Whether you are attending solo for Professional Development to enrich your soul or bringing kids to “strut their stuff', the JUNIOR THEATER FESTIVAL in Atlanta, GA 2013 promises to deliver. It never fails, never! The finely tuned recipe of musical theatre, passionate kids and teachers, and a dose of magic all in one contained venue is all it takes.
Just like walking onstage in front of an audience, everyone feels better if they know what to expect, even if you will find 3500 new friends that may have a few jitters just like you! So, I decided to check in with a few that have taken that leap ahead of you, several of our 2012 Freddie G Winners from last year's festival. I will second the fact that their advice is tried and true, and the “up close and personal” will give you a heads up when you see them in a few weeks!
Here is a little background from Dina, Patsy, Bakari and Rhonda so you can appreciate how diverse our groups are:
Patsy Riley is the director of Central Drama Players, an after school drama club for 5th and 6th grade students in Mayfield Kentucky. She is a kindergarten teacher, as well as an “in house” director, choreographer, costume design, and set designer!
Bakari King is the director of the middle school theater program at USN, University School of Nashville across the street from Vanderbilt University in downtown Nashville. His program includes kids from grades 5-8 and “bookends” the school year with performances.
Dina Slawson is the director of Academy of Theatre Arts in Williamsville, New York outside of Buffalo. ATA is a full-time, year round after-school program for ages 5-18. They offer classes in acting, vocal performance and dance and includes 300 students!
Rhonda Cato heads up Magic Curtain Productions, Inc. in East Orlando. This is Florida’s only non-profit community theater. Magic Curtain Productions has 20 performers from the ages of 11 to 18 years who come from 10 different schools including public, private and home school.
Advice for Directors attending JTF 2013:
Dina: Take the time to share your experiences, good and bad, with other directors. It will help you realize that you are not alone out there and there is a whole network of passionate theatre educators just like you!
Patsy: Challenge your students to portray their character to the best of their ability, whatever level that may be, and they will be richly rewarded!
Bakari: Embrace every minute, good or bad! It is one of the best experiences for the teachers, students and parents that are involved in our world called theatre!
Rhonda: Take advantage of all of the experienced teachers, directors and coaches at the festival and submit yourself for the Freddy G Award for educators. The Freddie G weekend experience was amazing and I will never forget it.
Advice FROM kids TO kids attending JTF 2013:
Don't be nervous because everyone is cheering for you to do the best!
• After a fun but intense day of performances go to the dance and have a great time meeting other groups.
•Challenge yourselves in the workshops because you get to work with amazing people.
•Don’t think of the other groups as competitors just enjoy the performances.
•Do not focus on what other groups are doing or the level they are performing on.
• Use your own love of theatre to allow you to shine in your own way and enjoy the weekend for ALL of the experiences you are offered.
• This is NOT a competition; it is a way for kids like us to share our love of theatre and to continue to learn about theatre.
On Professional development:
Bakari:Professional development was how I heard about the festival and it has changed my life. When I came I could not stop crying because one I am a crybaby and two there was so much inspiration and encouragement that I know changes the lives of so many students…and teachers.
Dina: We all deal with a certain degree of burn out in our profession, whether it be financial restrictions, parent issues, the pressure of trying to put on a major production with very restricted time, staff, budget. etc…etc…etc… The itheatrics professional development opportunities are our “spa treatment”, a way for us to feel rejuvinated. The workshops and comraderie that we share with them gives us the gift of being able to go back to our own theatrical environments, and quite honestly, kick some serious theatre butt!!