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The show must go on: Festival takes to online stage


Musical theatre-loving students will dust off their dancing shoes at the end of this month as a new virtual event is set to celebrate the art they love.

Now in its fifth year, the Junior Theatre Festival (JTF) Australia drew its curtains a few months ago following the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic, but organisers came up with a solution.

They pivoted their ideas and a special new format will see 800 students from two continents and seven time zones come together at a Virtual Junior Theatre Festival.

Aspiring performers from San Francisco, Chicago and Pittsburgh will have a taste of Newcastle as they join hundreds of other Aussies during the online event.

Festival producer and Newcastle local, Daniel Stoddart, said the team was adamant about continuing the event in a bid to provide young people with an opportunity for growth during a tumultuous year.

“With all the COVID restrictions, we were facing the prospects of disappointing hundreds of junior performers,” he said

“We knew we had to get inventive about working with available resources to find a way for them to unite for this highly-anticipated annual event.

“Now more than ever, these young people need to be able to express their creativity and feel connected.

“The virtual adjudication process we’ve devised has given them the ideal platform for collaboration, preparing their presentations, even while in lockdown.

“We have three groups joining us from Victoria and we’re particularly grateful to have been able to give them something to work on and look forward to throughout the long weeks of sustained lockdown they’ve faced.”

The festival will take to the virtual stage at the end of this month, with students set to participate in several activities across Friday 30 October and Saturday 31 October.

Participants will be mentored by writers, directors, vocal coaches and choreographers from New York.

They will also have the opportunity to attend workshops presented by local industry leaders, including a music workshop delivered by Tony Award nominee, Eddie Perfect, and a dance workshop from musical theatre leading lady, Alinta Chidzey.

JTF Australia is part of a global franchise which also sees festivals staged on both the east and west coasts of America, as well as in Europe.

The Australian version is the only one to go ahead amid the pandemic.

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