Broadway favorites Taylor Iman Jones (Head Over Heels), Ryan McCartan (Heathers, Frozen), Brittney Mack (Six), Krystina Alabado (Mean Girls), Luca Padovan (School of Rock, Newsies), and Isabella Russo (School of Rock) will all make appearances at the 2021 Junior Theater Festival Online Extravaganza. Shifted to an online event due to the health crisis, the three-day festival celebrating youth theatre is set for January 15-17. Registration for the festival, available for the first time to individuals as well as theatre groups, is open through January 4 at JuniorTheaterFestival.com.
iTheatrics, the world's leading authority on musical theatre for young people and the force behind the Junior Theater Festival, has also partnered with the Educational Theater Foundation to let "secret santas" send kids to this year's festival. Through January 3, each donation of $150 made to ETF's Jumpstart Theatre campaign will send one student or teacher to the JTF Extravaganza at no charge to them. If you'd like to participate, you can donate at EDTF.org, designating JumpStart Theatre.
"I can’t tell you how many times a Broadway star, a parent, a teacher, a producer has turned to me at the festival and said ‘I wish I had this when I was a kid,’" shares iTheatrics and Junior Theater Group Founder and CEO Timothy Allen McDonald. "Presenting the festival virtually allows students and teachers who may not be able to attend the festival in person the opportunity to join in the celebration. I consider our JumpStart students and their teachers to be front-line warriors. These are schools that, prior to JumpStart, did not have a theatre program, and throughout the pandemic they are continuing to make theatre any way they can—it’s exhausting, both physically and emotionally. We want to give these warriors something to look forward to in January."
Playbill will be on hand to host the second annual JTF Theatre Trivia Showdown, with two student representatives from each attending group selected to participate and the entire festival invited to watch and play along on social media.
Created for organizations performing Music Theatre International's 30- and 60-minute Broadway Junior musicals and Online Editions, Junior Theater Festivals bring students and teachers together with Broadway professionals for a weekend of performances and workshops. Past attendees have included Ahrens and Flaherty, Skylar Astin, Shoshana Bean, Nicholas Christopher, Darren Criss, Zac Efron, Cynthia Erivo, Megan Hilty, Arielle Jacobs, Kenny Leon, Caissie Levy, Kara Lindsay, Lindsay Mendez, Alan Menken, Pasek and Paul, Ben Platt, and Jeanine Tesori.
Usually held in-person in Atlanta, this year's festival was announced as an online-only event last month due to current health restrictions. In-person festivals are currently scheduled for Sacramento, California in May and Sugarland, Texas in June.
Festival sponsors for JTF include Playbill, Music Theatre International, Disney Theatrical Productions, and iHeartRadio Broadway.
The Educational Theatre Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the Educational Theatre Association, home to the International Thespian Society. ETF works tirelessly to increase access to theatre education across the country, particularly in districts with outsized need. Their JumpStart program, created in collaboration with Music Theatre International and iTheatrics, is a program that builds sustainable theatre programs in middle schools where there previously were none. The three-year program provides funding for productions and professional development for teachers, and leaves schools with the tools and resources necessary to continue these programs after their time with JumpStart is over.