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TAG! (Tiger Actors Guild) has given an award to its outstanding senior actors/actresses since its inception in 2005. Below is a listing of our past award winners and their reflections of each one's individual experience. Our students' comments were part of a display during our last production in March -- "Annie Get Your Gun".

  • 2013: Li'L ABNER

    Dexter Ehrenzeller:
    To me tag was a group of my closest friends. Much like a sports team we practice for the performance. But in tag there is much more interaction and a lot more hilarious situations. Because of the constant communication in acting I formed some of my best friends. The atmosphere that TAG! sets up is very supportive and I know my TAG! friends would do anything for me. Tag was a place for me to have fun while honing my speech skills. Having a group of supportive friends is the best way to grow.

    Brooke Maneval:
    What TAG! meant to me: To me TAG! meant opportunity. Opportunity to step out of my comfort zone, form a lot of new friendships, and learn a lot of valuable life lessons. TAG! has helped me become a better public speaker and has given me more self-confidence. It has also shown me the importance of working together. One person can not do it all! TAG! takes a lot of work and dedication but in the end it is very rewarding!

  • 2012: Seven Brides For Seven Brothers

    Jarrod Goss:
    For me, TAG was a (the!) gateway to the wonderful and mysterious world of the theatre stage. Though, I had had previous stage training, this was the first step beyond the acting basic; TAG that trying period, the enmeshing of hobby and practice. I'd never thought myself a performer, but TAG showed me through the years of productions the inescapable allure: sea of enthused eyes just watching, heat of the lights and smell of the make-up all mixed in with that general buzz of anxiousness, the thunderous roar of applause when all is said and done. Though a breath, TAG was a new and refreshing one, tapping the inner strengths a timid freshman never thought he could ever have. And it set in me a kind of wanting which pushed me to pursue theatre in college; without it, I'd surely be a little less whole. I've had some of the best times and most cherished memories when in the theatre at East Juniata; I loved the sense of an unspoken bond, one when you'd see a fellow cast member and you'd smirk when the latest inside-joke came up in you both, or discussing the event of the evening prior, wearing that proud and dumpy smile when you'd all walk the hallways wearing the production shirt, laughing and marveling over current and past productions.

    That being said, TAG gave to me an invaluable skill set, both in the stage and in the myriad extra-extra curricular opportunities offered by probably my favorite director so far. Just as the collegiate level does not suffice with mediocrity, neither does TAG. To anyone flirting with the idea of theatre in college, TAG is the biggest leg-up, it's a more real representation/preparation for the broader world of acting. I'm still using what I've learned in TAG and am more well-rounded in the nit-picky technical terms that the stage-rats use.

    But, more importantly than all that, TAG was friendship and fraternity; on the stage you learn to project chemistry, backstage you have to have real chemistry. The long hours and heavy stress sour everyone's disposition, but the solid basis of friendship and networks of trust, enshrouded under a blanket of the common goal, pervades through that. Yes, people may get snappish, but you've learned the core value within them, noting them for the person, not the mask. In effect, people, though they may wear Thalia or Melpomene there exists a person beneath it. The closeness of the stage affords one the opportunity to see the beauty in everyone beneath that mask. Ironically, people are the most true on stage and backstage, both to themselves and others.

    There is a magic in the theatre, an unconquerable mystical force which I've never been happier to take on, to use, to experience; this is what TAG meant to me. Had it not been for best times in TAG, I wouldn't be doing the same thing in W&B. So, I thank you everyone from my past and those who've stuck with it, for showing me the best of all possible hobbies, the best of all possible times. Thank you, TAG. Thank you, Penny, Mr. Ritzman, and all my fellow thespians. You're the best. I wish for the same boon I've been blessed for everyone and anyone who's willing to give theatre a try at little-ol' E.J.

    You won't regret it, not even for a moment.

    Jayme Martin:
    Participating in TAG! made me who I am today. It helped me better myself in so many ways, learn an excellent skill set, and create memories that I will cherish forever. TAG! isn't a club or team or gang nor anything of the sort, it is a family. With TAG! you will create friendships that will last you forever.

    I found my passion with acting and the stage with joining TAG! I like the closeness of a theatre society, which is a family and how they always have your back. It's the reason I am now a Technical Theatre & Design Major with a minor in performance. Penny helped us learn so many things including projecting which is a valuable skill that I have used on many occasions and actually gave me great job opportunities. I loved being involved, it's something I looked forward to every year. You don't have games every week or anything of the such, you have a few big performances, but it's worth it. When you see the crowd's faces light up because they love what you all created, it's the best feeling in the world. I will never forget being a part of TAG!

