MTI Welcomes America's Teachers to the Fourth Annual Freddie G Broadway Experience

MTI Welcomes America's Teachers to the Fourth Annual Freddie G Broadway Experience

Eight exceptional educators from schools and performing arts centers around the country will work one-on-one with Broadway greats at the 4th Annual FREDDIE G BROADWAY EXPERIENCE July 10th - 14th. Again this year, the event has been underwritten by Myrna and Freddie (“G”) Gershon, Chairman and CEO of leading theatrical licensor Music Theatre International (MTI). The weekend honors instructors and teachers who are working to make a difference for their students and communities through the process of staging musical theatre productions in their schools and educational theatre groups. In addition to the New York experience, each of the teachers’ schools also receives $5,000 from Freddie and Myrna to enhance their arts program.

The teachers will attend special workshops led by lyricist and composer Stephen Schwartz, Cinderella choreographer Josh Rhodes, Tony Award® winning director John Rando, lyricists and composers Benj Pasek and Justin Paul and special needs children teaching specialist Tessa Derfner.

“The weekend will fully immerse the teachers in the Broadway world and provide one-of-a-kind learning opportunities for the teachers to take back to their schools, students and communities,” says Gershon. “These teachers do inspiring work with limited financial resources. We want to give them the opportunity to live the Broadway experience and interact with top professionals to reward them for all they do to introduce the next generations to Broadway and musical theatre.”

Dozens of educators attending the 2013 Junior Theater Festival applied for the program, and eight total were selected (a full list follows). Six teachers were selected as Freddie G Experience recipients on the basis of what the professional development opportunity would mean for them as teachers, as well as for their students and greater community. Two additional educators were selected as winners of the Freddie G Broadway Junior Spirit Award and the 2013 Freddie G Broadway Junior Community Service award at the 2013 Junior Theater Festival.

The eight educators will participate in dynamic, hands-on master classes with some of Broadway leading choreographers, directors, producers, actors and designers covering a wide range of topics including directing, choreography, music, design and marketing. They will attend the Broadway show Pippin and watch a developmental performance of Children of Eden JR. (which is slated to be a new title in the MTI Broadway Junior Collection), go on backstage tours and experience Broadway theatre behind-the-scenes.

“I feel strongly about personally investing in these teachers by immersing them in experiential skills they can take home and share with students and other teachers,” added Gershon. “It’s crucial we keep theatre alive in this country by working with both educators and children. Myrna and I feel that America’s teachers should be honored and appreciated. Our future is in their hands.”

The Junior Theater Festival is the world's largest musical theatre festival dedicated to educational musical theatre groups that work with elementary and middle school students. The 2013 festival was sponsored by MTI, Disney Musicals, Playbill®, PRG (Production Resource Group), and Sound Associates and was presented by the Junior Theater Project.

Following are the eight teachers attending the 4th Annual Freddie G Broadway Experience:

Danelle Cauley: Faith Christian School - Freddie G Award. Rocky Mount, N.C.

Founded in 1993, Faith Christian is a private, interdenominational Christian school located on 30 acres in Rocky Mount, North Carolina servicing grades Pre-K through 12. The school motto is “Aspiring to God’s Standard of Excellence” and our purpose is to challenge students to learn, lead, and serve in order to explore God’s divine calling in their lives. Our theatre program was started in 2009. Every student in 3rd through 8th grade has drama class and the high school students may choose this as an elective. Instead of cutting the “less talented” students, we work to grow the gifts that each actor brings to the program.  Danelle is the Artistic Director of Activate Drama whose mission is to engage students, artists, and audiences in excellent theatre experiences that educate, motivate, and illuminate. She has over 20 years of experience working in educational theatre including work with K-12 learners and in higher education. She has been an adjunct professor in the Department of Entertainment/Theatre at North Carolina Wesleyan College. Previously Danelle has served as a professor at the University of N.C. as Asheville and at Winthrop University.

Claudia Appel: WINGS Performing Arts Center – Freddie G Award. Gulf Port, Miss.

The WINGS Performing Arts program is in its 14th year and is a program of the Lynn Meadows Discovery Center. This program offers students the chance to participate in theatre productions that are presented at community or area schools. Over 500 students in grades 1- 12 are involved in an average of eight year round productions that reach over 30,000 audience members annually. In addition to participating in productions, students can apply to become a member of a WINGS core group which meets to explore theatre topics in greater depth. To participate in the core group, students must maintain their grades and take part in community projects. These productions have earned state and national recognition, and 100 percent of graduating seniors have gone off to college!  Claudia's work with the WINGS program at Lynn Meadows Discovery Center revolves around the Constellations, the middle school drama troupe. These productions involve the students not only in acting, but learning valuable tools such as set design, costuming, writing, music, dance, and directing. Additionally, Claudia also serves as Outreach Director for the WINGS program. She seeks sponsorships and support from community organizations that allow WINGS to bring the arts into schools across the MS Gulf Coast. Since joining the staff of LMDC six months after Hurricane Katrina, Claudia has also pursued scholarships with organizations in order to make sure every child is able to participate in WINGS, camps or other LMDC offerings.

Merill Cheyne: Harris County Carver Middle School - Freddie G Award. Hamilton, Ga.

