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AMDA Alumna Co-Founds the New York Children’s Theater Festival

19 March, 2012 - Alumni, Announcements

AMDA congratulates graduate Renee Barnett (2006), co-founder of the New York Children’s Theater Festival which will kick off in April in NYC! The new festival, created to celebrate and promote the art of children’s theater, will premiere on April 20 and run through May 5 at The Marjorie S. Deane Little Theater in Manhattan. Go Green! Prince Charming's Quest for Love and Ecology in NYC, Scheme of the Superbullies and The Velveteen Rabbit were chosen as this year’s participants by a judging panel of over 30 industry professionals including Kevin ("Elmo") Clash, Cheryl Henson (President, The Henson Foundation), John Tartaglia (Emmy, Tony, and Drama Desk Award nominated actor, producer, puppeteer), Thomas Schumacher (President, Disney Theatrical Productions), and Michael Jung, (Vice President, Theatrical Development, Walt Disney Imagineering).

Renee Barnett

Since graduating from AMDA Renee has performed extensively with ArtsPower National Touring Theater (in several children’s plays) and in various plays and musicals throughout the city. She most recently performed in Musicals Tonight's production of All American. Renee has also worked as a music teacher with a variety of children’s centers and currently works as a piano teacher for children with special needs. She is co-founder of Rumpus Children’s Theater and a proud mom to an amazing two year-old daughter.

We spoke to Renee to find out more about what inspired her to start up the festival. She explains how the idea came to life. “I have quite a bit of experience working in children's theater, and I have always enjoyed it. I remember so clearly how exciting and magical it was when I saw theater when I was younger, and how that has really formed my love of theater as an adult. After I had my daughter in 2009 I was speaking to a friend of mine who also has a lot of children's theater experience, and we started talking about how important children's theater is, and how we sometimes felt that children's theater is looked down on or not as valued as ‘adult theater’. We both felt that it was so important to encourage the creation of new, creative, and exciting theater for youth. So we actually started our own children's theater company, Rumpus Children's Theater, and even did a few readings of new plays.

In August of 2010, though, I was in a show in the Midtown International Theater Festival and I was coming home from rehearsal one night and just had this fleeting thought about a children's theater festival. I was sure one had to exist already because there are festivals for every kind of theater in New York, but I came home and googled it to find that it did not exist! So I told Chelsey Shannon, my fellow co-founder of Rumpus, and she was convinced it was something we had to do.

We were lucky enough to meet Michael Shawn Lewis at a reading we put up with Rumpus. Michael is a Broadway actor and producer of John Tartaglia's Imaginocean. He has extensive producing experience and industry connections. We were thrilled when he said he wanted to help us. It is really amazing how it all came together.”

The festival has been getting great press already with items running in Broadway.com, Theatremania, The Examiner and more. Visit newyorkchildrenstheaterfestival.org and check out the performance schedule below.

The New York Children’s Theatre Festival Schedule of Events:

  • Go Green! Prince Charming's Quest for Love and Ecology in NYC
    Friday April 20 at 5:30pm; Saturday April 21 at 11am and 2pm
    A musical fairy tale about a modern-day Prince Charming who must choose between his passion for saving the earth or completing his quest to preserve true love forevermore. Go Green! has music by Mary Feinsinger and book and lyrics by Joan Ross Sorkin.
  • Scheme of the Superbullies
    Friday April 27 at 5:30pm; Saturday April 28 at 11am and 2pm
    When mad scientist Countess von Cooties forms the League of Super Bullies, fiercely independent superhero Princess Dodgeball must learn to accept help from her friends (and the audience) to save her school, in this original musical. Scheme of the Superbullies has book, music and lyrics by Ross Wade.
  • The Velveteen Rabbit
    Friday May 4 at 5:30pm; Saturday May 5 at 11am and 2pm
    The classic story by Margery Williams has been adapted by Andrew M. Frodahl. The Velveteen Rabbit comes to life in this new version featuring live actors and puppets. A journey through time, this enchanting production focuses on the power of love and friendship.