    Karis Ritzman:
    Above all else, I can’t even begin to express how magical TAG! truly is. There are tragically few organizations in a high school that accept all, and far, far fewer where the participants are just as open. In TAG! there was always a sense of kinship that couldn’t be found anywhere else. Students from every corner of the school were placed in the same environment, growing to know each other and become friends with others who they never would have talked to in a different circumstance.

    In TAG!, you could be yourself and not be afraid, simply because no matter how insecure we felt, we knew we were “one cast,” and that one cast stuck together. People who were once strangers were now learning about each other and realizing that their differences weren’t nearly as prominent as they’d thought. Secrets were being shared with new confidants who, despite only familiarizing themselves with us for a short period of time, proved to be loyal friends. And when a play was over and we each retreated back to our regular groups, that same trust was there.

    When our old friends looked at our new friends and asked what we were doing spending time with them, we didn’t need to explain a thing. That unity never goes away, and though we each separate and attempt to aspire to something great, though I haven’t seen my old TAG! members in far too long, I know we are more than one cast. We are one family, and that family will always stand together.


    Andrea Jones:
    When you're a little seventh grader, with no friends and no connection, you have an infinite amount of possibilities. All the many directions your life could take! You try out for soccer, you join the band, you hang with the nerds, and you audition for the musical.

    Suddenly, you're in a whirlwind: talent, friends, memories, emotion, passion. You laugh at yourself at practice; you beat yourself up at the performance. You're so nervous you want to vomit and so exhilarated by the roar of the audience's laughter. And you know that this--the stage, the lights, the audience, the thrill--is where you belong.

    But really, TAG isn't about finding yourself. It's about the people you'll remember the rest of your life. The quiet one that shocks the whole crowd with their humor; the cocky one that turns out to be a sweetheart; the mom; the little sister; the kid whose name you can never remember; the talented beauty you will always compare yourself to.

    All these people meet during this in-between stage of life, and while their meetings will grow fewer over the years, their influence is never ever forgotten.

    Brittany Fortenbaugh:


    Jeffrey Germak:
    It is said at East Juniata that you should not be able to graduate until you know every mathematical sign that is in Mr. Hart’s room. Although I do agree with this opinion, I also believe that you should not be able to graduate until you hear the words “Back It Up!” TAG offers an absolutely amazing opportunity and experience for any student coming from any grade level and any background. For TAG is practically the only activity at East Juniata that could join together the president of the Student Council with the captain of the cheerleading squad… a multi-record holding track athlete with a germophobe obsessed with Germ-X… and an extreme band geek who plays multiple instruments with a clumsy individual who is constantly breaking things (we all know who that is).

    Performing with such a diverse and hilarious cast of each production has truly prepared us for our futures. For Penny and Mark Ritzman have allowed us to understand not only others of different backgrounds, but also ourselves for who we truly are. We have been able to open ourselves up and learn exceptionally important talents and strengths through singing, dancing, and acting. I strongly urge any student to participate in theater at East Juniata. If you are willing to put your time and effort into it, you will learn and grow so much.

    I was extremely fortunate by being able to act, write, and student-direct for TAG during my five years at East Juniata. With the help and guidance of Penny and Mark Ritzman, I was able to participate in ten productions that were some of the greatest moments of my high school career. These wonderful memories that were made are some that I will truly never forget.

    Kelsey Martin:
    At my time here at East Juniata High School I found my love of the stage. I feel that groups like TAG! help students express themselves in other ways and get in touch with people from different social groups. I was able to make life long friendships in doing theater that I have kept in touch with after my high school years. TAG! also has helped me with public speaking and growing my confidence as an individual. If it wasn’t for the dedication of both Penny and Mark Ritzman I would have never got involved in acting and theater. As a senior in college now, I have continued to build on the knowledge and skill that I have gained throughout my years in TAG. I have been able to meet very creative people and learn a lot that will help me outside of theater. Theater is still a big part of my life as it was in high school and I feel strongly that everyone should give it a try. You may find that you enjoy it!

  • 2009: SOUND OF MUSIC

    Drew Ciecierski:
    One would assume that putting so many people from so many different walks of life into a small area and telling them to be dramatic would result in a cataclysmic meltdown. At times it nearly did, but when it was all said and done we were left with an unrivaled sense of accomplishment. I grew so much as a human being in T.A.G. that I can't even begin to describe it.

    I said during my senior year that my greatest regret of my high school career was waiting until my Sophomore year to join T.A.G. That holds true to this day. I participated in multiple sports and other events over my career at E.J. but none of them left me with as many valuable lessons in humility and self-esteem as T.A.G. did. T.A.G. isn't only important as a drama organization but is also important in a very humanistic respect. It offered to us two fantastic and remarkable role models: Penny and Mark Ritzman. Rarely does a day go by that I don't use the abilities I honed in T.A.G. or lessons I learned from the Ritzmans in every day life.

