Theatre for Youth Invitational Festival

SETC’s Theatre for Youth Invitational Festival is a non-competitive exhibition of theatre produced for young audiences by companies during the annual SETC Convention and is open to all SETC Convention attendees as well as children from schools surrounding the convention’s host city.

2021 Festival

Performances will take place as part of the 72nd annual SETC Virtual Convention!

The submission period has now ended. Thank you to everyone who applied!


For more information, please contact:

Laura Byland

Theatre for Youth Division Chair
Phone: 405-550-1946
Email Laura Byland

More About the Festival

The festival strives to highlight, promote and enhance the quality of theatre for young audiences by presenting professional and/or amateur productions that embrace the broadest possible range of genres and styles, and by subsequent adjudication of those productions.

The festival brings together various forms of theatre for youth, including:

  • Professional theatre companies
  • Young people performing for young audiences
  • College students learning the challenge of performing for young audiences
  • New plays and proven classics

Reaching Out: The festival provides the opportunity for thousands of young people to experience the magic of live theatre, allows the performing companies and playwrights to receive critical feedback, and gives TYA (Theatre for Young Audiences) producers and performers a forum in which to share their craft. It is a rare and valuable opportunity to help them continue their growth as artists and producing institutions.

Background: Over the last quarter century, the Theatre for Youth Invitational Festival has showcased more than one hundred works to more than 25,000 young people. As part of the annual SETC Convention, the festival brings together Artist and Audience, Playwright and Publisher, Performer and Producer to explore the infinite world of Theatre for Youth and to work with and get feedback from some of this country’s preeminent figures in the field.

What the Children Have to Say

“The festival allows new plays to be performed in a safe and nurturing environment and helps promote the growth of these new works, which eventually touch and enrich the lives of thousands of children across the country.”

“The play was really fun. It was a blast!”

“I wish I could put on a performance for you like you did for me and the other children.”

“The show was so fun! I really learned something from the play. I learned that I have time for everything.”

Logo for Innovation Arts Academy

Once on This Island JR

Presented by InnOVATION Arts Academy (Lexington, KY)

by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty
“Once on This Island JR” is the authorized young performer’s edition of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty’s story of “two worlds, never meant to meet,” where the power of love is proven to conquer the power of death — a lesson well told for generations to come. “Once on This Island JR” is an engaging, Caribbean-flavored musical set on an unnamed island in the French Antilles. The story of Ti Moune, a peasant girl who falls in love above her class, is told around a fire by a group of Caribbean peasants as they wait out a terrible storm. “Once on This Island JR” uses the tradition of storytelling to pass down history, values and insight from one generation to the next. The result is a lesson to be passed along for generations to come. With the gods looking over her, Ti Moune’s journey of unrequited love comes to prove that the power of love is stronger than the power of death. Ti Moune’s courage and spirit prove that love can withstand the storm, cross the Earth, and survive even in the face of death.

InnOVATION Arts Academy is a performing arts program serving children ages 3-18 in the Lexington, KY area. InnOVATION aims to provide the highest-quality of performing arts training and performance experiences to students by hiring teachers who are passionate about their craft and highly trained and experienced. InnOVATION Arts Academy offers advanced, conservatory-style training to students who wish to become musical theatre “triple threats.” The program also offers beginner and intermediate training, classes that engage the broader community, summer camps, and in-school programming. InnOVATION Arts Academy produces 3-5 full scale musicals a year. Their goal is to nurture the creative spirit in children by: providing high quality performing arts training; encouraging the development of individual expression, leadership capacity, teamwork, and dynamic communication skills; supporting and developing arts professionals; and showcasing the arts in the community.

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Huck Finn

Presented by Birmingham Children’s Theatre (Birmingham, AL)

by Eric Schmiedl; based on Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”
Two runaways – a boy and an enslaved man – team up for adventure on the mighty Mississippi! Huckleberry Finn finds freedom on the run, out-thinking colorful con-men, narrowly escaping a family feud, and even passing as a girl as he and Jim make their way down the “big river.” On the journey, they learn lessons of integrity, dignity and friendship. At turns dramatic then hilarious, two performers and one storytelling troubadour play a dozen characters in this timeless tale, uniquely adapted from Mark Twain’s classic American novel.

