The Catholic University of America

Jan. 30, 2007

Three CUA Students Take Prizes in 2nd Annual Hartke Declamation Contest

This year's Hartke contest winners are, from left, Kyle Gullings, Rachel Holt and Brian MacDonald.

Three Catholic University graduate students - two in drama and one in music - won prizes Jan. 29 at the Second Annual Hartke Declamation Contest, with readings based on the theme "Stories from the Last 100 Years."

The first-place winner, Rachel Holt, an M.F.A. candidate in acting, won $1,000 for her declamations of the poem "Phenomenal Woman" by Maya Angelou and an excerpt from the novel "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee, before an audience of about 50 people at Callan Theatre.

Second-place winner Brian MacDonald, also an M.F.A. candidate in acting, won $300 for his performances of the poem "The World Is a Beautiful Place" by Lawrence Ferlinghetti and part of Mark Twain's "The Diaries of Adam and Eve." Third-place winner Kyle Gullings, a candidate in the master's program in composition with an emphasis on stage music, won $200 for his renditions of Mark Twain's "The War Prayer" and "Dirge for the New Sunrise" by Edith Sitwell.

Eight other students also gave presentations at the contest, established last year in honor of Rev. Gilbert V. Hartke, O.P., who founded CUA's Department of Drama in 1937. The contest was made possible by the donation of professional actor and CUA alumnus Jack Knight, class of 1964.

This year, the contestants were asked to give presentations from poetry, literature, drama, speeches, essays or commentary from the last century in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Father Hartke's birth and the 100th anniversary of the School of Arts and Sciences.

BettyAnn Leeseberg-Lange, acting associate chair of the drama department, set the celebratory tone at the start of the contest by leading the audience in a rendition of "Happy Birthday, Father Hartke." Contestants were called to perform as their names were picked one-by-one from a blue velvet jester's hat trimmed with jingle bells.

Glen Johnson, associate dean of undergraduate programs; Leeseberg-Lange; and David Sabin, a member of the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, D.C., and CUA alumnus, class of 1961, served as judges for this year's contest. Both Sabin and Knight trained at CUA under Father Hartke, who served as drama department chair until his retirement in the mid-1970s.

Last year's contest drew 15 entries and 10 participants. This year, the drama department received approximately 20 entries for the contest, which is open to all CUA students - graduate or undergraduate, full or part time, degree or non-degree seeking.

L.R. Poos, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, said he was "very impressed at how the numbers of entrants, the quality of the oratory, and the interesting variety of pieces declaimed had all increased so much just from the first to the second year of the Hartke contest. We hope it will continue to grow and that more students from all parts of the university will be eager to enter."

Following the declamations, Poos presented Knight with a Catholic University blanket, which the veteran actor promptly donned as a shawl. While waiting for the judges' announcement of the contest winners, Knight entertained the audience with reminiscences of Father Hartke and his own rendition of several pieces, including Vachel Lindsay's humorous poem "The Little Turtle."


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