    If you're reading this now and you have young children, I beseech you to encourage your children to participate in T.A.G. and learn from the Ritzmans as I did. It is a facet for excess emotion and stress, superior to all others. It's for this reason that I can never thank Penny, Mark, and the rest of the members of T.A.G. enough for giving me my second family and giving me a place to fit in.

    Kaylin Martin:
    TAG! was my favorite part of high school. Not only did I make life long memories, but I also learned invaluable skills in public speaking and acting in general that have allowed me to continue theatre in a college setting. TAG! is a wonderfully unique program that can incorporate a wide range of students, from athletes to singers, to even computer techies-- everyone's skills and talents can be used to make a remarkable prodution. I will never forget the feeling of the last bow at curtain call with the entire cast, that feeling of accomplishment mingled with the sadness that comes at the end of something great. That's what being a member of TAG! meant to me--being part of something great.

  • 2008: WIZARD OF OZ

    Quentin Reinford:
    Being in TAG!: It was an experience in my life that helped me realize a little more about myself. It made me uncomfortable and nervous and through that I gained confidence to be more bold. It was also great because of the people I met and got to know. During rehearsals you feel like a family. Being in TAG! is something I will never forget.

    Sarah Brotzman:
    "Back It Up!" These are the three words that come to my mind every time I think Penny and my 6 years in TAG. I had the privilege to be in TAG its founding year. I was able to learn how to be more willing to improv on demand. Penny always let me try new things as well. I not only was on the stage performing, I also got to experience working with the lights (climbing in the catwalks), prompting, student directing, as well as building, painting and moving the sets. TAG was a way to do three things that I love – Sing, Act, and Dance – all at the same time, and for hundreds of people to see. TAG became a family, and became so close to my heart that when it was my turn to be the lead in my Senior musical the last night my heart broke. As I took my final bow my 6 years of TAG all flashed before my eyes. To this day I continue to look back and remember the memories that all revolve around TAG.

    Penny – Thank you for giving me the opportunity to experience all of these memories!

  • 2007: BYE BYE BIRDIE

    Chesley Chubb:
    What TAG meant to me: I guess at the time i didn't really think of TAG as something that would affect me even until today, years after I have graduated. TAG brought me together with most of my closest friends over my high school years, created many great memories, and most importantly, it gave me a sense of drive and passion to complete almost anything that I continue to apply to my life today.

    -back it up-

    Lindsey Swartz:
    I believe if any student out there gets a chance, they should definitely become a part of TAG. TAG has changed who I am for the better. During the theatre productions TAG would have, I remember always having a family both on-stage and off-stage. There is so much work that goes into preparing a production, and I believe that TAG made me a hard worker. Unless you have been in TAG, you could not fathom how much work goes into a theatre production. TAG not only worked hard, but also played hard. If anybody is questioning whether they should sign up for TAG, I would tell them to go for it. I am very thankful for being given the chance to even join TAG. When I look back, my best memories consisted of TAG and I am sure that others who were involved with TAG would agree. I love and miss every moment.


    TJ Breya:
    My participation in TAG not only allowed me to forge friendships with wonderful and talented people, but helped me discover who I am as a person. Furthermore, the values that were instilled in me [discipline, cooperation, patience, and memorizing a massive amount of information in a short period of time] have aided me in my academic career.

    Kestrel Wolgemuth:
    We are not rich. We are not famous. We are not, by standard definitions, notable. We are a bunch of artsy kids who live in the middle of nowhere but, with the support and encouragement of our community, take it upon ourselves to create something out of nothing. And sometimes we just order pizza and laugh about what happened in English class.

    Many of my fondest memories of high school revolve around TAG and the people who dedicated their time and energy to fostering our endeavors. TAG was my refuge. An oasis where students were encouraged to live life off-the-cuff. I learned how to personify words and build forts out of printer-paper boxes. And sometimes there was pizza.

    The special thing about TAG productions is how honestly they are produced. There's no room in the East Juniata Auditorium for pretense. I was able to take that honesty with me when I left EJ and it's served me well throughout my college career. I owe a lot to the hours spent after school with my friends and mentors. Thanks for everything. And break a leg!

  • 2005: BRIGADOON

    Joshua Lucas:
    I'd say that TAG! was influential to me because it was my creative outlet, and gave me a chance to put every ounce of energy into something productive and rewarding. And to not completely sound like a stiff, mass-produced answer, TAG! was just fun. Period.

    Rachael Diffenderfer:
    TAG for me meant being able to be myself. It helped me break out of my shell little by little. TAG and theater also became like a second family. And there is nothing like being backstage opening night. TAG also gave the opportunity to be creative and little did I know that it would prepare to me lead the improv group at my college. TAG will always hold a special place in my heart.

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