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Posted: December 26, 2008 12:00 a.m.

All the world's a stage

Social Circle teens, children headed to Junior Theater Festival

Michelle Kim/

Jazz hands: Pictured are Andie Weaver, left, Jessie Burdette, Brittany Hartwick, Maridith Grimsley, Susanna Grimsley, Seth Maddox, Melissa Thomas, Dannielle Hendon. Others performing are Natalie Briscoe, Lanier Forster, Mary Lathem, Kaylee Ruark, ...

 There’s nothing quite like the magic of Broadway to put the theater bug in a kid, and students from Social Circle Theater will be having a heavy dose of the stuff in just a few weeks.

 More than a dozen local youngsters, ranging in age from 8 to 16, are headed to the bright lights of Atlanta for the 2009 Junior Theater Festival, held this Jan. 16 through 18. Along with thousands of other elementary, middle and high school students from across the country, they’ll go through workshops, watch professional Broadway musicals and compete before a panel of theater and education professionals.

 American Idol’s musical director Michael Orland will serve as one of a number of headliners who will offer master classes to the teachers and students.

 "Social Circle Theater is clearly committed to having its students learn important life lessons through the process of putting on a musical. We are looking forward to seeing these students’ creative contributions to our monumental celebration of the arts," said Timothy A. McDonald, founding chairman of iTheatrics, which produces the festival.

 It is the group’s second time at the festival. They attended the 2007 Junior Theater Festival and won an "Outstanding Production" award.

 At a recent cast rehearsal on an unusually balmy December night, the students were in good spirits, excited about the prospect of performing and looking forward to the winter break. Despite moments of goofy camaraderie, they buckled down to the task at hand: mastering a 15 minute, five-song collage of "Godspell Jr.," choreographed by Social Circle Theater Artistic Director Ricky Hall, which they’ll perform for the festival judges.

 Sue Lee, who had directed them in an earlier Godspell Jr. production, kept the rehearsal moving along and on track.

 "They’ll be ready," she assured. "We’ve got a lot of rehearsal time ahead of us."

 Some of the students are festival veterans, having gone in years past.

 "I’m very excited," said Jada Graves, 16, a junior at Social Circle High School. "I loved it the last time we went, I have a feeling it’s going to be just as much fun this year, or more."

 Eighth-grader Omar Scruggs, 13, won "Best Male Vocalist" out of the entire festival last time around. A relative newcomer to the world of drama with just two years under his belt, Scruggs became involved when a teacher recognized his singing talents and brought him to the theater.

 "When I first started, I had no idea what this experience was going to be like," Scrugs said. "But I grew into it. It’s really addictive. "

 This will be Susanna Grimsley’s first time going to the festival. At 8 years old, she’s the youngest member of the cast, and said she enjoys the time she gets to spend with friends who don’t go to her school, George Walton Academy.

 Lee, who has also written plays for the theater, expressed confidence in the group.

 "I’m just pleased at how faithful they are, and how committed. They’re excited, and that makes everything great," she said.

 The theater’s next production is "Children of Eden." Auditions are Feb. 3 and 5, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. for those 15 and under or those interested in chorus parts. Those interested in lead or speaking roles and 15 years of age or older should come from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. prepared with an a cappella part.

 The students are working hard to raise money to be able to attend, and Social Circle Theater is accepting donations from individual or businesses. Social Circle Theater is a non-profit organization, so any funds donated are tax deductible.

 For more information on Broadway Junior or Music Theatre International, please call (212) 541-4684 or go to www.BroadwayJuniorcom or www.MTIshows.com. For more information on the theater, call (770) 464-2269 or go to www.socialcircletheater.com.

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