Get an inside look at the 2020 Junior Theater Festivals in Atlanta and Sacramento, including appearances from special guests Caissie Levy, Jason Gotay, Olivia Rodrigo, Joshua Bassett, and more, in the gallery below.
Produced and hosted by iTheatrics, the Junior Theater Festivals bring together young groups from around the world for a weekend-long celebration of everything theatre, including performances, work sessions, and more.
The Atlanta festival, held January 17-19, featured special guests Disney Theatricals President Thomas Schumacher, original Frozen star Levy, High School Musical: The Musical: Ther Series creater and show runner Tim Federle and stars Joshua Bassett and Olivia Rodrigo, Bring It On and Between the Lines star Jason Gotay, The Lightning Thief songwriter Rob Rokicki, Hamilton alums Nicholas Christopher and Jennifer Locke, School of Rock on Broadway alums Luca Padovan and Isabella Russo, Newsies and Between the Lines director Jeff Calhoun, and Matilda associate director Lotte Wakeham.
Returning to Broadway this season in Caroline, or Change, Levy performed the festival-closing headline concert. Playbill's Felicia Fitzpatrick and Logan Culwell-Block were on hand to host the first Playbill Trivia Showdown, a live theatre trivia gameshow that put teams of festival attendees head to head with questions about Broadway, Off-Broadway, and beyond.
Fitzpatrick and Culwell-Block also presented the Playbill Community Service Award to Woodford Theatre Young Artists of Versailles, Kentucky. All groups attending the festivals were encouraged to submit videos documenting their organization's community service projects. Five finalists were highlighted on Playbill, where the public voted on their favorite. Woodford Theatre receives a $1,000 grant to support continued charitable efforts along with a free custom Playbill from PLAYBILLder.com, the online program creation tool that allows schools and community organizations to personalize and print an authentic Broadway-quality Playbill program for their production or event.
JTF West, held in Sacramento February 7–9, featured Schumacher, Gotay, Rokicki, Padovan, Russo, and Calhoun as well, joined by The Little Mermaid and The Phantom of the Opera star Sierra Boggess, Dear Edwina and Junie B. Jones writers Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich, orchestrator and composer Doug Besterman, Olaf's Frozen Adventure and Between the Lines songwriters Elyssa Samsel and Kate Anderson, and Fame and Footloose writer Dean Pitchford. Goldrich and Heisler performed the Sacramento headlining concert, which also featured performances from Boggess and Pitchford.
Groups attending either of the North American Junior Theater Festivals prepare 15-minute staged selections from titles in theatrical 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.
Both festivals also included a New Works Showcase with performances highlighting new musicals joining MTI's Broadway Junior library. This year's roster was Roald Dahl's Matilda JR., Elephant & Piggie's "We Are in a Play!" JR., THe Drowsy Chaperone JR., Newsies JR., and Disney's Moana JR.
The Atlanta festival, which was first held in 2003, hosted more than 6,000 attendees from 129 groups this year, with 31 states, Australia, New Zealand, and the U.K. all represented. JTF West, now in its fourth year, hosted 2,200 attendees from 48 groups, representing 17 states and South Korea, the U.K., New Zealand, and Australia. The North American festivals have since spawned similar celebrations in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Australia.