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Posted: January 31, 2009 11:59 p.m.

Social Circle Theater wins honors at 2009 Junior Theater Festival

Social Circle Theater students and instructors came home from the 2009 Junior Theater Festival with priceless memories, new skills and accolades, including Outstanding Individual Female and Best Director.

Kaylee Ruyark, 12, received the Outstanding Individual: Female Award, with her solo in the song "Day by Day."

"When they called my name," said Ruyark, "I was shocked. I had no idea that I was going to get that award. I also had a very bad cold. I was proud of myself for doing the best that I could do."

Social Circle Theater Artistic Director Ricky Hall was chosen along with four other directors for the Broadway Junior Slam competition where they had only 55 minutes with 30 young actors from many different theater groups to create a song and dance number they later performed. For his diligence, Ricky received the award of Best Director.

"There were so many directors who had so much more experience. I was really surprised and proud," he said, smiling as he shook his head. "I didn’t realize I had won until all the kids started screaming around me."

Social Circle Theater is no stranger to awards at this festival, which was attended this year by 1,400 students and teachers from 36 groups from 14 different states. Last year was their first experience and they received the award of Best Performance, which allowed them to present one song for the entire festival audience.

This year, the acting group from Social Circle Theater, a group of 19 young actors ranging in age from 8 to 16, performed five song and dance numbers from "Godspell, Jr.," a musical based on the life of Jesus. The students had performed the show in its entirety last February cast as pirates on their massive ship, complete with mast, crows nest and sails.

The Social Circle students performed in front of judges Ken Cerniglia, dramaturg and literary manager for Disney Theatrical Productions, iTheatrics master teacher Cindy Ripley, leading choreographer and Butler University Professor Kenny Shepard, and Pat Briggs, the retired director of the Palo Alto Children’s Theater.

The adjudicators named Social Theater students Jada Graves, Kaylee Ruark and Omar Scruggs to the Festival All-Stars, a group of performers who performed the song 13 from the new musical 13 during the Sunday closing ceremony.

Four students were given the opportunity to audition for a part in a Disney DVD. Maridith Grimsley, Graves, Ruark and Scruggs auditioned, learning a song and dance in less than 30 minutes. Even though they were not chosen to fly to New York for the taping of the DVD, they said they enjoyed meeting others who shared their passion for the arts.

As for the rest of the festival, there were workshops designed to empower teachers and professionals to present musicals in their community with the knowledge, skills and tools necessary to grow their program. Workshops focused on different aspects of putting on a show, including the "how to’s" of starting a drama club, choreographing musical numbers and creating great-looking sets and costumes on a range of budgets.

The students also took part in workshops. Topics included auditions, backstage technical theatre skills, like stage management and props, and making the most out of rehearsals.

The weekend was capped off with a one hour interactive session with Thomas Schumacher, producer of the Tony Award winning Broadway Musical The Lion King, among many other accolades.

The festival was produced by the family entertainment company iTheatrics and Theater of the Stars in association with leading theatrical licensor Music Theatre International.

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