Hillcrest Elementary School fifth grader Winston Sessions won the Excellent Individual Performance Award recently at the Junior Theater Festival in Atlanta.

Sessions described the trophy as “bigger than my brothers’ baseball trophies.”

It was his first time at the festival and he went as part of the Spark Theater Company, which is located in Dothan, and was the first company member to win the JTF Excellent Individual Performance Award.

As part of the festival, which ran from Jan. 17-19, the group was required to perform a short 15-minute version of a Music Theater International junior play.

The company chose “James and the Giant Peach.”

Sessions played the lead role, James, during the theater’s production of the play back in September of 2019. The group started practicing their cut at the beginning of January 2020.

“We just kept changing the cut because some of the cuts that we tried didn’t work and we had to adapt to that,” Sessions said. “We ended up going with a sad beginning to happy then another sad dip and ending on a really high happy ending.”

Timothy Allen McDonald, the “James and the Giant Peach” playwright, attended the company’s performance.

“It was so cool,” Sessions said. “He actually started crying when we were doing one of the songs.”

The company was one of nine to win the Freddy G. Outstanding Performance Award. There were around 135 theater companies that competed at the festival in 19 groups, called pods. Spark was placed in the Charcoal Pod with some international teams.

As a recipient of the award, the Spark Theater Company got to perform on the main stage of the festival in front of about 7,000 people.

“It was really cool,” Sessions said. “The stage is huge and it was so amazing, I just don’t know how to explain it.”

 He said he enjoyed meeting all the new faces at the festival.

“I think my favorite part was just getting to meet people that do the same thing as you and you just become friends for basically the rest of your life,” Sessions said.

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