Founded in 2003, the Junior Theatre Festival is the largest of its kind in the world and attracts over 2,000 students from across the U.S. who gather to participate in workshops and lectures, as well as perform highlights from their respective productions. The Junior Theatre Festival runs Jan. 14-16.
Over 50 schools are represented in the festival, which is sponsored by Music Theatre International and Disney Theatrical Productions and is produced by Atlanta's Theater of the Stars and New York City based iTheatrics, which helps develop stage works for young people.
Various student groups are also honored with the "Freddie G Awards," which recognize achievements in teamwork and production excellence. The awards were named for MTI CEO Freddie Gershon.
Tony Award winner and Disney Theatrical Group president Tom Schumacher will deliver the keynote speech and Grammy-winning songwriter and producer Bryan-Michael Cox will participate in a Q&A with teachers and students.
Also on hand will be original A Chorus Line cast member and revival director Baayork Lee; Tony Award-nominated Fences director Kenny Leon; Tony Award-winning lighting designer Ken Billington (The Scottsboro Boys); choreographer Maddie Kelly (Taboo); sound designer Matt Kraus (Liza at the Palace); actor Stephen Eng (Pacific Overtures); O'Neill Theatre Center Juniors Program head Brad Simmons; SpotCo marketing director Nick Pramik; and wardrobe specialist Jay Woods. "There have been over 50,000 separate grade school productions in the U.S.A. and the thousands of students at the Junior Theater Festivals show the world why experiential learning through musical theatre is so important," Gershon said in a statement. "The experience of being part of a show allows our young people to become valuable members of society by learning life skills like working together, problem solving, public performance and utilizing their imagination and creativity as a team. It also lets them build a life-long appreciation for one of America's unique art forms, musical theatre."
In addition to her achievements as the composer of Broadway's Shrek; Caroline, or Change and Thoroughly Modern Millie; Tesori has also composed music for Disney's "Mulan II," "Lilo and Stitch II" and "Emperor’s New Groove II." She is also a main producer for the educational music group SBG, which brings global, classic and rock music curriculum to schools across the nation. Tesori's Thoroughly Modern Millie has also been adapted as part of the Broadway Jr. series.