SAN ANTONIO (Army News Service, July 27, 2010) -- A small community theater based in a converted World War II stable in Germany proudly displays scores of Topper Awards - the U.S. Army's "Oscar" for entertainment productions - but outside the door of this thriving theater, the quality entertainment it offers is not as well known.

This year, the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command is moving its Festival of the Arts program to the Internet, to showcase the talent to the public and allow competitors to view each others entries and share best practices. Even the final judging process will be moved online to

The Festival of the Arts' mission is to foster skill development, promote quality of life, and cultivate an appreciation of the arts within the military community through participation in targeted Army recreation events. The program's annual competition is a series of events local garrisons run from April through October. Events range from talent shows, involving youth and Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers, to plays and musicals produced by garrison art or theater communities.

The program provides a creative outlet for Soldiers, family members and other MWR patrons to showcase individual talents in a performing arts or recreation setting. will feature photos, videos and promotional material from the participating garrisons' 2010 events. Judges will be able to follow events from this website, and announce winners online at the completion of the competition. Just as importantly, by moving the event online and promoting the competition through social media, local efforts to promote the arts will get a little "boost" in visibility.

"The competition needed a facelift. In previous years, all events happened with little or no interaction or communication to the public, the judges, or the competitors. With the launch of this new site, and through the use of social media, interested parties can now follow each event and show support for their favorite event, MWR program, or Army Garrison," said Joe Leavell, Festival of the Arts executive producer.

In previous years, the competition's winners were celebrated in a limited-distribution book. This year, winners will be seen on the Web and through the world of social media.

"We wanted to showcase the competition in a new light, embracing today's technology and allowing these garrisons to achieve better visibility for their events," said Carrie Poore, FMWRC marketing account manager. "We can now build on to make the competition edgier and give these quality events the credit they deserve. Most importantly, we can bring to light the performing arts in and around our military communities."

"We hope the festival program's presence on the Web builds interest and allows for expansion and growth in this important quality of life program," Leavell said. "It truly allows Soldiers and family members a chance to showcase their talents."

As an example of how showcasing talent through the program can lead to new opportunities, Leavell pointed out that seven of the current 21 U.S. Army Soldier Show cast members were discovered through local Festival of the Arts events.

"Family and MWR gives Soldiers and family members the chance to shine, and provides them opportunities they never deemed possible," Leavell said.

(Bradner works for Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command public affairs.)