Poetry Out Loud Drama Competition 

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

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Poetry Out Loud Drama Competition

Have you ever felt the magic of words when they come alive through poetry? Well, that’s exactly what the Poetry Out Loud Drama Competition is all about! In this blog, we’re going to dive into this unique competition where people use their voices to make poetry shine on the stage.

Get ready to discover the world of passionate performers, powerful recitations, and the beauty of words in action!

What is Poetry Out Loud?

What exactly is Poetry Out Loud? Poetry Out Loud is a national arts education program created to inspire and foster a deep appreciation for poetry among high school students across the United States. Launched in 2005, the initiative is a partnership between the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Poetry Foundation, in collaboration with state arts agencies.

The primary goal of Poetry Out Loud is to encourage students to develop a personal connection with classic and contemporary poetry through the process of memorization and recitation. By doing so, the program aims to enhance students’ understanding of literature, improve their public speaking skills, and build their self-confidence.

Poetry Out Loud achieves these objectives through a pyramid structure that includes classroom, school, regional, and state-level competitions, culminating in a national finals event. Each year, thousands of schools across the country participate, involving millions of students.

The program provides participating schools with free educational resources, including a comprehensive teacher’s guide, lesson plans, and video resources, to help educators incorporate poetry recitation into their curricula. Additionally, the Poetry Out Loud website features an extensive online anthology of eligible poems for students to choose from, catering to diverse interests and themes.

Beyond the competition aspect, Poetry Out Loud serves as a valuable educational tool that enriches students’ learning experiences. By engaging with poetry in a performative and personal way, students develop a more profound connection to the literary art form and gain essential skills that can be applied to various aspects of their lives.

In recent years, the Poetry Out Loud program has expanded to include college-level competitions, enabling more students to benefit from the transformative power of poetry and performance. By participating in the program, college students can continue to hone their skills, deepen their appreciation for poetry, and connect with a vibrant community of poetry enthusiasts.

What is the Poetry Out Loud Drama Competition?

The Poetry Out Loud Drama Competition is a dynamic extension of the original Poetry Out Loud program, specifically designed for college students with a passion for both poetry and drama. This unique competition combines the art of spoken word with the captivating world of theatrical performance, offering participants the opportunity to showcase their talent and creativity in a supportive and engaging environment.

In the Poetry Out Loud Drama Competition, participants are tasked with interpreting and performing selected poems dramatically and compellingly. This fusion of poetry and drama encourages students to delve deeper into the meaning and emotions of the text, while also exploring various performance techniques and styles to bring the words to life on stage.

The competition typically follows a structure similar to the original Poetry Out Loud program, involving multiple stages, such as classroom, college, regional, and state-level contests, leading up to a national finals event. Each stage of the competition provides participants with a chance to refine their performance skills, gain valuable experience, and connect with fellow aspiring actors and poets.

Judges evaluate performances based on several criteria, including an understanding of the poem, performance quality, interpretation, and stage presence. By emphasizing these aspects, the Poetry Out Loud Drama Competition not only promotes a deep appreciation for poetry but also nurtures the development of essential skills in acting, public speaking, and self-expression.

In addition to the competitive aspect, the Poetry Out Loud Drama Competition fosters a sense of community among participants. By bringing together college students with a shared love for poetry and drama, the competition provides a platform for networking, collaboration, and the exchange of ideas, contributing to the growth of a thriving artistic community.

Moreover, the Poetry Out Loud Drama Competition offers college students an exciting and enriching opportunity to explore the intersection of poetry and drama, while developing their performance abilities, self-confidence, and understanding of the literary art form.

Close up of a microphone.

Who can participate in the Poetry Out Loud Drama Competition?

The Poetry Out Loud Drama Competition is designed to be inclusive and accessible, targeting college students with an interest in poetry, drama, and performance. Participants can come from a wide range of backgrounds, experience levels, and fields of study. Here are some details about who can participate in the competition:

College Students

The competition is specifically tailored for college students, providing them with a platform to express their creativity and passion for poetry and drama. This includes students from community colleges, universities, and other higher education institutions.

