CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia Division of Culture and History (WVDCH) and the West Virginia Commission on the Arts will host the West Virginia state semifinal and final rounds of the Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Friday, March 8th, and at 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 9th. The programs will take place in the Norman L. Fagan West Virginia State Theater of the Culture Center, State Capitol Complex in Charleston. Both days of the contest are free and open to the public.
Thirty students from high schools in 23 counties will compete in the semifinals on Friday, with the top 10 contestants returning on Saturday for the state final. A complete list of semifinalists and their schools is attached.
The state champion will receive $200 and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., for the national finals on April 28-30. Commissioned by the Division, West Virginia artists Chris Dutch and Robin Hammer, both of Charleston, created an artistic trophy for the winning student and a traveling trophy, which will go to the winning student’s school for a year.
Other awards include a $500 stipend to the winner’s school for the purchase of poetry books, $100 to the runner-up, and $200 to that student’s school library.
Trent Danowski, a former Nitro High School teacher and long-time participant of the program, will serve as emcee for the semifinal rounds on Friday. He has been involved in Poetry Out Loud since 2009, and last year, he worked with Bruce McCuskey, the 2012 West Virginia State Poetry Out Loud Champion who went on to place in the top 24 at the national competition last May.
Charleston poet Crystal Good will make a special appearance during Friday’s semifinal rounds. Good’s first chapbook of poetry, Valley Girl, explores themes in quantum physics, Appalachian culture, gender equality and mountaintop removal.
The Division welcomes back acclaimed actor and West Virginia native Chris Sarandon, returning for his sixth year, as emcee for the final contest at 1 p.m. on Saturday. Sarandon, star of screen, theater and television, graduated magna cum laude from West Virginia University and received his master’s degree in theater from Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. A Beckley native, he has performed in such films as Dog Day Afternoon, for which he received an Oscar nomination, The Princess Bride, Child’s Play, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Loggerheads. Recently, he starred opposite of Jason Statham in the action thriller Safe. His Broadway appearances have included The Rothschilds, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Nick and Nora and Cyrano de Bergerac with Kevin Kline and Jennifer Garner. Sarandon is also featured on the spoken word album, Poetic License: 100 Poems/100 Performers.
The Saturday program will feature two special guest performances. West Virginia’s poet laureate, Marc Harshman, will address the audience and serve as a judge for the finals. In addition, renowned guitarist Charlie Hunter and jazz drummer Scott Amendola will perform. Hunter came into the music scene in the early 1990s and has since recorded more than a dozen albums. Not Getting Behind Is The New Getting Ahead, Hunter’s newest duo recording with Amendola, is his first recording of original compositions in three years.
Poetry Out Loud is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry Magazine, the oldest English-language monthly publication dedicated to verse. The program is designed to encourage high school-age students to learn about great poetry through memorization, performance and competition.
For more information about the Poetry Out Loud and the state semifinal and final competition, contact Cicely Bosley, Arts in Education Coordinator for the Division, at (304) 558-0240.
The West Virginia Division of Culture and History is an agency within the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts with Kay Goodwin, Cabinet Secretary. The Division, led by Commissioner Randall Reid-Smith, brings together the past, present and future through programs and services focusing on archives and history, arts, historic preservation and museums. For more information about the Division’s programs, events and sites, visit www.wvculture.org. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.
POETRY OUT LOUD SEMIFINALISTS
Division I: Competing at 10 a.m. Friday, March 8th
Aeesha Ranavaya, Cabell Midland High School, Cabell County
Division II: Competing at 2 p.m. on Friday, March 8th
Olivia Hrko, Bridgeport High School, Harrison County
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