Graves Co. elementary drama students participate in junior theater festival

Graves Co. elementary drama students participate in junior theater festival

GRAVES COUNTY, KY (KFVS) - Graves County Central Elementary School students who belong to the group known as the Central Drama Players learned more about presenting plays and earned high praise at the 2015 Junior Theater Festival in mid-January at the Cobb Galleria Centre in Atlanta, Georgia.

Graves County students Aiden Walker and Maggie Murphey were named to the Junior Theater Festival All-Stars, comprised of two outstanding performers from each group attending the festival. The All-Stars performed a song during the closing ceremony for all 4,500 festival attendees.

Teacher-directors Patsy Riley and Amy Murphey led the group that also included Katya Bartolo, Naima Bhutta, Michael Kayse, Carley Dowdy, Chloe Hendley, Caloeb Paschall, Zach Lamb, Josie Erdmann, Kaylee Davis and Taylor Wyatt.

The recent event marked the Central Drama Players' fourth visit to the Junior Theater Festival. At the 2012 edition, the group performed and earned the festival's top accolade: The Freddie G Broadway Junior Spirit Award. It's presented to one group that embodies the spirit of educational musical theater.

Since the group won that award, director Patsy Riley was one of eight exceptional educators selected to participate in "The Freddie G Experience," an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City to work one-on-one with Broadway greats in the summer of 2012.

Central Drama Players originated in 2006 for students interested in learning about theater. Teacher-directors Patsy Riley and Amy Murphey lead the group, which meets weekly from August through March and presents a Broadway Jr. musical each year.

Central Elementary has an additional theater group of third- and fourth-graders called the Central Playhouse Performers.

This year, the 12 students, between the ages of 10 and 12, presented selections from Disney's Peter Pan JR. for Producing Artistic Director at Adventure Theatre MTC Michael Bobbit and Shay Rodgers, manager of education and choreographer for Theatre Under the Stars in Houston, Texas.

"It's great to see Peter Pan with kids who are really kids," Bobbit said. "They make me jealous of 'growing up!" Rodgers added, "These kids were so focused, it was great watching how comfortable they were onstage."

The students will present the full musical at the Graves County Schools' Performing Arts Center, located adjacent to Graves County High School, at 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 31. Tickets are priced at $3 each and will be available at the door.

Produced by the Junior Theater Group in partnership with iTheatrics, a leading educational theater company that creates innovative experiences and products for the public and private sector, the Junior Theater Festival is the world's largest festival celebrating young people and the transformative power of musical theater. This year's title sponsors were Music Theatre International, Disney Theatrical Group, and Playbill®. The Junior Theater Festival was founded in 2003. In 2010, the Festival became an annual event.

Stage and screen stars Megan Hilty (Wicked, Smash), Darren Criss (Glee), Lilla Crawford (Annie, Into the Woods the movie), Luca Padovan (Newsies), and Philip McAdoo (Disney's The Lion King, Rent), as well as Disney Theatrical Group president and producer Thomas Schumacher, Oscar-winning Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Bobby Lopez (songwriters for Frozen, co-creators of In Transit), and Tony-nominated composers Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (A Christmas Story, Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach) were on hand to applaud the 4,500 students and teachers representing 101 educational musical theater groups representing 26 states, the District of Columbia, and two countries.

The Junior Theater Festival offered an enthusiastic environment for students and teachers to interact with thousands of others who share their passion for musical theater.

In addition to presenting a 15-minute selection from a musical, students and teachers alike participated in interactive workshops led by Broadway and West End professionals.

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