Aspiring Actors and Poets

Students who have aspirations to become actors, poets, or performers can greatly benefit from participating in the Poetry Out Loud Drama Competition. It provides an opportunity to hone their skills, gain experience, and showcase their talent in front of an audience.

All Experience Levels

The competition is open to participants with varying levels of experience, from seasoned performers to complete novices. The aim is to create a supportive and inclusive environment that encourages personal growth and learning for all involved.

Diverse Interests and Backgrounds

The Poetry Out Loud Drama Competition welcomes students from different cultural, social, and academic backgrounds. The competition’s emphasis on the universal appeal of poetry and drama ensures that participants can find common ground and connect through their shared interests.

Individuals and Groups

While most participants enter the competition as individuals, some colleges and universities may choose to organize groups or teams to compete together, fostering a sense of camaraderie and collaboration among participants.

The Poetry Out Loud Drama Competition is designed to be an inclusive and engaging experience for college students who have a passion for poetry, drama, and performance. Regardless of their background, experience level, or field of study, participants can find a welcoming and supportive environment in which to express themselves, develop their skills, and connect with like-minded individuals.

an unidentified hand starting to write something

Why participate in the Poetry Out Loud Drama Competition?

Joining the Poetry Out Loud Drama Competition can be a fantastic experience for college students, offering a wide range of benefits that contribute to both personal and professional development. Here’s why getting involved in this competition is a great idea:

Express Yourself Creatively

Embrace this chance to delve into the depths of your imagination and bring forth your most innovative ideas. This competition is a celebration of individuality and artistic expression. Here, poetry and drama intertwine to create a tapestry of vivid storytelling and emotional depth. Let this be the canvas where you paint your dreams and aspirations.

Improve Your Skills

This opportunity extends beyond just honing performance skills. It nurtures resilience, creativity, and emotional intelligence. Students learn to embrace feedback, collaborate with peers, and handle the pressures of a live audience. These experiences contribute significantly to personal development, preparing them for diverse challenges in their future endeavors.

Build Confidence

This journey of performing fosters not only confidence but also self-expression and self-discovery. Each step on stage is a step towards understanding and articulating one’s identity and emotions more clearly. This newfound self-assurance and clarity will be a valuable asset in all facets of life, from personal interactions to future career paths.

Explore Culture and Literature

Engaging with various literary works and dramatic pieces, students gain exposure to different cultural narratives and historical contexts. This not only enhances their appreciation for the arts but also fosters empathy and global awareness. It’s an enlightening journey that shapes well-rounded individuals, capable of appreciating the richness of human experiences.

Make Connections

This event is a perfect opportunity for students to connect with others who share their passion for the arts. It’s a place where you can make friends, learn from each other, and maybe even team up for future creative endeavors. It’s all about meeting people and building a community around shared interests.

Enhance Your Resume

Participating in this competition can really boost your job or college applications. It highlights your dedication to improving yourself, your ability to express yourself artistically, and your skills in speaking in front of others. This experience can make you stand out when applying for jobs or colleges.

Scholarship Chances

Many of these competitions provide scholarships or prizes. Winning one of these can significantly help with your education expenses. It’s a great chance to get financial support while showcasing your talents.

Experience a Sense of Achievement

Performing a poem on stage and doing it well is an incredibly fulfilling experience. Whether you win the competition or not, just being able to put in the effort and dedication to perform is something you should feel really proud of. It’s a big achievement in itself.

The Poetry Out Loud Drama Competition is a pathway to growth, skill development, and self-expression. It’s an enriching journey that enhances appreciation for poetry and drama, while offering practical benefits like networking and skill enhancement.

Getting ready for the competition involves understanding the poems, practicing your performance, and embracing the experience. Focus on your expression, voice modulation, and understanding the depth of the poetry.

Remember, it’s about conveying the emotion and story in the poem, so immerse yourself in the character and the narrative. Practice regularly, seek feedback, and most importantly, enjoy the journey of artistic exploration!

A woman reading a book next to a pile of books on the floor.

How do you get into the Poetry Out Loud Drama Competition?

