Asheville Arts Center and MusicWorks! students claim prestigious awards

Congrats are in order for the young thespians and musicians who excelled at the 2010 Junior Theater Festival, a weekend celebration of musical theatre held in Atlanta last month. Among the 1,600 participants were two groups of students from the Asheville Arts Center in Asheville and one from Musicworks! Studio of the Performance Arts in Waynesville.

Gathering with peers from across the nation, the AAC Jr. company and Musicworks! Students participated in an array of activities including structured and improvisational group performances, competitions and interactive workshops with teachers and professional Broadway actors. The AAC company presented excerpts from its recent productions of Once on This Island Junior (with actors ages 10 and up) and Alice and Wonderland JR (ages 7-10).

“As the Asheville Arts Center’s first year [participating in the festival], we were very nervous about how our students would match up to some of the best performing arts schools in the country,” writes the AAC’s Mary Katherine Smith. “However, our students created quite a ‘buzz’ with the adjudicators and administrators and left with the most prestigious award.”

Students from AAC won the Freddie G Broadway Junior Spirit Award, which is awarded annually to the group that most embodies the spirit of educational musical theatre. Students from MusicWorks! took home the Freddie G Excellence in Choreography and Student Direction award. “They have made North Carolina proud,” Smith continues.

The AAC Jr. company also received the Outstanding Achievement in Acting award, and member Mary Katherine O’Donnell won Best Actress, member Gavin Reep received Special Recognition for Professionalism, member Tim Bates received Special Recognition for Outstanding Performance, and AAC drama directors (six in total) were honored as Best Director.

“Out of 1,600 kids, 200 were invited to audition for the MTI Choreography DVD to be filmed in New York City this summer, and five AAC actors were selected,” Smith reports. “Congrats to Mary Katherine O’Donnell, Lincoln Belford, Wolfe Lanier and Savannah Crespo for going to the auditions, and to Aislin Thompson for making the cut!”

In addition, actors Savannah Crespo, Lincoln Belford, Gavin Reep and Sarah Plaut were chosen to participate in a special performance with Seth Rudetsky, an acclaimed musical director on Broadway. And, as a result of AAC’s accomplishments at the festival, Heather Taft, AAC founder and owner, will be flown out to New York City for an all-expenses paid master teaching intensive. Taft will attend two Broadway shows and take part in a hands-on professional development weekend with leaders in education and theatre.

For more information about honors and awards visit or call 253-4000.

Aiyanna Sezak-Blatt

About Aiyanna Sezak-Blatt
Aiyanna grew up on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. She was educated at The Cambridge School of Weston, Sarah Lawrence College, and Oxford University. Aiyanna lives in Asheville, North Carolina where she proudly works for Mountain Xpress, the city’s independent local newspaper.

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