Children’s Theatre youth performers shine at Atlanta festival

Students representing The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati walked away from an international performance competition last week with more than just memories. The collection of talented young actors, ages 8 to 18, also earned some serious hardware to add their respective trophy cases.

The 2024 Junior Theater Festival Atlanta took place Jan. 12-14 at the Cobb Convention Center in Georgia. Hosted by iTheatrics, the festival aims to support and celebrate talented young musical theater actors through a mixture of classes, workshops and judged performances.

This year, there were 125 groups from 30 states, as well as Washington D.C., Canada and Australia. Each performed 15 minutes of a Broadway Junior musical.

TCT presented “Seussical JR.” to actor Katy Geraghty (“Into the Woods,” “Groundhog Day”) and Derek Bowley, iTheatrics teaching artist. For their collective performance, TCT won a Freddie G Excellence in Ensemble award.

“Every actor was so well cast in this production,” Geraghty said. “The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati clearly does a lot of character work and it shows.”

TCT at the 2024 Junior Theater Festival Atlanta. (Photo by Marcus Woollen)

Actors Camryn Wilkinson, 16, and 12-year-old Parker Patton also received recognition as Junior Theater Festival All-Stars. Avery Silvestain, 15, took home the Freddie G Outstanding Individual Performance Award. Silvestain and Benjamin Abes-Feldman, 13, made it to the call-back stage of a yet-to-be announced special project promoting musical theater in schools.

“This performance of ‘Seussical JR.’ was like none I’ve ever seen before, with one talented performance after another,” Bowley said. “These performers have fostered a space where they can develop their creativity and express themselves authentically on stage.”

A century of inspiring young artists

Celebrating 104 years this season, TCT is the oldest children’s theater in the country and the only professional theater in the region that devotes its entire MainStage season to children.

Beyond performances, the company also provides education and workshops to budding actors. Programs through the TCT Academy and summer camps aim to help participants gain confidence, learn life skills and stay active. But they’re also about supporting the next generation of thespians as they hone their craft.

Photo by Marcus Woollen

The academy employs an ensemble-driven method as a way to give everyone an opportunity to be seen and featured throughout the show, according to Angelo Cerniglia, TCT’s education director. But the approach is also beneficial for adding complexity to staging and the type of pictures they can create.

During the festival, the TCT team displayed a mastery of performance-based storytelling, Cerniglia said. He mentioned that  audience members commended his troupe for their ability to use movement, dance and vocals to “travel through the story while taking the audience on a wild ride.”

“The cast’s exceptional focus and dedication allows us to be able to continuously challenge them with high-caliber techniques and skills that will enhance their performance and grow them as both artists and people,” Cerniglia added.

About The 2024 JTF Atlanta

The Junior Theater Festival is the world’s biggest and best celebration of young people performing musical theater. It offers programming in the United States, Australia, Europe and New Zealand. 

The recent event in Atlanta consisted of singing, dancing, acting and learning. It featured panels and performances from the likes of Arielle Jacobs (“Here Lies Love,” “Between the Lines”) and Adam Jacobs (“The Lion King,” “Aladdin”).

As part of the festival, participants took part in a series of workshops. They also experienced a New Works Showcase of selections from upcoming Broadway Junior musicals and other performances.

This year’s performers, presenters and adjudicators included Tilly-Raye Bayer (“Matilda, “Disney’s Frozen” – West End), director Jeff Calhoun (Disney’s “Newsies”), Taylor Iman Jones (“Head Over Heels,” “Six”), New York Times best-selling author Jodi Picoult (“Between the Lines”), Thommy Bailey Vine (“Matilda,” “Les Misérables” – West End) and Michael Wordly (“Miss Saigon,” “The Color Purple” – First National Tour).

Educators of note were Michael J. Bobbitt (executive director, Mass Cultural Council), Fernell Hogan (“Kimberly Akimbo”), Jade Jones (“Beauty and the Beast”), Jennifer Katona (executive director, Educational Theatre Association) and Nina Meehan (founder and artistic director, Bay Area Children’s Theatre).

Sponsors for JTF are Playbill, Disney Musicals and Music Theatre International.

Junior Theater Festival

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