The excitement is building in the region’s youth performing arts group, Y-Arts. Why? In just over two weeks, 23 of them – with director-choreographer Emily Mirabile and family chaperones – will be flying to Atlanta for the iTheatrics Junior Theater Festival. The region is quite proud of this talented group, established by Emily’s mother Ginny Bishop decades ago. The contingent takes to the skies on Thursday, Jan. 16. Mirabile said they will return on Monday or Tuesday.
This is the eighth year a Y-Arts group will be attending, and competing, at the Festival being held Jan. 17-19. Fourteen participants are going for the first time.
Said Mirabile, “I haven’t taken a group with this many newbies recently, so I am very excited for them to experience the festival together! This year we are performing selections from “Schoolhouse Rock JR!”
Mirabile chose this show because it is age appropriate, will give more kids the opportunity to be featured with solos, and has special tricks – two-person cartwheels, lifts, back bends, and walk overs!
The show is based on the popular cartoon “Schoolhouse Rock” (1973-1985) that taught its young audience through song. Here’s the synopsis from the iTheatrics website: “A loose, revue-like structure allows for a great deal of flexibility in staging and cast size in this energetic musical, which follows Tom, a young schoolteacher, who is nervous about his first day of teaching. He tries to relax by watching TV, when various characters representing facets of his personality emerge from the set and show him how to win his students over with imagination and music. Memorable songs (such) as ‘Just a Bill,’ ‘Lolly, Lolly, Lolly,’ ‘Figure Eight’ and ‘Conjunction Junction’ bring his lesson plans vividly to life.”
All competing youth theater groups perform 15-minutes of a JR show created by their directors.
Y-Arts’ 2020 cast: Let’s start with the veterans – Della Hahn, Ellie Hilscher, Emerson Harris, Sarah Harris, Spencer Pottle, Trey Tibbetts, Sophia Mansfield, Jojo Shea and Alicia Flis. The newbies are Harrison Pierpan, Emma Castonia, Abby Amaral, Paige Botts, Rebecca Tomasello, Laura Tomasello, Anna Tomasello, Scout Martin, Ford Harris, Fiona Bishop, Kayla Watts, Jessie Ullo, Olivia Roberts and Lindsey Clifford.
Rehearsing for the Festival began in April, but with all of the shows Y-Arts has performed in 2019 (most at the Lincoln Theater in Damariscotta), it was sporadic. Mirabile said the rehearsals have become “predictably more frequent as the date for this major event nears.”
Judges for the competition, which features performing youth groups nationwide, are not announced ahead of time. Mirabile and the Y-Arts kids won’t find out until the morning of their performance when they get to the judging room. They will, however, find out who the 2020 special guests are one week before blast off via an app. To say the director and performers are super jazzed to find out who they are would truly be an understatement!
Groups who have come from as far away as Europe and Australia some years, and their teachers/directors can attend workshops with Broadway pros and master teachers who cover everything musical theater, from performance to tech. Some students will be selected for the Junior Theater Festival All Stars to be part of a special entertaining group at the Freddie G Awards Ceremony. Recent Y-Arts All Stars include: Jackie McLoon, Spencer Pottle, Ben Dewey and Sadie Yentsch. And up to eight students from each group will be invited to audition for future Broadway Junior choreography video shoots.
“Taking kids to this festival is such a blessing for all involved,” said Mirabile. “They are immersed into a world of singing and dancing and everyone is all in! It is important for us to keep the arts alive and this experience reminds our kids that they aren’t alone in their love of the arts and inspires them to continue to create and shine.”