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Grace Goheen, Blue Valley High School Senior, Wins First Place in 2016 ESU Kansas City Finals

Grace Goheen, a senior at Blue Valley High School in Overland Park, Kan. won First Place in the Regional Finals of the English-Speaking Union's, Shakespeare Competition in Kansas City, Mo. Her sponsoring teacher was Maureen Davis in Blue Valley's Performing Arts Department. This was the 32nd anniversary of the Shakespeare Competition for the ESU Kansas City Branch.

Over 190 students participated in preliminary competitions in Kansas City area high schools as well as a competition for homeschool students sponsored by the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival. The ESU Kansas City Branch Competition was held on February 28, 2016, at the Kansas City Public Library, Plaza Branch, Kansas City, MO. 

Eighteen school winners from the Kansas City area schools participated. Grace impressed the judges and captivated the audience with her performance of Joan la Pucelle from Henry VI and her recitation of Sonnet 130. She will go on to represent ESU's Kansas Branch as a semi-finalist at the National Shakespeare Competition held at Lincoln Center in New York City on May 2, 2016.

The Second Place winner in the ESU Kansas City Branch finals was Liam Chewning, a junior at Olathe South High School, Olathe, Kan. His sponsoring teacher was Vicki Kohl. The Third Place winner was Erin Lowe, a sophomore at The Pembroke Hill School, Kansas City, Mo. Her sponsoring teacher was Sarah Taber.

Grace's First Place prize package from the ESU Kansas City Branch included a check for $150, a full scholarship to the Shakespeare Exploration Camp offered by the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival, an antique book of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, dated 1864, a Certificate of Appreciation and an engraved First Place Medallion.

Grace will be awarded an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City for the final stage of the Competition. The trip also includes exclusive acting workshops, sightseeing activities and spending the weekend with 58 fellow teenage aficionados of the Bard. Perhaps best of all for Grace will be the opportunity to spend a weekend with other ESU Branch winners from across the country who share her love of the Bard and his works.

Grace will be competing for amazing opportunities this summer. The First Place National Shakespeare Competition winner receives a full scholarship to study acting in Shakespeare's homeland, England (also includes transportation, housing and food). She will attend the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art's Young Actors Summer School in London. The Second Place National winner receives an all-expenses-paid scholarship to attend the American Shakespeare Centre's Theater Camp in Staunton, VA. The Third Place National winner receives $500 from The Shakespeare Society.

Two previous Kansas City winners have won First Place in the National Shakespeare Competition in New York. In 1992, David Roche, also a student at Blue Valley High School, won National First Place. In 1994, Dannye Thompson, a student at Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts, won National First Place. One past Kansas City winner won Second Place in the National Competition. The ESU Kansas City Branch is one of 58 Branches competing in the National Shakespeare Competition in New York City on May 2, 2016.

Click here to see photos from 2016 Kansas City Shakespeare Competition

The three distinguished judges for the Kansas City Branch Shakespeare Competition:

Robert Gibby Brand—

Robert Gibby Brand, a member of Actors' Equity Association, has appeared in many productions of Shakespeare Plays with the Kansas City Repertory Theatre and the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival, including A Comedy of Errors, The Tempest, Much Ado About Nothing, Twelfth Night, Measure for Measure and in the title role of Antonio in The Merchant of Venice.  Brand is also a familiar figure on other Kansas City stages, seen in the Unicorn's productions of Old Wicked Songs and Seminar, Kansas City Actors Theatre's Inspecting Carol and The Birthday Party and the Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre's M. ButterflyThe Seagull and Pride and Prejudice.  He has also performed in productions at the Lyric Opera of Kansas City and was part of the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival's program with the Bach Aria Soloists, Marriage of True Minds; a collaboration of words and music.

David Fritts—

David Fritts has appeared in the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival's productions of The Merry Wives of Windsor (Master Ford), Macbeth (Macduff), Romeo and Juliet (Mercutio), Much Ado About Nothing (Benedick), Julius Caesar (Cassius), King Richard III (Buckingham), and The Taming of the Shrew (Hortensio) A member of Actors' Equity Association, David counts among his other stage credits Bus Stop andAugust: Osage County at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre, Glengarry Glen Ross, The Seafarer and Crimes of the Heart at Kansas City Actors' Theatre and In the Next Room, Tribes and Clynbourne Park at the Unicorn.  He has also directed plays for Kansas City Actors' Theatre and Avila

University.  For five summers, David was a teacher at the "Camp Shakespeare" programs offered by the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival.

Melinda McCrary—

Melinda McCrary is a member of Actors' Equity Association with a several decade-long history of both performing and teaching Shakespeare. She has over 20 Shakespeare productions under her corset, including four roles with the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival—Ariel in the inaugural production of The Tempest, Hermia/ A Midsummer Night's Dream, Calpurnia/ Julius Caesar and Beatrice/ Much Ado About Nothing. Her most recent and bloodiest foray into the Bard's canon was as the dreaded queen, Tamora, in Titus Andronicus at the Living Room Theatre. Melinda has performed with Virginia Shakespeare Festival, Boston Shakespeare Company, St. Louis Rep, The Coterie, New Theatre, American Heartland Theatre, The Unicorn, and Arizona Theatre Company and contributed as actor, director and board member with Kansas City Actors Theatre. Melinda is currently the Director of Education and Community Programs at Kansas City Repertory Theatre. Her teaching experience includes Actors Lab Arizona, Coterie Theatre, the KCYA Community School for the Arts and acting and directing for Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Cap in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, where she introduced Shakespeare acting and text analysis classes into the curriculum and worked as text and language coach for their production of A Winter's Tale, directed by Bruce Roach. She served as Education Director for the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival for four years and as adjunct faculty teaching Foundations of Theatre Arts for the University of Missouri at Kansas City for 10 years.


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