To prepare for the Poetry Out Loud Drama Competition, it’s important to be dedicated, practice regularly, and have a good plan. Here are some important steps to help you get ready:

1. Select Your Poems Thoughtfully

When getting ready for the competition, start by selecting two or three poems that resonate with you and comply with the competition’s guidelines. For example, if the rules allow for a variety of themes, you might choose a classic like Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” for its reflective tone, and something more contemporary and vibrant to showcase a different aspect of your performance skills.

The key is to choose poems that not only appeal to you personally but also allow you to demonstrate a broad spectrum of emotions and techniques. This variety will help you stand out and display your versatility as a performer.

2. Understand the Poems

It’s vital to fully grasp the meaning, themes, and emotions of each poem you’ve chosen. This understanding is key to a compelling performance. By deeply understanding your poems, you can convey their essence more effectively to the audience, showcasing not just your acting skills but also your ability to interpret and bring life to complex literary works.

Your deep understanding will allow you to deliver a performance that does more than just recite words. It will enable you to embody the poem’s spirit, effectively communicating its essence to the audience. This not only showcases your acting prowess but also your capacity to interpret and animate intricate literary pieces.

3. Create Your Interpretation

It’s important to think creatively about how you can make the poem come alive during your performance. This means making thoughtful choices about the tone, tempo, and emotions you want to convey.

Reflect on the mood of the poem. For instance, if it’s a somber poem, consider a slower pace and a more serious tone. If it’s a light-hearted poem, a quicker pace, and a lively tone might be more appropriate.

Experiment with different styles of delivery. For a dramatic poem, a more theatrical approach might be effective, while a reflective poem might benefit from a subtler, more introspective style.

Don’t be afraid to try out various techniques. You might start with a calm, steady voice and gradually build to a more passionate or intense delivery, depending on the poem’s narrative and emotional arc.

Pay attention to how your voice, facial expressions, and body language can enhance the poem’s meaning. Subtle changes in these can have a powerful impact on how the poem is received by the audience.

Creating your own interpretation is all about finding the best way to express the poem’s essence in a way that resonates with both you and your audience. It’s a balance between staying true to the poem’s original mood and infusing it with your personal touch.

A female student reading a book while holding a mug.

4. Learn the Poems by Heart

It’s essential to commit the poems to memory. The more familiar you are with every word and line, the more confidently and naturally you can perform them. Start by breaking the poem down into smaller sections and memorizing each part one at a time. This can make the process more manageable.

Regularly recite the poems, both silently and aloud. This not only helps with memorization but also improves your pronunciation and delivery. Try to understand the meaning behind each line and phrase as you memorize them. This deeper understanding will help you recall the words more easily and give a more authentic performance.

Practice reciting the poems in different settings and at different times of the day. This will prepare you to recall them under various conditions and help reduce performance anxiety.

Memorizing the poems thoroughly is a crucial step in your preparation. It ensures that during the performance, you can focus more on the delivery and emotional expression, rather than struggling to remember the next line.

5. Practice, Practice, Practice

The key to a great performance is lots of practice. Keep rehearsing your poems frequently to refine your delivery and timing. Perform in front of friends, family members, or classmates and ask for their honest feedback. They can offer valuable insights into areas where you can improve, like your voice modulation, facial expressions, or gestures.

Don’t just practice in the comfort of your home. Try reciting your poems in different environments, such as a park or a more public space. This can help you get used to performing in front of an audience and in various settings.

Record yourself while practicing and watch the playback. This allows you to observe and critique your own performance, helping you notice things you might miss while performing.

Try to practice at least a little bit every day. Consistency is more effective than cramming a lot of practice into a short period of time.

Regular practice is essential for building confidence and ensuring that your performance is smooth and polished. It helps you become more comfortable on stage and better prepared to handle the pressures of performing in front of an audience.

6. Utilize Body Language and Vocal Techniques

Using your body and voice effectively is crucial for a powerful performance. Here’s how you can do this:

Your gestures, facial expressions, and overall body movement can greatly enhance the impact of your poem. For example, if the poem expresses joy, use open, expressive gestures. Conversely, for a sad poem, more subdued and smaller movements might be appropriate. Your body language should align with the poem’s mood and rhythm.

Your face can convey a lot of emotions. Practice in front of a mirror to see how your expressions change with different lines of the poem. A smile, a frown, or a look of surprise can add a lot to your performance.