Birmingham Children’s Theatre exists to educate, entertain and enrich the lives of children through the magic of professional theatre. One of the nation’s oldest and largest professional theatre companies for young audiences, BCT produces high-quality, professional theatrical entertainment and curriculum-relevant arts education experiences for children and families. Established in 1947, BCT has touched the lives of over twelve million students throughout its seven-decade history. In 2018-2019, BCT offered more than 250 in-house performances and 200 tour performances that reached over 570 K-12 schools and served over 140,000 youth and families.

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The Odyssey

Presented by Theatre ETC! (Huntington, WV)

Adapted by R. N. Sandberg from Homer’s epic poem
The Odyssey is the story not only of Odysseus’ journey home from the Trojan War but of his son Telemachus’ path to find out who he truly is. As Odysseus encounters the one-eyed Cyclops, Telemachus struggles to keep their home safe from greedy suitors. As Odysseus battles raging seas and the sly Circe, Telemachus himself sets sail to find his father. And on their parallel journeys, Odysseus and Telemachus encounter monsters and seas so treacherous that they are challenged to their limits. Will they survive to return home? If they do, what kind of heroes will they have become?

Marshall University’s Theatre ETC! (Educational Touring Company), now in their 6th season, produces stage adaptations of literary classics for students and educators across southern West Virginia and eastern Ohio. Their goal is to provide an imaginative, immersive, educational theatre experience in under-served and impoverished communities. Recognizing that the two greatest barriers for attending live performances are travel and cost, they’ve eliminated the need for costly and time-consuming travel expenses by performing in school cafeterias, libraries, gymnasiums and auditoriums.

2020 Festival Respondents

It’s an honor to welcome Michael J. Bobbitt and Vivian Snipes as respondents to the 2020 festival. We look forward to their insights and expertise!

Michael Bobbitt Headshot

Michael J. Bobbitt

Artistic Director, New Repertory Theatre

Michael joined New Repertory Theatre as an arts leader, director, choreographer, and playwright in 2019. Michael J. Bobbitt served as Artistic Director for Adventure Theatre-MTC in Maryland since 2007, where he led the organization to be a respected theatre/training company in the DC region, as well as a nationally influential professional Theatre for Young Audiences. He led a merger with Musical Theater Center, increased the organizational budget and audience, commissioned new works by noted playwrights, transferred two shows to Off-Broadway, built an academy, and earned dozens of Helen Hayes Award Nominations including eight wins. Bobbitt has directed/choreographed at Arena Stage, Ford’s Theatre, The Shakespeare Theatre Company, Olney Theatre Center, Studio Theatre, Woolly Mammoth Theatre, Center Stage, Roundhouse Theatre, The Kennedy Center, and the Washington National Opera. His national and international credits include the NY Musical Theatre Festival, Mel Tillis 2001, La Jolla Playhouse, Children’s Theatre of Charlotte, Jefferson Performing Arts Center, and the Olympics. As a writer, his work was chosen for the NYC International Fringe Festival and The New York and Musical Theatre Festival. He has two plays published by Rogers and Hammerstein Theatricals. He trained at Harvard Business School’s Strategic Perspectives in Nonprofit Management, The National Arts Strategies Chief Executive Program, and other top leadership programs. He earned the Excel Leadership Award (Center for Nonprofit Advancement) the Emerging Leader Award (County Executive’s Excellence in the Arts and Humanities), and Person of the Year Award (Maryland Theatre Guide), among others.

Vivian Snipes Headshot

Vivian R. Snipes

Artistic Director, Lexington Children’s Theatre

Vivian says the theatre bug bit her at an early age and she knew theatre for young audiences was her passion. A part of Lexington Children’s Theatre since 1979, her various hats include actor, director, teaching artist, set designer, costumer, production manager, playwright – and for the last 20-ish years – artistic director… where no two days are the same, the challenges are as varied as the worlds created onstage, and working with emerging artists (of all ages) is inspiring, invigorating, and rewarding!


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