Students in the advanced performers program of Bay Area Children's Theatre traveled virtually to this year's Junior Theatre Festival Australia.
The local participants -- sixth- to 12th-graders from Pleasanton, Livermore, San Ramon, Orinda, Berkeley, Oakland and Alameda -- learned their song and dance routines online, recorded their parts individually in their own homes, then competed long-distance.
"The students had to be much more self-directed and had to work with technology because we weren't all in the room together," BACT artistic director Khalia Davis said. "And we had to lean into the Zoom medium to make the performance better."
The young performers competed in two groups. One team took top honors for Outstanding Acting Performance for excerpts from "Elf The Musical JR." The other won Outstanding Vocal Performance for excerpts from "Madagascar -- A Musical Adventure JR."
"We had 10 minutes to impress the judges, so we tried to tell the story, showcase different styles of songs, and play with the Zoom medium to see what fun we could have," said Davis, who directed the "Madagascar" team.
JTF Australia, the largest celebration of musical theater for young people in Australia, took place Oct. 30-31 in Newcastle, New South Wales. Student groups were permitted to perform in person or digitally, depending on public health restrictions in their home locations. BACT was one of three American student theatre groups invited to compete in the festival -- all, digitally.
For advanced performer director Amber Dyson, who led the "Elf" team, this competition was the first opportunity to direct online.
"I felt that my existing relationships with the students made it easier to convey the vision for 'Elf Jr.,' and the adjudicators definitely picked up on the joy and hope that we wanted our performance to convey," Dyson said. "I have to give a special shout out to Cicily Gruber, our amazing video editor -- nothing would have been possible without her."
For information about BACT's Imaginate Club Academy, offering classes online during the pandemic, visit bactheatre.org/#/academy.