The 2021 Junior Theater Festival, usually held in Atlanta, Georgia, has pivoted into becoming a virtual event, open to attendees worldwide. The JTF Online Extravaganza, scheduled for January 15-17, will see kids singing, dancing, acting, and learning in a virtual celebration of all things youth theatre. See Taylor Iman Jones, Ryan McCartan, Brittney Mack, and more announce the newly online event and break down just how it will work in the video above.
"We are theatre-makers! And make theatre we will," says iTheatrics and Junior Theater Group Founder and CEO Timothy Allen McDonald. We’re joining up with an incredible team of artists, creatives, and educators to make this really special. This year hasn’t been easy, and we’ve seen students and teachers shift to online rehearsals, turn storytelling limitations into opportunities, lean on each other for emotional support, and through it all somehow manage to keep a light on at the end of the tunnel. Now, it’s time to celebrate each and every one of them and give those who carry the love of musical theatre in their hearts a way to continue to share their art with others."
Usually open only to youth theatre groups, the online edition of JTF will for the first time be available to individuals as well. Those interested in registering as an individual can use the promo code JAZZHANDS from now through midnight November, 30 to receive 30 percent off the registration fee. The deadline for registration for both groups and individuals is December 1. Visit JuniorTheaterFestival.com for more.
The festival will kick off with a virtual choir made up of students from all participating groups performing the National Anthem, newly arranged by composer and TikTok star (of Ratatouille: The Musical fame) Daniel J. Mertzlufft and iTheatrics and Encore! on Disney+ music director Lindsay Lupi. Groups will then present 10-minute pre-recorded video performances of selections from a Broadway Junior or Online Edition musical for adjudication. Groups will receive live feedback from an adjudicating panel of industry professionals, with some moments selected by adjudicators to be workshopped live and in real time. Some groups and individual performers will win awards and other recognition.
New works will also be showcased, as at previous Junior Theater Festivals. Attendees will get a virtual sneak peak at Jason Robert Brown's 13 JR. and Disney's The Descendants, both performed remotely by Junior Theater Festival students from around the world. The festival will feature a headlining concert and talkbacks and performances with theatre industry professionals highlighting their career journeys and accomplishments. Workshops will also be offered for students and their teachers.
Even the festival's annual Dance Party-Palooza will be brought online in an event led by student performers. Grown-ups will have their own cocktail-style events with opportunities to meet and talk with talent, special guests, and representatives from iTheatrics, Disney Theatrical Productions, Playbill, and Music Theatre International.
Playbill will be on hand to host the second annual JTF Theatre Trivia Showdown, with two student representatives from each group selected to participate and the entire festival invited to watch and play along on social media.
The festival culminates in the Freddie G Awards Ceremony, celebrating the weekend's achievements with performances of shows coming soon to the Broadway Junior Collection; the presentation of performance, technical, and teacher awards; and more.
"Just doing musical theatre with students is an automatic win. The ‘virtual’ drawbacks are forgotten in a snap because the love of and commitment to theatre is so strong," says iTheatrics Director of Education Marty Johnson. "When iTheatrics served as virtual adjudicators for the Junior Theater Festival Australia, we enjoyed a variety of different adjudication performances. Some of the casts were filmed together; some performed from their Zoom boxes. Everyone worked, learned, and had so much fun."
Looking ahead, iTheatrics is planning in-person festivals for later in 2021, including Junior Theater Festival West in Sacramento, California, May 7–9 and the debut of Junior Theater Festival Texas in Sugarland, Texas, June 25–27. In addition to Playbill, festival sponsors include Music Theatre International, Disney Theatrical Productions, and iHeartRadio Broadway.