More than 6,500 theatre students and educators will head to Atlanta for the 2018 Junior Theater Festival, which takes place January 12–14. The event, which is the largest of its kind, unites young theatre lovers for a weekend of performances, workshops, and special events with Broadway guest stars.
Smash star Megan Hilty will headline the festival with a special concert, while Stephen Schwartz, the composer-lyricist of Wicked, Pippin, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, will be on hand to introduce a new student edition of his biblical musical Children of Eden during the New Works Showcase. Also highlighted during the performance will be Disney’s Aladdin JR, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang JR.
JTF will also honor Grammy- and Oscar-winning songwriter Paul Williams with the Junior Theater Festival Legacy Award. Williams, who wrote such hits as “Evergreen” and “We’ve Only Just Begun,” also authored the popular licensing title Bugsy Malone, as well as The Muppet Movie and its classic song “Rainbow Connection.” The JTF Legacy Award is presented annually to “individuals whose vision and artistry have shaped the minds and hearts of educational musical theatre students and audiences all around the globe.” Past recipients include Alan Menken, Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, Jeanine Tesori, and Stephen Schwartz.
“We want to make sure that all young people have the same access to musicals as they do to youth sports programs, because being part of a show is the ultimate, all-inclusive team sport. Theater allows students to gain life skills, including collaboration, team-building, and problem-solving. Furthermore, musicals introduce and draw in young people to the five pillars of the arts—music, language, dance, visual arts, and the digital arts—all in one experience,” said Timothy Allen McDonald, Founder and CEO of iTheatrics and the Junior Theater Group in a statement. “When the Junior Theater Festival was founded in 2003, the intent was to create a World Series-like experience for theater. And, just like many Little League members go on to continue to participate in sports for the rest of their lives, the educational musical theater movement and its Junior Theater Festival are creating the audiences of tomorrow today.”
The Junior Theater Festival is sponsored by iTheatrics, along with Music Theatre International (MTI), Disney Theatrical Group, and Playbill, Inc.
Playbill will again present The Playbill Community Service Award. All groups attending the iTheatrics Junior Theater Festival are encouraged to document their organization's community service projects. Up to five finalists will be highlighted on Playbill, where the public will vote on its favorite. (Voting ends at 11:59 PM ET January 15.)
The winning organization will receive $1,000 to support continued charitable efforts as well as Playbill’s educational resources such as PLAYBILLder.com, a DIY program maker allowing schools to personalize an authentic Playbill online.
Throughout the weekend, students and teachers participate in interactive workshops led by Broadway and West End professionals, gain from professional development, and meet other theatre lovers from across the world.
The festival will shine the spotlight on the next generation of composers and artists during Pathways, a Q&A event in which Broadway writers talk candidly about their experiences and present works from new shows.