Disney Theatricals President Thomas Schumacher, Frozen star Caissie Levy, High School Musical :The Musical: The Series creator and show runner Tim Federle, The Lightning Thief composer Rob Rokicki, and more will appear at this year's Junior Theatre Festival in Atlanta, scheduled for January 17–19. Produced and hosted by iTheatrics, the weekend event brings youth groups from around the world together for a celebration of everything theatre.
Also on hand at JTF Atlanta will be Hamilton stars Nicholas Christopher and Jennifer Locke, High School Musical: The Musical: The Series stars Olivia Rodrigo and Joshua Bassett, School of Rock alums Luca Padovan and Isabella Russo, Newsies and Between the Lines director Jeff Calhoun, and Matilda alum Lotte Wakeham.
The Junior Theater Festival celebrates musical theatre and musical theatre education with a weekend of events and performances that bring Broadway and West End professionals together with educators and young students. Youth theatre companies can bring 15-minute staged selections from titles in musical licensor Music Theatre International's Broadway Junior collection for adjudication, after which students attend interactive workshops. Students interested in technical theatre can participate in the tech track, which includes the opportunity to work alongside industry professionals backstage for the festival's mainstage events.
This year's New Works Showcase will feature selections from new musicals that will soon join Music Theatre International's Broadway Junior library, including Roald Dahl's Matilda JR., Elephant & Piggie's We Are in a Play JR., The Drowsy Chaperone JR., Newsies JR., and Moana JR.
Educators, whether bringing a group of students or attending individually, have access to professional development workshops. Educators traveling with groups have the chance of being selected for the Freddie G Fellowship. Named for MTI Co-Chairman Freddie Gershon, the fellowship is bestowed annually on eight exceptional educators and includes an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City for professional development with Broadway greats and a $5,000 grant for the educator's theatre program.
Playbill will be on hand at JTF in Atlanta to present The Playbill Community Service Award. All groups attending the Junior Theater Festivals are encouraged to submit videos documenting their organization's community service projects. Up to five finalists will be highlighted on Playbill, where the public can vote on their favorite beginning January 11. The winning organization will receive a $1,000 grant to support continued charitable efforts along with a free custom Playbill from PLAYBILLder.com, our online program creation tool that allows schools and community organizations to personalize and print an authentic Broadway-quality Playbill for their production or event.
The Atlanta festival, which was first held in 2003, will host more than 6,000 attendees from 129 groups in 2020, with 31 states, Australia, New Zealand, and the U.K. all represented. JTF West, now in its fourth year, expects 2,200 attendees from 48 groups in 2020, representing 17 states and South Korea, the U.K., New Zealand, and Australia.
“It is estimated that 36 million people attend a performance of a Broadway Junior show annually in the U.S. and Canada," shares festival founder Timothy Allen McDonald. "That’s three times the number of people who attend a Broadway show each year. Because of this, our Junior Theater Festival students have become the de facto tastemakers for all things musical theater. They embraced songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul five years before Hollywood honored them with an Academy Award, and the songwriting duo introduced Ben Platt to our JTF family a year before Dear Evan Hansen opened on Broadway and won Tony awards for the three JTF alums. Our JTF fans welcomed Zac Efron at one of our first festivals, they lined up for the launch of Tim Federle’s first New York Times best-selling book here, and this January they’ll greet the creator and executive producer and stars of the Disney+ show High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. Rob Rokicki may have opened The Lighting Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical on Broadway this year, but our audience has been singing songs from the show since he first started performing them at JTF three years ago. If you want to know what’s going to be hot in musical theater in the future, ask our JTF kids. All of this is a wonderful bonus to our core objective which is to celebrate young people and their teachers, who make the world a better place one musical at a time."
Title sponsors of both festivals are Music Theatre International, Disney Theatrical Group, and Playbill.
Levy sits down with McDonald and iHeartRadio Broadway's Sarah Jane Arneggar to discuss JTF Atlanta 2020 in the new podcast Growin' Up Broadway: