Sugar Land’s national award-winning community theatre, Inspiration Stage (iStage), has won two more national awards for its trophy case.
Under the guiding vision of Artistic Director Mandy Seymore-Sensat and Music Director Sarah Patterson, iStage’s audition-only youth company traveled to iTheatrics’ annual Junior Theater Festival (JTF) 2017 in Atlanta Jan. 13-15. The 37-member group performed its 15-minute cut of Pasek and Paul’s musical adaptation of Ronald Dahl’s James & the Giant Peach Jr. alongside fellow youth theaters from the United States, Australia and New Zealand. For the second consecutive year, Inspiration Stage earned a coveted Outstanding Performance award. This distinguished award was presented to just nine of 111 international competing troupes at the festival.
Professional, Broadway-credentialed adjudicators selected a musical number from each Outstanding company’s cutting to be performed on JTF’s main stage for the festival’s 5,800 attendees during a student awards ceremony Jan. 15. Inspiration Stage showcased its fast-moving, dynamic rendition of James and the Giant Peach Jr.’s opening number “Right Before Your Eyes” to an enthusiastically cheering crowd.
“After winning an Outstanding award last year, we were fully unprepared, but elated, to be recognized for excellence again for the second year in a row,” said Seymore-Sensat.
iStage was previously awarded JTF 2014 Excellence in Acting recognition for Godspell, 2015 Excellence in Dance for Seussical Jr., and, in 2016, one of only nine Outstanding awards out of 115 participating companies for its production of The Lion King Jr.
Seymore-Sensat was additionally granted JTF’s prestigious Freddie G. Teacher Award, which includes a $5,000 scholarship to enhance the theatre’s youth educational programs. Only four outstanding teachers received the rare distinction during this year’s event. The award, named after Freddie “G” Gershon, Chairman/CEO of leading theatrical licensing agency Music Theatre International (MTI), honors teachers whose exemplary work positively influences and strengthens students and communities through performing arts.
“It was unimaginably good fortune that our kids would not only receive an Outstanding award, but that I would also be inducted into the distinguished roll call of Freddie G award recipients,” Seymore-Sensat said.
After recognition at JTF, Freddie G recipients travel to New York City for theatrical enrichment workshops with Broadway professionals.
“In what feels like a trifecta of prosperity,” Seymore-Sensat added th Inspiration Stage also had the honor of being hand-picked by iTheatrics event producers to introduce, through performance, JTF’s 2017 Legacy Award honorees: the Tony, Academy, and Grammy award-winning musical composer/lyricist team of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (Lucky Stiff, Ragtime, Seussical, among others). Inspiration Stage, together with the Community Theatre of Greensboro from Greensboro, N.C., jointly sang and danced in tribute to “Why We Tell the Story” for Ahrens &and Flaherty from their Tony-nominated musical, Once on This Island on JTF’s main stage Saturday night.
“JTF 2017 is something I’ll remember forever,” said Jonathan Bynum, 17, who portrayed a gruff and brooding Centipede in James. As a high school senior, JTF 2017 marked Bynum’s emotional first and last incredible year of participation eligibility.
“What we did on stage together will live on forever in my memory,” he said.
Eight Inspiration Stage youth received Golden Tickets — special invitations to audition for the opportunity to appear in MTI instructional guide choreography DVDs distributed with its Broadway Jr. series of shows. All eight iStagers received callbacks for second round auditions while company members Olivia Goodman (Nursemaid), 16, and Ashley Johnson (Ensemble), 12, advanced to the ultra-competitive third round. Final winners will be contacted during March and invited to film in New York City.
Performers Jasmine Rogers (Aunt Spiker), 17, and Davis Underwood (Grasshopper), 16, were recognized for excellence with All Star Cast awards while troupe members Walker Thornton (Ensemble), 13, and Maura Dooley (Aunt Sponge), 16, were chosen to perform “Fame” in a special musical SLAM performance. Dooley was a featured vocal soloist in the SLAM.
Inspiration Stage is a national award-winning performance arts studio located in the historic Sugar Land Auditorium at 226 Lakeview Dr. The 2016/2017 season includes youth and adult productions, as well as acting and production classes. The 2017 summer schedule includes 22 youth summer camps for ages four through 18. For more information, visit www.inspirationstage.com.