Dance academy invited to theater festival

HOSCHTON - Students from Heather Wayne's Performing Arts Dance Academy will bring that old razzle dazzle to Atlanta with their acceptance into the 2009 Junior Theater Festival.

The festival takes place Friday to Sunday at the Hilton Atlanta. Produced by iTheatrics in association with Music Theatre International, the event is the world's largest musical theater festival dedicated to groups working with children in elementary and middle school and brings together an ensemble of students, teachers and Broadway professionals to celebrate on-stage and backstage excellence.

Heather Wayne's Performing Arts Dance Academy is an instructional school offering classes that teach the basic fundamentals of acting, auditioning, improv and character studies. The academy has four student performances a year, including one at the Gwinnett Center's Performing Arts Center. This is the group's first year at the Junior Theater Festival.

"Heather Wayne's Performing Arts is clearly committed to having its students learn important life lessons through the process of putting on a musical," said Timothy A. McDonald, founding chairman of iTheatrics. "We are looking forward to seeing these students' creative contributions to our monumental celebration of the arts. In return, it's our mission to make sure that the student and teachers leave our festival inspired, recharged and ready to tackle any creative challenge imaginable."

At the Junior Theater Festival, students from the Hoschton dance academy will perform selections from "Schoolhouse Rock Live Junior" for professional adjudication by a panel of international theater professionals. Students and teachers will also participate in interactive workshops led by Broadway and West End professionals, meet celebrities (past guests include Zac Efron and Christie Carlson Romano), gain professional development and enjoy theatrical fellowship.

On Sunday, Thomas Schumacher, president of Disney Theatrical Group and producer of the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical "The Lion King," will speak with festival participants about the world of theater, using Disney stage productions as a backdrop.

The first Junior Theater Festival was held in January 2003 at the Fabulous Fox Theatre and featured the premieres of new MTI Education Broadway Junior titles "Honk Junior," "Dear Edwina Junior" and "Godspell Junior." The 2005 festival featured the world premiere of the Disney Collection of Musicals. In 2007, the festival went international and hosted the world premiere of Disney's "High School Musical Live On Stage."