The way you use your voice can bring a poem to life. Vary your tone, pace, and volume to match the poem’s content. For instance, a softer tone can be used for intimate or reflective parts, while a louder, more forceful tone can be effective for dramatic or passionate sections.

Make sure your voice is clear and your words are easily understandable. Practice projecting your voice so that even the last person in the room can hear you without straining.

Use changes in your voice to emphasize important lines or words in the poem. This helps to keep the audience engaged and underlines the key messages of your performance.

By thoughtfully using your body and voice, you can add depth and emotion to your performance, making it more engaging and memorable for your audience.

7. Choose Appropriate Attire

The way you dress for your performance plays a significant role. Your outfit should complement your poem and adhere to the competition’s dress code. Opt for clothing that enhances your performance. If your poem has a historical theme, a vintage-inspired outfit could add to the ambiance. Conversely, for a modern poem, a contemporary and simple outfit might be more fitting.

Ensure your clothing is comfortable and allows you to move freely. Avoid anything too distracting or uncomfortable, as it might hinder your performance. Also, consider the colors you wear. Subtle, solid colors often work best, as they don’t detract from your performance but can still convey a mood or tone.

Remember to check the competition guidelines for any specific dress requirements or restrictions.

Dressing appropriately is about finding a balance between expressing yourself and respecting the competition’s guidelines. Your outfit should be a supportive element to your performance, not a distraction.

View of a woman looking excited while looking at her laptop.

8. Observe and Learn from Previous Performances

Watching past performances from the competition is a great way to learn and get inspired. Pay attention to how successful participants delivered their poems. Notice the variety of styles and techniques used by different performers. For instance, observe how they use their voice, gestures, and facial expressions to enhance the poem’s impact.

Look at how they handle the stage space and interact with the audience. This can give you ideas on how to engage the audience in your own performance. Take note of what seems to work well and what doesn’t. You might find that certain gestures or ways of speaking are more effective in conveying emotions.

Also, consider the feedback they received, if available. This can provide valuable insights into what judges and audiences appreciate.

By learning from others’ experiences, you can discover new ways to improve your own performance and avoid common pitfalls. Observing past performances is an opportunity to refine your skills by understanding the elements that make a poetry performance stand out.

9. Maintain a Positive Attitude

Having a positive mindset is crucial for a successful performance. Believe in yourself and your abilities. Visualize your success: before going on stage, close your eyes and picture yourself delivering an outstanding performance. Imagine the audience’s positive reaction and the satisfaction you’ll feel.

Remind yourself of your preparation and hard work. This can boost your confidence and help reduce nervousness. Practice positive self-talk. Replace negative thoughts with encouraging statements like, “I am prepared” or “I can do this.”

Remember that feeling a bit nervous is normal. It can even add energy to your performance. Use this energy to enhance your delivery. Staying positive helps in managing pre-performance jitters and enhances your overall presence on stage. A positive attitude not only prepares you mentally but also positively influences your performance.

By following these steps and putting in the time and effort, you can really improve your chances of doing well in the Poetry Out Loud Drama Competition. Remember to stay committed, practice a lot, and approach the competition with a positive and excited attitude.

A bookworm smiling while holding a pile of books in the library.

How do I apply to the Poetry Out Loud Drama Competition?

Poetry Out Loud is a nationwide program focusing on poetry appreciation and performance in high schools. It’s supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, Poetry Foundation, and various arts agencies. Check if your school or a local organization is involved in Poetry Out Loud.

If your school or local group is part of Poetry Out Loud, you’ll need to register through your state arts agency. You can find how to register on the Poetry Out Loud website. You have to pick your poems from the Poetry Out Loud anthology, available in print or online. Every summer, they update it with new choices. Read through it and pick the poems you want to recite.

Practice your chosen poem, focusing on expressing yourself confidently and connecting with your audience. The competition begins at your school or local level. If you win there, you can move up to regional, state, and even national levels. Your teacher or the coordinator at your school can help you get ready for these contests.

