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 Convention attendees as well as children from schools surrounding the Convention city.

2019 Festival

Festival Date: Thurs., Feb. 28, 2019
Location: Knoxville, TN | 70th Annual SETC Convention

Thank you to everyone who applied to perform in the 2019 Theatre for Youth Invitational Festival as part of the 70th annual SETC convention in Knoxville, TN! Applications closed Sept. 15, 2018. We look forward to announcing this year’s lineup of performances.

2019 Festival Respondents

Sir Tim Webb

Tim is co-founder and artistic director of Oily Cart which began work in 1981, and specializes in multi-sensory, close-up, highly interactive theatre for very young children and also for young people with severe learning disabilities including autistic spectrum disorders. He has trained and mentored companies around the world including Ireland, Sweden, Hawaii, Japan and most recently at Lincoln Center in New York.

Tim has worked as writer and director at theatres throughout the UK. His scripts have been produced in the UK, at the Leicester Haymarket, the Albany Empire, Contact Theatre, Manchester, by Greenwich, Glasgow and Leeds Theatre-in-Education companies and, internationally, by the Carousel Players, Canada, So-Edineni, Moscow and the Chicago Children’s Theatre.

Rhonda Wilson

Rhonda is the Founder and Executive Director of Star Center Children’s Theatre. She is also a full-time Public Middle School Theater. She holds a B.S. degree from the University of Florida in Community Resource Economics. She is certified in Elementary Education, as a Media Specialist and Secondary Drama. She credits her childhood with her passion to create opportunities for youth. Rhonda founded the Star Center Children’s Theatre, an Arts Education organization, 18 years ago to educate and give performance opportunities to youth and their families. Star Center provides a place to build self-esteem, learn teamwork and gain confidence through the arts. Rhonda expanded her vision to reach families when she founded the Actors’ Warehouse, another non-profit theatre. Rhonda’s work has been recognized Nationally, Regionally and Statewide. Those awards include 2018 Tony Award Nomination for Excellence in Theatre Education, Allstate National Champion for Good, SETC’s Sara Spencer Child Drama Award, Florida Governor’s Award for Community Investment in Youth, Florida Distinguished Career Award, State Diversity and Inclusion Award, National Special Recognition Award from the American Association for Community Theatre and many recognitions. Rhonda continues to follow her passion and turned that small program that started 18 years ago into a year round season of shows, workshops and classes. When she is not directing, she can be found on the stage. She makes her New York off-Broadway debut in a solo performance of GROUNDED during the 2018 United Solo Festival. Her mission is to make sure every child or child at heart, has a place to SPARKLE and SHINE!

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 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 pre-eminent figures in the field.


SETC Theatre for Youth Contacts:
Division Chair:  Riley Braem
Division Vice Chair:  Laura Byland

“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.”

 Kenton Yeager, Past Chair, Theatre for Youth Division

Last Year’s Festival

Thank you to the Renaissance Mobile Riverview in Mobile, AL, for hosting three wonderful performances at SETC’s 2018 Theatre for Youth Invitational Festival as part of the 69th annual SETC convention.

2018 Performance Lineup

Twas the Week After Christmas

Presented by Wings Performing Arts – Gulfport, MS

Written by Denver Casado and Brian Dawson; Directed by Alyiah Necaise; Music Directed by Bernadette Brockman
It’s the week after Christmas, and everyone in Santa’s workshop is exhausted. Dickens and Weatherby, our storytellers for the evening, describe how this past Christmas was the least successful to date, due to the Elves and the Reindeer not getting along. Overworked and under-appreciated, the Elves decide to go on a vacation far away. However when they arrive at the Topical Tinsel Resort, the realize the Reindeer and Santa are vacationing there too! Suddenly, the resort is in a crisis when Santa goes missing out at sea. The Elves and Reindeer now more than ever must work together to save Santa and Christmas forever! Recommended for grades K-5.

The Jungle Book

Presented by Samford University Theatre for Youth – Birmingham, AL

Written by Kendra Ball; Directed by Laura Byland
Inspired by Rudyard Kipling’s books comes a new telling of what it means to grow up. From the day Mowgli wanders into Mother and Father Wolf’s cave, his life becomes a series of challenges and adventures. Will he choose to confront his fears and protect his new family, or will he simply run away? Implementing song and wrapped up in humor, this story is sure to be an enjoyable version of a classic tale! Recommended for ages 4 and up.

The Branchman

Presented by University School of Jackson – Jackson, TN

Written and Directed by Harrison Hamm
The Branchman is a farce about a legendary creature that kidnaps people in Woodsborough forest. A high school girl has been kidnapped and a group of her teenage peers have set out on a mission to find her, as well as to see if the Branchman is real or fairy tale. Recommended for grades 4-12.

2018 Festival Respondents

Suzan Zeder

Suzan Zeder is recognized internationally as one of the nation’s leading playwrights for family audiences. Her plays have been performed in all 50 states and many foreign countries. Her recent plays include a new musical version of Wiley and the Hairy Man, When She Had Wings about women and girls who fly literally and metaphorically, and a political fantasy, The Milk Dragon, which includes a herd of elk and a pack of wolves! She is currently at work on an ensemble musical based on the life of Clara Barton, civil war nurse, activist and the founder of The American Red Cross. Zeder is a six-time winner of the Distinguished Play Award from AATE. In 2018 she will become President of the Children’s Theatre Foundation of America, a charitable foundation dedicated to excellence and innovation in theatre for young people with a commitment to diversity, racial equity  and inclusion.

Ernie Nolan

Ernie Nolan, Executive Artistic Director of Nashville Children’s Theatre, is an award-winning director and playwright who received the Illinois Theatre Association’s 2014 award for Excellence in Theatre for Young Audiences. He has directed and choreographed world premieres by such Tony-nominated artists as Willy and Rob Reale, Stephen Schwartz, Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, and Bill Russell and Henry Krieger. Ernie currently serves as  the International Representative for TYA USA to ASSITEJ, a global theatre for young audiences service organization where he also sits on the Executive Committee. He is a proud graduate of both the University of Michigan Musical Theatre Program (BFA Musical Theatre) and The Theatre School at DePaul University (MFA Directing).

What the Children Have to Say