Twenty-eight students from Parkway Playhouse Junior returned from the 2014 Junior Theater Festival in Atlanta, Georgia with much to celebrate. Along with 93 other groups (totaling over 4,000 avid musical theater lovers, ages 8-18) from around the country, they performed selections from their production of Disney’s Mulan, Jr. for a panel of adjudicators, which included Derek Bowley (a DC-based theatre and music educator), Karen Sharp (the Education Director for Seattle Children’s Theatre) and none other than Andy Jones (Prince Topher in Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella on Broadway).
The cast list of Parkway Playhouse Junior students who performed at the 2014 Junior Theater Festival: Hannah Barilovits, Lily Bartleson, Elijah Briggs, Logan Bryant, Natalie Calkins, Corey Chandler, Jonathan Chandler, Sophia Coren, Lexi Cranor, Izzy Davis, Gavin Henry, Kade Hoilman, Isabelle Hughes, Olivia Hughes, Taylor Hutchison, Amira Malas, Zachariah Malas, Laura Oosterloo, Liza Patrick, Paige Rizzuto, Emily Sigmon, Paloma Soto, Hana Stella, Tanner Townsend, Tristi Townsend, Logan Walden, Asya Williams, and Samarie Wilson.
Lily Bartleson and Elijah Briggs were selected as the JTF "All-Stars" of Parkway Playhouse Junior and joined 184 other select actresses and actors to perform in front of the 5,000 plus screaming peers and event attendees. Briggs was one of the lucky few who were hand selected to have a small featured part during the performance.
Lily Bartleson, a senior at Mountain Heritage High School, was presented with Excellent Individual Performance by a Female for her fabulous rendition of Mulan. This award was given to only a dozen female actors from the entire festival and is a wonderful send off for Lily's final performance with Parkway Playhouse Junior.
Corey Chandler, a senior at Mountain Heritage High School, was one of four presented with the Freddie G Inspiration Award for his personal story on the whys, whats and hows of his decision to join Parkway Playhouse Junior. After the performance, the adjudicators asked him (as an aside) how and why he chose to be a part of Parkway Playhouse Junior. “My brother Jonathan has been my inspiration since he signed up for Disney’s Aladdin, Jr. and people at his school started bullying him about it,” responded Chandler, “and after attending the 2013 Junior Theater Festival, which I loved, I signed up for Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Jr. and went on to sign up for Disney’s Mulan, Jr. Thanks to my brother, I’ve discovered something new that I love.” His response made its way up the Junior Theater Festival food chain and eventually to his award.
After the awards ceremony, six Parkway Playhouse Junior students, Lily Bartleson, Logan Bryant, Kade Hoilman, Taylor Hutchison, Emily Sigmon, and Logan Walden, along with 54 other students performed “This Is Our Story” from Shrek The Musical, Jr. for the 5,000 plus attendees. Bartleson and Walden were selected to wear microphones and were assigned spoken lines.
In addition to their performance, students from Parkway Playhouse Junior viewed the performances of other students, attended workshops, went to panel discussions led by seasoned professionals, enjoyed a performance of Broadway and Beyond: An Evening With the Stars of Broadway, and went to a huge dance party thrown by Disney for the students.
Parkway Playhouse’s Director of Education, Mary Katherine Smith-Gall was selected as one of eight theatre educators from the festival to participate in the “Freddie G Experience.” Beginning in 2010, The Junior Theater Festival renamed its annual awards “The Freddie G’s,” in honor of Freddie Gershon, Music Theatre International chairman and Broadway Junior founder.
Mary Katherine Smith-Gall will receive a fully funded weekend in New York City complete with performances, celebrations, and workshops. The weekend includes master classes with award-winning Broadway professionals including song writers, directors, choreographers and lighting designers. She will also attend a Broadway show, likely see a pilot workshop of an upcoming JR. production and receive a tour of Music Theatre International, iTheatrics and other festival sponsored venues and theatres.
“The weekend will fully immerse the teachers in the Broadway world and provide one-of-a-kind learning opportunities for the teachers to take back to their schools, students and communities,” Gershon said in a statement. “These teachers do inspiring work with limited financial resources. We want to give them the opportunity to live the Broadway experience and interact with top professionals to reward them for all they do to introduce the next generations to Broadway and musical theatre.”
In addition to the extensive training Mary Katherine Smith-Gall will receive, Parkway Playhouse Junior will also receive $5,000 for programming.
Parkway Playhouse started Parkway Playhouse Junior as an educational after-school program in the fall of 2010. Since then, the program has grown to produce summer camps, after-school classes, and will be producing 5 shows in 2014. In 2011, the program initiated an apprentice program that provides high school students seriously interested in learning about theatre and the performing arts the opportunity to be deeply involved in working on productions at Parkway Playhouse. The High School Apprentices make significant backstage and on stage contributions to Parkway Playhouse.
Haven Jenkins, a previous High School Apprentice for Parkway Playhouse went on to be a College Intern during the 2013 Parkway Playhouse Mainstage Season. She was also one of six college students selected for a 2014 Junior Theater Festival student internship. Interns provide general festival assistance throughout the weekend and attend a special master class with members of the Junior Theater Festival staff. This internship began in 2013 for former students who have shown maturity, leadership skills, and a desire to learn about all aspects of theater.
For more information about Parkway Playhouse Junior programming, please call 828.682.4285 or visit www.parkwayplayhouse.com.