Parkway Playhouse Junior Students from Yancey and Mitchell Counties recently joined over 4500 other students from all over the world at the 2015 National Junior Theater Festival in Atlanta, GA during the weekend of January 16-18. The Junior Theater Festival brings together people from all aspects of theater, ranging from students and teachers to Broadway professionals, under one roof to celebrate outstanding student musical theatre productions. Parkway Playhouse Junior students performed selections for their production of Guys and Dolls, Jr. (which was performed locally in November of 2014).
“We are mentoring the next generation of our community’s artists and leaders. Encouraging them to share their talent and ideas with the world at large is important. The notion that the work our students do here in Western North Carolina is as potent and as meaningful as the work being done elsewhere sends an empowering message to our students”, commented Parkway Playhouse Artistic Director, Andrew Gall. “We have such fantastic support for Parkway Playhouse Junior. Many thanks to Parkway Playhouse’s donors and sponsors, our Board, our staff, the parents and families of these kids who gave up a lot of time to support their child’s participation. Mary Katherine Smith-Gall, our director of education, who has built this program from the ground up, continues to inspire us all with her dedication to our community’s youth.”
In addition to their performance students participated in workshops and classes over the Festival weekend that included Bobby Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez; the husband and wife songwriting team who composed the music for the blockbuster animated film Frozen including the Academy-Award winning song Let It Go (which they performed for students after explaining how they wrote it).
Disney Theatrical Group President, Tom Schumacher, a major film and Broadway legend, who led students through an in-depth tour of how The Lion King went from an idea to an animated film (which Schumacher also produced for Disney Animation) to a Broadway musical that has been seen by millions of theatre-goers all over the globe. Darren Criss, the star of the network television smash Glee, made a surprise appearance to sing with Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (Tony Nominees; works include A Christmas Story, James and the Giant Peach, and Dogfight). Luca Padovan, who just completed a Broadway production of Newsies was also on hand and answered questions about his experiences; along with Lilla Crawford, a teenage performer who is getting rave reviews for her performance alongside Johnny Depp and Meryl Streep in the musical film Into the Woods. The Festival concluded with a concert by Broadway and television star Megan Hilty, who lingered long after her final number to sign autographs and pose for pictures with students.
Logan Walden, Taylor Hutcheson, Isabelle Huhges, and Levi Bradford, all from Burnsville and members of Parkway Playhouse’s High School Apprenticeship Program, were recognized for their backstage skills in the Festival’s “Tech Olympics” were students demonstrated their skill at working as a team to solve a series of “backstage” puzzles: taping out a scaled floor plan, setting up props, and completing a fast costume change. Out of the over fifty groups that participated, Parkway Playhouse Junior’s team had the second best time.
Samarie Wilson and Iszie Hilbert, also of Burnsville, were invited to an audition for a Broadway Junior Choreography DVD, which films every summer in New York City. Burnsville students Hana Stella and Aaron Neighbors were recognized by Festival panelists as 2015 JTF All-Stars for their performance in Guys and Dolls, Jr. at the Festival and both performed alongside other group JTF All-Stars on stage in front of thousands of their peers.