Harris County Carver Middle School is a rural county public middle school. It serves about 900 students in the 7th and 8th grades. Drama is offered as an all year class and the Drama Club meets after school and mounts 4 - 5 productions yearly. The Drama Club is not school funded, and all funds are raised for the productions. They are a registered troupe, troupe #88558, with the International Thespian Society. In addition to attending JTF every year they attend the Georgia Junior Thespian Conference and qualifying students also attend the International Thespian Conference.  Theatre has been the center of Merrill’s life from the time her aunt took her and six year old niece, to see God spell in Boston. From that moment on she sang Broadway musicals, begged her parents to take her to see shows. She wrote her own adaptations and directed them with her peers in the schoolyard. She attended a private high school and did a musical a year. Her senior year she directed a second musical. She attended the University of Michigan majoring in musical theatre. She was a stay at home mom for five years and returned to college to major in theatre education. She was hired at HCCMS two weeks after graduation and has been teaching there ever since (19 years).

Lori Flanders: Studio D Productions - Freddie G Experience Award. Griffin, Ga.

Studio D is dedicated to providing the finest in dance, music, and theatre education in an atmosphere which encourages growth, development of skills, and self-confidence. We believe performing arts play an important role in developing our youth into more responsible, confident, respectful and tolerant human beings. Our goal is to have a positive role in our student’s lives and to be a part of what makes them a better person as well as a better performer. Studio D is the home of The Griffin Ballet Theatre a semi-professional Ballet Company which presents a full season of ballet’s each year and Studio D Productions presents 2 Broadway Jr. or Kids shows per year.  Lori received her ballet training at Ballet Oklahoma (company member for 5 years), Ballet West, ABT and the Joffrey Ballet. She attended the University of Oklahoma where she studied ballet and Oklahoma City University where she studied Dance (member of The American Spirit Dancer Company), Musical Theatre and voice with Florence Birdwell. She performed in Oklahoma for a season at Discoveryland, The National Home of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma, in Tulsa, Okla. She worked with Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma; Music Theatre of Wichita; The Crown Uptown Dinner Theatre in Wichita among many others.

Eric Bragg: River Trail Middle School - Freddie G Experience Award. Johns Creek, Ga.

River Trail Middle School is a large middle school of 1,500 students located in Fulton County Schools, producing one musical each fall. Since Bragg has been involved at River Trail, Bugsy Malone JR., Willy Wonka JR., Into the Woods JR., Flat Stanley JR., Once On This Island JR., and Thoroughly Modern Millie JR. have been produced by the musical production team. In the spring, the drama department produces a play and/or a talent show. Auditions are open to the entire student body. River Trail has attended the Junior Theatre Festival four times.  Eric has been an educator with Fulton County since 2003. In that time he founded the drama department at Creek View Elementary School. His efforts at Creek View were recognized with a Teacher of the Year nomination and NBC’s prestigious Class Act Award in 2006. Eric has been the award winning director of numerous films that were entered in the Georgia Movie Academy state film competition and was a National Finalist in Sony’s Technology in Motion film competition. In 2007, Eric transferred to River Trail Middle School to teach drama full time. He was also nominated for Teacher of the Year again in 2012. Since moving to Georgia, Eric has performed in both professional and community theatre. Eric’s passion for theatre and his love of children have paired well in his professional pursuits.

Spencer Lau: Woodruff School ACE Music - Freddie G Community Service. Seabrook, N.J.

The Woodruff School ACE Music Program is comprised of 55 students representing a student population of 289 students in 6th-8th Grade Middle School in Southern New Jersey. Students audition at the end of the academic year before through a written theory test, singing audition, teacher recommendation and a grade/disciplinary review. Students don't have to be the best in any specific area but show the drive, determination and commitment to the program. Students that are accepted to any part of the music program must sign a contract understanding their role and expectations they must meet. The contract also states that all the students who meet their contract also are eligible for all trips regardless of financial need.  Spencer’s theatrical experience began in his hometown of Bergenfield, NJ where he performed in a variety of shows from middle school through to high school. While attending Rowan University he studied with Dr. Lourin Plant and performed as a member of the Rowan University Opera Company where he participated in numerous operas, operettas, and musicals. Since graduating college and becoming the music director of the Woodruff School he has acted and directed multiple community theatre productions and continues his work as an educator.

Joanne O'Kain: Roy Waldron Middle School - Freddie G Broadway Junior Spirit Award. LaVergne, Tenn.

Roy Waldron Elementary Drama team consists of 35 students ages 7-11. They perform a dinner theater in the fall and a full musical in the spring, as well as a variety of other community events throughout the year. The school is a Title One School with 80% free and reduced lunch.  Joanne participated in her small town's drama program in high school and has never participated in a musical as an actress. She began playing the flute in the fourth grade, and participated in orchestras and band in high school and college. She enjoys directing and choreographing musicals.

Shirlee Idzakovich: Portsmouth Area Children’s Theatre - Freddie G Experience Award. Portsmouth, Ohio.
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Portsmouth Area Children's Theatre serves nine schools in the county and performs three shows a year. They have a Jr. Company from ages 6-13, and a Sr. Company from ages 14-18. It is a volunteer based organization with over 100 kids on the roster each performance. Shirlee is the costumer for all shows and work with the children one on one for each show. The organization is three years old but the participants have been doing shows for nearly 13 years together before we started the group. They do not charge for any of the children to participate in a show.  Shirlee has been in a production for nearly 16 years nonstop. She has three daughters who all have performed in every show they can find, all starting over 70 shows ago with Annie. She has costumed over 50 of those shows and enjoys seeing all kinds of new musicals watching children and adults transform her life with a song or a scene.