Do well in the local contest, and you could go on to compete at regional, state, and national levels. At the national finals, the best performers from each state show off their skills. For more details on how to get involved in Poetry Out Loud, check out their official website and the resources provided by your state arts agency and your school or organization.

How hard is getting into the Poetry Out Loud Drama Competition?

The Poetry Out Loud Drama Competition is a national initiative designed to foster an appreciation for poetry among high school students. This program stands out for its inclusivity and its commitment to educational development.

It offers an array of free resources, including a comprehensive poetry anthology, teacher’s guides, videos of student performances, lesson plans, and promotional materials. These tools are aimed at enhancing public speaking skills, boosting self-confidence, and deepening students’ understanding of literary history and contemporary life.

The competition is structured to start at the classroom or school level, allowing students to first face competition in a familiar environment. Those who excel can then advance to regional and state competitions, and ultimately, the national finals. This tiered approach provides a gradual increase in challenge and exposure, offering a supportive growth path for participants.

One of the key strengths of the Poetry Out Loud program is its accessibility. It’s open to all high school students, ensuring that no one is excluded based on race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, disability, or national origin.

The competition can be conducted virtually or in person, accommodating various circumstances and preferences. To participate, students need to register through their school or a local organization and prepare by reciting poems from the official anthology.

This process underscores the program’s inclusive nature, as it provides a nurturing and enriching experience for all participants, regardless of their previous experience in poetry recitation.

Group of students laughing

What to expect during the Poetry Out Loud Drama Competition?

The Poetry Out Loud Drama Competition is an enriching and structured event for those passionate about poetry and drama. Here’s a breakdown of what to expect:

I. Initial Steps – Registration and Orientation

Before starting your journey in the Poetry Out Loud Drama Competition, you’ll begin with two key steps: registration and orientation. Complete your registration by providing the necessary details, and do it before the deadline to ensure your participation.

Attend this informative session to learn about the competition’s structure, stages, and rules. It’s a perfect time to get all the details about what’s expected and to ask any questions you might have.

Pay close attention to the rules regarding poem selection, performance criteria, and judging. Knowing these well will help you avoid mistakes and prepare better. Use any tips and advice offered during orientation to prepare and improve your performance.

II. Competition Format

In addition to the initial stages, the Poetry Out Loud Drama Competition often includes special themed rounds or specific challenges in later stages, such as performing a poem in a foreign language or a piece from a particular literary period. This adds variety and tests the versatility of the performers. Winners from each stage advance, increasing the level of competition and excitement as they move closer to the finals.

III. Performance Aspects

Consider incorporating appropriate props or minimal costumes to enhance your recitation, if allowed by the competition rules. This can add a visual element to your performance, making your rendition of the poem even more impactful and memorable.

IV. Judging and Evaluation

Furthermore, judges may also assess your ability to connect with the audience and the emotional depth you bring to your performance, adding another layer to the evaluation process. This helps in identifying performers who not only excel technically but also emotionally resonate with their audience.

V. Receiving Feedback

Feedback sessions may include personalized suggestions for enhancing vocal clarity, emotional expression, and overall stagecraft, providing valuable insights for your growth as a performer.

VI. Networking Opportunities

The competition is also a chance to meet and interact with other participants, judges, and audience members. These interactions can lead to new friendships, collaborations, or even mentorships.

VIII. Awards and Recognition

Outstanding performers may be recognized with awards, certificates, or scholarships. These accolades are not only rewarding but can also be significant additions to your resume or college applications. Winners and top performers might get chances to participate in additional events, workshops, or showcases, offering more avenues to refine their skills and gain exposure.

Understanding these aspects of the Poetry Out Loud Drama Competition can help you prepare effectively, ensuring a rewarding and enjoyable experience. The competition is more than just a contest; it’s a platform for personal growth, artistic expression, and community building within the realms of poetry and drama.

a female student thinking/studying

Achieving Success in the Poetry Out Loud Drama Competition

To excel in the Poetry Out Loud Drama Competition, it’s important to be well-prepared and authentic in your performance. Here are some strategies for a successful performance:

Maintain Calm and Focus: It’s crucial to stay calm and focused during your performance. Before going on stage, take a moment to breathe deeply and center yourself. This can help clear your mind and reduce anxiety.

