Speaksysie News Desk — June 3, 2021

Michael James Scott, Soon to Return to Broadway as the Genie in Disney’s Aladdin, to
Perform Festival’s Headlining Concert

Pharmaceutical Engineer with a Love for Musical Theater is
Setting Festival-Specific Safety Protocols

JTF Welcome Video — Sugarland, TX JTF 2021

SUGAR LAND AND NEW YORK — Jazz Hands (and Masks) Up! Young people representing 50 groups from 19 states have agreed to follow strict safety protocols so that they may come together to perform musical theater in person at the inaugural 2021 Junior Theater Festival Texas (JTF Texas), taking place in Sugar Land, TX, on June 25, 26, and 27. The announcement was made today by Timothy Allen McDonald, founder and CEO of iTheatrics and the Junior Theater Group, which produces the Junior Theater Festivals.

Michael James Scott (Disney’s Aladdin on Broadway) will perform the festival’s headlining concert. Sponsors of JTF Texas are Music Theatre International (MTI) and iHeartRadio Broadway.

“The Junior Theater Festival’s core objective has always been to celebrate and support young people and their teachers, who make the world a better place one musical at a time. This past year has taken a tremendous toll on students and educators, and our team is drawing on all our creativity and problem-solving to give young people the chance to come together with people who love this art form just as much as they do,” says McDonald. “We’re working with the officials representing the city of Sugar Land and also our own COVID-19 Health and Safety Consultant, Kush Shankar, to create a memorable and safe JTF Texas. We’re fortunate Kush knows our festival up and down, as he’s been an invaluable festival volunteer for the past 15 years. He’s integrating science with the magic of theater to help ensure the safety of the community,” he adds.

Mr. Shankar is a pharmaceutical engineer and musical theater enthusiast. Currently working in vaccine development and manufacturing for one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, Mr. Shankar has comprehensive professional and educational backgrounds in biomedical engineering and immunoengineering. Mr. Shankar is advising the Junior Theater Festival on all safety protocols filtered through a musical theater lens, such as analyzing the latest research to determine what type of mask should be worn by young musical theater performers on- and offstage, adjusting the festival’s programming (no dance party this year!), structuring traffic flow and room event space setups, and setting social distancing protocols.

Called a “rousing celebration of theatre” by the New York Times, the Junior Theater Festivals recognize and empower the international movement of young people and educators creating student-driven musical theater around the globe. In 2019, nearly 15,000 people worldwide attended a Junior Theater Festival or Junior Theater Celebration. Earlier this year, in place of its flagship Junior Theater Festival Atlanta and Junior Theater West, iTheatrics produced the 2021 JTF Online Extravaganza! In addition to its Junior Theater Festivals in the U.S., iTheatrics produces, hosts, and supports additional Junior Theater Festivals and one-day Junior Theater Celebrations in the U.S., U.K., Australia, and New Zealand.

This year marks the first JTF Texas. Currently, 2,228 musical theater enthusiasts are scheduled to participate in the event; 50 of these groups will be in person, and an additional seven groups will attend online. The festival has flexible policies for groups who want to switch to the Online Experience or postpone their festival participation.

Each participating group (both in person and online) will perform up to 15 minutes of a Broadway Junior® or Online Edition musical for adjudication. (In-person groups will remain masked while performing.) Groups will join other performance groups in a pod to enjoy, support, and learn from one another’s performances. Each group will also receive live feedback on their performance by a talented pool of adjudicators who will be looking for clear storytelling and students who are engaged in their performance. For both virtual and in-person groups, the adjudicators will highlight different moments of the presentation to workshop live and in real time with each group. Some groups and individual performers will win awards and other recognition. Online performances will be submitted in either “Zoom” style or filmed onstage for those groups who are able to gather. The quality of the video or any technical special effects will not be factored into adjudication. Any Music Theatre International Broadway Junior® show (30-minute or 60-minute) licensed by the group between 2018 and 2021 is eligible for adjudication at JTF Texas.

During the New Works Showcase, students will enjoy a 60-minute presentation of 

The Big One-Oh! JR. based on the book by Academy Award–winner Dean Pitchford (Footloose), featuring lyrics by Mr. Pitchford, a book by Timothy Allen McDonald (Breathe A New Musical, James and the Giant Peach), and music by Doug Besterman (Elf).

Student performers, teachers, and technical theater students will participate in workshops.
There will be conversations and performances with professionals from across the theatrical industry highlighting their unique journeys and remarkable accomplishments. Finally, the Freddie G Awards Ceremony will celebrate the weekend’s achievement, presenting performance awards, teacher awards, and so much more.
Based in New York City, for the last decade iTheatrics has established itself as the world’s leading authority on musical theater for young people. iTheatrics works with leading public and private companies around the world—including the Kennedy Center, NBC, and all the leading theatrical licensors—to make sure that young people everywhere have access to quality musical theater programs. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, iTheatrics responded by creating online adaptations of musicals specifically designed to fit onto a computer screen and be performed remotely by actors.

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