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Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park oversees poetry contest



This fall, Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park is reaching out to high schools across the state to engage students in the 2015-16 Poetry Out Loud competition.

Selected by Oklahoma Arts Council (OAC), Shakespeare in the Park will promote the competition throughout state high schools and organize regional and state competitions to select one winner to represent Oklahoma at the national finals in Washington, D.C., in May.

OAC received several bids for the opportunity, and Shakespeare in the Park impressed with its innovative program ideas.

Shakespeare in the Park will provide resources and materials to teachers who are sponsoring each school. According to Amber Sharples, Arts Council executive director, one of the proposals from Shakespeare in the Park includes the nonprofit promoting poetry to students in a theatrical way.

“We felt that rather than bringing reciting poetry into the classroom, they were going to liven classrooms by going out and interfacing with schools with a new idea,” Sharples said. “They also made a strong proposal that poetry and theater could build a bridge to get students excited about the theater arts.”

Poetry Out Loud is a national competition founded by the National Endowment of the Arts. The program, launched in 2006, encourages students to learn about the literary form through memorization and recitation. Every year, each state receives a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts to administer competitions, Joel Gavin, OAC’s director of marketing and communications, said. One student is selected from each state to compete in the national competition in Washington, D.C.

“In our case, we chose to allow a nonprofit arts organization to share the stake to manage and facilitate the program, to bring their ideas to the table and to work it into their mission,” Gavin said. “There’s a lot of opportunity there with those organizations that already have connections across the state. We thought it could be really interesting.”

In the spring, Shakespeare in the Park will be responsible for hosting regional competitions across the state, and those will culminate in a state competition determining Oklahoma’s competitor in the national finals.

According to Sharples, both students and their schools benefit from the Poetry Out Loud competition.

The first-place winner of the state’s Poetry Out Loud competition will also receive a $200 scholarship and an all-expense-paid trip with one adult chaperone to the Washington, D.C., competition. The first-place winner’s school will also receive a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books.

The first runner-up will receive a $100 scholarship and a $200 stipend for his or her school library, organizers said.

“It was evident [Shakespeare in the Park] had some established relationships with the schools in the rural areas of the state,” Gavin said. “So we knew that they would provide a great opportunity to reach a broad spectrum of students, especially those who don’t have access to these types of programs that we have in the metro area.”

High schools that are interested in organizing a competition may contact Kathryn McGill, Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park executive and artistic director, at 235-3700 or For more information on Poetry Out Loud, visit

Print Headline: Words aloud, Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park leads a statewide poetry competition through public schools.

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