I LOVE Jr. Thespians. They are so excited about what they are doing. They are extremely creative and always ready to learn. They are never scared of being themselves.
Last weekend, I got the privilege of heading to Dallas to help with Jr. Festival 2014. I knew I was going to have a blast Jr. Fest, but I never imagined I would love it as much as I did!
Thursday before festival started, we all arrived in Dallas. We all met up and the airport, and headed to tour Coppell West. Coppell's staff was extremely nice and I loved getting to see where we would be working all weekend! After our tour, we got an awesome dinner recommendation, and so we headed to dinner. It was an awesome time to catch up with EdTA staff and the other ITO.
Friday was JR FEST DAY! We woke up, got some work done, and headed to Coppell to start getting ready! First, we helped sort t-shirts for registration. I was so used to helping sort t-shirts at different states, with the typical small, medium, and large, that I forgot youth small existed. Well... it does... and it is tiny!
As the Junior Thespians were arriving we were playing different games in the gym with them! I loved this because it allowed us to meet students right off the bat! While they were arriving, we were also setting up the Broadway Cares Silent Auction! This was something that was super exciting, and the Junior Thespians and their troupe directors really got into! After opening and an awesome keynote from Tim Federle, it was off to the first workshop session.
Throughout the weekend, the ITO taught in every workshop session. We alternated teaching student leadership, and teaching a workshop on Community. Our Community workshops were smaller, but it was nice because it really gave us the chance to get to know the people that attended. It also gave us the chance to show them ways Community could specifically benefit questions they had! Our leadership workshops packed the house. After all three leadership workshops, we had over 100 Junior Thespians come through the leadership workshop! We covered topics such as working as a team, problem solving, encouraging yourself, and encouraging others!
One of the games we play is a balloon game. The students have to get into groups and the goal is to do different motions such as standing up and moving without dropping the balloon. The goal of this is to encourage the importance of team work. This was one of my favorite parts of the workshop, because it was so fun to watch the students get so into the "Balloon Olympics."
I loved getting feedback from the Junior Thespians as well. At the end of the workshop, we talk about how it is important to appreciate others. We asked the Junior Thespians to write a "Rainbow Recognition." The idea behind this was that the students either recognized someone for something they did well, or wrote a thank you note. Many notes were written to troupe directors and friends. A couple of thank you notes were sent to different EdTA staff members, thanking them for putting on the festival. We, the ITO, were lucky enough to get a couple sent to us as well. One of them said "I never realized how many things I liked about myself. I didn't know I could be a leader just by having confidence in myself and saying thank you to others." This was extremely heartwarming to read.
Another weekend highlight was Junior Tech Challenge on Saturday. They all came in and mixed up into groups and made new friends. Then, they rotated through a series of activities and learned as they went along. The tech events were knot tying, prop shift, cable rolling, costume change, fold a drop, and button sewing. I helped to run the fold a drop event. I was so enjoyable to get to talk to the middle school students and hear their ideas about the best way to fold it, and then see them execute it. What was even cooler, was when they would learn based off of what the other group did. Then both groups would improve the second time.
Junior Thespian Festival 2014 was an awesome success. There were wonderful keynotes, three great mainstage shows (Annie Jr, 13, and Almost Maine: The Middle School Edition,) fabulous workshops, phenomenal IEs, and a Broadway Cares Auction along with many other things. My favorite part of the weekend though, had to be spending time with the other ITO, the EdTA staff, the Junior Thespians, their troupe directors, and all of the volunteers. It was an amazing weekend that would not have been possible without some incredible people. I am so lucky to have been a part of such an awesome event.