Connect with the Audience: Engage with your audience by making eye contact. This not only draws them into your performance but also boosts your confidence. A strong connection with the audience can make your recitation more impactful.

Adaptability: Be ready to adapt if things don’t go as planned. If you miss a line or make a mistake, keep your composure and continue. The ability to handle such moments gracefully is a mark of a skilled performer.

Authenticity in Your Performance: The competition is about expressing your unique perspective on the poem. Stay true to your interpretation and don’t shy away from taking creative risks that reflect your personal style.

With thorough preparation, a deep understanding of the poems, and a commitment to your own interpretive approach, you can stand out in the Poetry Out Loud Drama Competition. It’s an opportunity to explore your love for poetry and drama, develop essential life skills, and connect with others who share your interests. This experience is valuable for personal growth and can be advantageous in your academic and professional journey.

When is the deadline to apply to the Poetry Out Loud Drama Competition?

The deadline for applying to the Poetry Out Loud Drama Competition varies by location, as each participating school or organization needs to conduct its own local contest and select a champion by a certain date.

For instance, in the case of Georgia, the application deadline is set for Saturday, January 20, 2024, at 11:59 PM EST. It’s important to check with your specific school or organization for the exact deadline in your area, as these dates can differ from one place to another.

student with her mic

When do I find out about my application to the Poetry Out Loud Drama Competition?

Students will be informed of their acceptance into the Poetry Out Loud Drama Competition via their school or local organization. The competition begins at the classroom or school level.

Here, winners are selected to move on to the next stages, which may include regional and state competitions. Successful participants at these levels may then have the opportunity to compete in the national finals.

Keep in touch with your school or local organization for updates on your application status and further details about each stage of the competition.

Where is the Poetry Out Loud Drama Competition held?

The Poetry Out Loud Drama Competition takes place in numerous locations throughout the United States. It initially starts within classrooms or schools. As participants progress in the competition, they move on to compete at regional levels, which are typically held in different areas within a state.

Those who continue to succeed advance to state-level competitions, which are held in various states across the country. The most successful participants from the state competitions are then invited to the national finals.

The location of these national finals can vary each year, often held in a major city or a significant cultural venue. This structure provides a journey from local stages to a national platform, allowing participants to experience performing in a variety of settings.

a female student sitting on a field waiting for the campus tour to commence

When does the Poetry Out Loud Drama Competition take place?

The Poetry Out Loud Drama Competition is organized at different times during the year, aligning with the academic calendar for convenience. Local contests, which are the initial phase of the competition, are typically held during the school year.

These are followed by regional and state competitions, which may occur in the latter part of the school year or shortly afterward.

The culmination of the competition, the national finals, is scheduled for a specific period each year. For the 2023-2024 season in Georgia, program registration was open until Tuesday, January 2, 2024. This indicates that the subsequent stages of the competition likely occur in the months following this registration deadline.

It’s important to check the specific dates for each level of the competition, as they can vary based on location and organizational scheduling. These dates are usually communicated by schools or local organizations participating in the program.

Female student lying on books in the floor.

How long is the duration of the Poetry Out Loud Drama Competition?

The length of the Poetry Out Loud Drama Competition can vary depending on the stage of the competition. Here’s a breakdown:

Local Contests: Local contests are often held during a regular meeting time at schools or organizations. These contests are typically shorter in duration and serve as the starting point of the competition.

National Finals: On the other hand, the national finals of the competition have a more extended duration. They can span over several days, allowing participants from across the country to showcase their talent and compete at the highest level.

The exact duration of each stage, including regional and state competitions, may also differ based on logistical considerations and scheduling. Participants should stay informed about the specific timeline for their level of competition, which is usually communicated by their school or local organization.

Final Thoughts

The Poetry Out Loud Drama Competition is a collective celebration of the exquisite world of poetry. This competition extends beyond mere victory; it’s a journey of experiencing emotions, sharing narratives, and discovering our unique voices within the realm of poetry.

Whether you’re a participant or an observer, always remember that poetry transcends pages; it resides within our hearts and resonates in our voices. Allow this poetic voyage to inspire you in every facet of life, and may your words forever reverberate with profound significance.

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