The Catholic University of America

April 28, 2006

Three Top Prizes Awarded in CUA's First Hartke Declamation Contest

Three Catholic University students earned prizes in CUA's first Hartke Declamation Contest, which featured recitations of writings by Aristotle, poet Langston Hughes, German playwright Bertolt Brecht and others in honor of the memory of drama department founder Rev. Gilbert V. Hartke, O.P.

At the contest held April 21 in Callan Theatre, Sean G. Lewis, doctoral student in English with a concentration in rhetoric, won the $1,000 first prize. Lewis recited the monologue from William Shakespeare's play "As You Like It" that begins "All the world's a stage," as well as portions of St. John Chrysostom's first homily on the Gospel of St. John.

MaryKate Cleary, a senior German major from Sterling, Mass., won the $300 second prize, and John H. Tucker, part-time master's student in Irish studies, the $200 second prize. Tucker, who earned a CUA bachelor's degree in psychology in 2002, also works full time as the associate writer/editor in the CUA Office of Public Affairs.

The competition was open to all CUA students - graduate or undergraduate, full or part time, degree or non-degree seeking. The winners and six other participants each declaimed from memory two readings of poetry, drama, oratory or literature tied to the theme "The Theater." The participants were judged on the basis of their diction, elocution, presence and presentation.

CUA alumnus and professional actor Jack Knight, class of 1964, whose generous donation made the competition possible, helped to judge the contest along with event organizers Stephen J. McKenna, associate professor of English and media studies, and BettyAnn Leeseberg-Lange, associate chair of the drama department. The contest was established to honor the memory of Father Hartke, who founded the department in 1937.

Knight surprised the audience at the end of the event with "a masterful recitation" of two Vachel Lindsay poems - pieces he had first performed as an undergraduate, said McKenna. That recitation sparked Knight's interest in the theater and led to his successful career as a screen actor.

"The range of participants and readings was wide and varied, and without exception they were a group with some very strong speaking skills," McKenna said. "We hope to grow this thing to spark some new interest in students developing their skills as orators. We'd like 'declamation' to become a household word at CUA."

Next year the contest will be held as close as possible to Jan. 9 - the birthday of Father Hartke - said Leeseberg-Lange.

* * *

Media contact(s):
· Chris Harrison, CUA Office of Public Affairs, 202-319-5600,
· Katie Lee, CUA Office of Public Affairs, 202-319-5600,