Olivia Sloan, a senior homeschool student in Kansas City, Missouri, won First Place in the English-Speaking Union's, Shakespeare Competition. Her sponsoring teacher was Matt Rapport, Director of Education, Heart of America Shakespeare Festival. This was the 31st anniversary of the Shakespeare Competition for the ESU Kansas City Branch.
Over 125 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 22, 2015, at the H&R Block City Stage Theater at Union Station in Kansas City, MO.
Thirteen school winners from the Kansas City area schools participated. Olivia impressed the judges and captivated the audience with her performance of Joan de Pucelle from Henry VI and her recitation of Sonnet 47. 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 April 27, 2015.
The Second Place winner in the ESU Kansas City Branch finals was Frederick Rivera, a junior at Shawnee Mission Northwest High School, Shawnee, KS. The Third Place winner was Molly Williams, a junior at Summit Christian Academy, Lee's Summit, MO.
Olivia'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, a Certificate of Appreciation and an engraved First Place Medallion.
Olivia will be awarded an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City for the final stage of the Competition. She also receives two full days of educational and cultural activities, including an exclusive acting workshop at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts and a visit to the William Shakespeare statue in Central Park. Perhaps best of all for Olivia 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.
Olivia 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). Last year the national winner attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art's Young Actors Summer School in London. The second place winner received an all-expenses-paid scholarship to attend the American Shakespeare Centre's Theater Camp in Staunton, VA. The third place winner received $500 from The Shakespeare Society.
Two previous Kansas City winners have won First Place in the National Shakespeare Competition in New York and one Kansas City winner won Second Place in the National Competition. In addition, two Kansas City winners were in the top ten finalists in the National Shakespeare Competition. The ESU Kansas City Branch is one of 58 Branches competing in the National Shakespeare Competition in New York on April 27, 2015.
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 the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival's productions of As You Like It, Much Ado About Nothing, Twelfth Night, King Lear, King Henry V, The Tempest, Hamlet, Othello, King Richard III, Antony and Cleopatra, A Midsummer Night's Dream and, most recently, The Winter's Tale. Brand is also a familiar figure on other Kansas City stages, seen in Kansas City Actors Theatre's The Birthday Party and at the MET in M. Butterfly, The Seagull and Pride and Prejudice. He has performed in productions at Kansas City Repertory Theatre, the Unicorn Theatre, and 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. In March 2015, Brand will be seen in the Festival's production of The Merchant of Venice, presented by the Jewish Community Center's White Theatre and the Performing Arts Series at Johnson County Community College.
Jason Chanos, a professional actor and director, became the Kansas City Repertory Theatre's Associate Artistic Director in 2014. Before taking his new position, he was an assistant professor of Theatre at Pepperdine University, teaching college acting classes, including Shakespeare. Chanos is a familiar face to Kansas City theatergoers. In 2003 he played the title role in the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival's production of Hamlet and has appeared in the Festival's productions of A Winter's Tale (for which he was also the assistant director), Richard III, Macbeth and Antony and Cleopatra. He performed Fully Committed, a one-actor show about an out-of-work actor manning the reservation line at a Manhattan restaurant, twice — first at the Unicorn Theatre and again at the American Heartland Theatre; he played 40 characters in the production. Chanos also has performed at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, the Denver Center Theatre Co. and the Rubicon Theatre Company in Ventura, California, among other regional theaters, including the Kansas City Repertory Theatre and The Coterie. Chanos' directing credits include A Midsummer Night's Dream, Romeo & Juliet and Waiting for Godot.
Sidonie Garrett is the Executive Artistic Director of the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival. Prior to joining the Festival, she worked as a freelance director. Her experience working with new plays took her to New York City, where she directed the off-off-Broadway production of Thanatos. For the Festival she directed The Taming of the Shrew, Hamlet, Julius Caesar, Much Ado About Nothing, Twelfth Night, Romeo and Juliet, Merry Wives of Windsor, Othello, King Richard III, Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra and A Midsummer Night's Dream in rotating rep, As You Like It and The Winter's Tale. Garrett has directed productions at The Coterie Theatre (including The Macbeth Project and the U.S. premiere of After Juliet), the American Heartland Theatre, KC Rep's Second Stage and The Unicorn Theatre. She directed holiday programs with the Kansas City Symphony, Falstaff and The Marriage of Figaro for Civic Opera Theatre and has directed productions at UMKC, KCKCC and Avila University. Sidonie directed the original presentation of Play On! A Collaboration of Music and Words and Marriage of True Minds, with the Bach Aria Soloists. She will direct the Festival's production of The Merchant of Venice in March 2015, presented by the Jewish Community Center's White Theatre and the Performing Arts Series at Johnson County Community College, and King Lear, playing June 16 – July 5, 2015 in Southmoreland Park.