Gazebo Gazette

Students from Wings Performing Arts in Gulfport won a Freddie G Excellence in Music award at the 2021 Junior Theater Festival Texas (JTF Texas), which happened June 25-27, 2021, in Sugar Land, Texas. JTF Texas was a monumental weekend of theatrical fellowship rewarding and empowering student-driven musical theater programs.

During its adjudication, Wings Performing Arts students presented selections from Disney’s Moana JR. for playwright, director, and choreographer Michael Bobbitt (executive director of the Massachusetts Cultural Council) and iTheatrics choreographer, Shay Rodgers.

Bobbitt said about Wings Performing Arts: “Even as I think about this performance, I get emotional all over again.”  Added Rodgers, “Wings Performing Arts brought so much heart to Disney’s Moana JR. which is exactly what the piece is about. Moana was played by a young lady who brought independence and strength to the role, qualities that every young person should have. I was blown away by maturity of this cast and the level of talent I saw.”

Wings Performing Arts students Indya Tanner and Ross Rosetti were distinguished as Junior Theater Festival All-Stars, honoring particularly dynamic student performers.

This year marked the first JTF Texas. The event brought together 2,228 musical theater enthusiasts to participate in the event; 50 of these groups were in person, and an additional seven groups participated online. iTheatrics and the Junior Theater Group produce the Junior Theater Festivals. Sponsors of JTF Texas were Music Theatre International (MTI) and iHeartRadio Broadway.

Festival organizers worked with the officials representing the city of Sugar Land and also its own COVID-19 Health and Safety Consultant to create a memorable and safe JTF Texas. Everyone followed strict social distancing protocols and remained masked while at the festival.

Michael James Scott (Disney’s Aladdin on Broadway) performed the festival’s headlining concert.

Daniel Yearwood (Hamilton, Broadway); Katy Geraghty (Groundhog Day, Broadway); Broadway actor Krystina Alabado (Gretchen Wieners in Mean Girls, American Idiot, Spring Awakening); and composer, playwright, and actor Douglas Lyons (actor in The Book of Mormon, Broadway) were some of the celebrities who took part in mainstage events and were on hand to cheer on the young performers.

Students and teachers also enjoyed a presentation of The Big One-Oh! JR., performed by students from Inspiration Stage in Sugar Land, TX, and took part in workshops.

Called a “rousing celebration of theatre” by the New York Times, the Junior Theater Festivals celebrate and empower the international movement of young people and educators creating student-driven musical theater around the globe.

In 2020, 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.

The nationally recognized Lynn Meadows WINGS Performing Arts program nurtures the talent and spirit of young people through arts, community service, and leadership. The home of the WINGS program is the Lynn Meadows Discovery Center, Mississippi’s first children’s museum and the 2016 recipient of the nation’s highest honor – the National Medal for Museum and Library Service.

WINGS Performing Arts presents multiple theater productions throughout the year and was selected as one of 12 recipients of the nationally prestigious Coming Up Taller Award that was presented by First Lady Laura Bush. On the state level, the WINGS program was also chosen to receive the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Arts and Education in Mississippi. The program has also been honored twice by The Mississippi Humanities Council for The Educator of the Year Award. In addition, students performed twice at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., in 2010 and 2015.