus production. He had the lead or the number two role in seven plays, including playing Seymour in "Little Shop of Horrors," Kenicky in “Grease,” Capt. Walton in "Frankenstein: The Musical," and Princeton in “Avenue Q.”

In addition to performing in the limelight, Baker is equally at ease behind the scenes. He made his directorial debut last year with St. Joseph High School's spring musical "Beauty and the Beast." The play earned a Gene Kelly Award for “Best Costume Design” from the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera. The play was also nominated for “Best Musical.” 

"Being an actor is one thing but directing is a whole new ball game," said Baker, a graduate of Burrell High School. "Instead of knowing just one part, you have to know the entire show, from who comes on the stage when they come on, to when set changes need to happen. You are responsible for coordinating it all."

In addition to his theatrical presence, Baker is equally at ease in campus leadership roles. He is an orientation leader, a member of the Campus Activity Board, secretary of the campus Student Activities Fee committee, student representative on the University Park Student Activities Fee board, peer adviser for the First-Year Testing Consulting and Advising Program (FTCAP), and was treasurer of the Student Government Association. Not surprising, during the summer, he helps teach drama classes in the campus' Kids in College program. To help pay tuition, Baker works part-time for the Geek Squad at Best Buy.

Baker's extracurricular activities complement his academic prowess. He was selected to the Dean's List, whose membership is reserved for students earning grade-point averages of 3.5 or higher. He expects to earn his bachelor’s degree in May, and to continue to stay active in the theatre.

Baker’s extracurricular activi¬ties complement his academic prowess. He has been selected to the Dean’s List, whose membership is reserved for stu¬dents earning grade-point averages of 3.5 or higher.

“After graduation I plan to teach high school theater and maybe a few other courses,’ said Baker, who will direct ‘Once Upon a Mattress,’ St. Joseph’s spring production.  "I would love to do more directing because I feel like you get a bigger sense of accomplishment."

“Once Upon a Mattress” opens a three-day run on Thursday, March 22 and continues through Saturday, March 24, in Penn State New Kensington’s Forum Theatre. The curtain rises at 7 p.m. for the Thursday and Friday performances and at 7:30 p.m. for the Saturday finale. A special matinee is set for 2 p.m. Saturday. For ticket information, call 724-224-5552.

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