June 2020 The performing arts community has been rallying around one of its own, Carmel resident and incoming Carmel High School senior Jack Ducat, as he has been competing for the top spot in BroadwayWorld’s NEXT ON STAGE competition. Ducat, 17, has been working, creating and performing while under lockdown and pandemic protocols, all the while exercising discipline and ingenuity as he has progressed all the way to one of the competition’s top five finalists. Competing for BroadwayWorld’s NEXT ON STAGE Grand Prize The competition is sponsored by Broadway Records and is inspired by popular network TV vocal contests. College- and high school-aged students submitted their entries—videos of themselves performing songs from the musical theater canon. Ducat has been producing his videos in a rather impressive make-shift production studio from his basement. As the competition moves down to the grand prize winner, it features weekly live shows on Facebook with Broadway judges who will provide feedback and have the opportunity to move one of the contestants on to the next round by unanimous decision. Judging the college competition are Olivier Award winner Lesli Margherita, Kate Rockwell and Courtney Reed. The judges for the high school round include Jackie Burns, Arielle Jacobs and Kyle Taylor Parker. Both sets of judges are joined by a fourth guest judge each week. Both the college and high school grand prize winner will receive a Broadway prize pack with merch from the BroadwayWorld Theatre Shop, CDs from Broadway Records and $1,000 to a charity of their choosing. Both first-place winners will also have the opportunity to record a single, to be released by Broadway Records, with the profits from the recording being donated to The Actors Fund. Finding the Silver Lining Like all of his classmates, Ducat’s second semester at CHS was more than class interrupted—it was life interrupted. Rehearsals had just begun for the CHS spring musical “Into the Woods” when the lockdown went into effect as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. “When everything was shut down, we were at the beginning point of creating a new show, and creating art,” Ducat shared. “The show itself is really a beautiful show. It’s about human connections and how you make choices in your life. I think that was really poignant at the time because for me—mentally—I had to make a choice to either take this time to self-reflect on things that I’m doing and the person that I am or focus on the things that I lost . I had to get into the mindset that this wasn’t ideal, but there are things that I can gain from it.” Ducat decided to focus on doing the things he loves, playing piano, virtual dance and voice lessons and spending time with his family. And after being encouraged by a friend, he submitted an audition video to the competition that he had produced prior to the lockdown for a vocal camp this summer that was ultimately cancelled. “My friend Emily shared with me the post on Instagram, and she said I had to do this,” Ducat said. “That same day, I turned in my audition video—the song was ‘Top of the World’ from Tuck Everlasting. I didn’t expect anything to happen because there were a ton of kids who applied from all over the country. I think there were at least 150 in the first round before it got cut down to 25.” How the Support of the Carmel Community Made an Impact As the votes came in from around the country that advanced Ducat to the top 10, he said he could sense the support from his own local community, even though it came in the way of virtual means. Jack Ducat and Michael Feinstein “As the word got out, family, friends and people I’ve worked with in theater from around town supported me in my endeavors throughout this competition. It was beautiful because it’s really easy to feel alone right now because we’re all at home. This competition has been a great way to create a sense of community once again, even though it’s been all online. I still feel like I’ve had the community standing right next to me with their hands on my shoulders, lifting me up. I can feel their presence, and it means a lot to me.” Building Human Connections Ducat has become friends with his fellow competitors and has found comfort in sharing his experiences with like-minded young adults who are feeling and experiencing similar things during these unprecedented times in our nation’s history. “I’ve become friends, online, with a lot of the kids,” Ducat said. “All of these kids are amazing. For me, it’s more than a competition. It’s become an opportunity for me to do what I love and hopefully make people smile along the way. Hopefully, I can take people’s minds away from what’s going on while continuing to create a sense of community where we can support each other and lift each other up, especially in the arts right now.” The results for the top five were live on Facebook as the judges watched the performances on Thursday, June 18. Ducat made it to the top five and, at the time of publishing, is working hard to earn the votes to make him the grand prize winner. Regardless of the outcome, you have made your community very proud, Jack Ducat.