By Kara Linaburg
“Morgan (Sprouse) is a unique talent,” said Jared St. Martin Brown, Bridgeport High School teacher. “She really has this ability to read things and get to the core of their meaning and then present that on the stage. And that is perfect for something like Poetry Out Loud.” As her instructor in her theater class, Brown has been able to watch her work firsthand in the performing arts, and Sprouse said she has no plans of stopping anytime soon.
After Sprouse competed in Charleston at the Poetry Out Loud state finals March 10-11, Sprouse was championed the winner the second year in a row. According to a press release from the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture & History, the winner will represent West Virginia in the national competition in Washington, D.C. in May.
The Bridgeport student said it felt “very cool” to win the competition two years in a row. She also felt grateful. “All of the people who run Poetry Out Loud are amazing artists, so it’s just nice to be around them, much less get an award of this kind,” she said.
Poetry Out Loud is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, in partnership with the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture & History. The program is designed to encourage the learning of great works of poetry through both memorizing and performing. The state winner is awarded $200 as well as a trip to the national competition, while their school is awarded $500 for use in purchasing poetry books and additional materials.
Sprouse credits her mom for helping her memorize the poems for the competition, and her teachers at Bridgeport for giving solid feedback during the process. “Before anything, I memorize the monologues, which can be the most tedious part because you have to get every single word correct or you get docked points… And then after that, my mom has been a great help with this, I just run through them and run through them until they are kinda like second nature.”
She also decides where to stress certain words and explores the meaning behind the poems.
“I get nervous right before… not so much leading up to it,” Sprouse said of the state competitions that she’s had the privilege of being chosen for three years in a row.
Sprouse plans to attend Ohio University in the fall and work towards obtaining a Bachelor of Fine Arts in performance and musical theater. She not only enjoys learning poetry, but has appeared in various BHS productions, and she said she loves being a part of her school’s productions with her theater family.
Sprouse said that the poems she chooses in the competitions are ones that hold a lot of meaning for her. She talked about how poems are more than assignments she reads in school; poetry is an art that runs in her family. She grew up seeing a love of poetry in her mom and grandparents, and she said that her favorite poem of all time is one she performed last year. “It’s called a Psalm of Life, and it’s one my grandfather really loved… It was really wonderful to have the opportunity to be able to perform it at last year’s states.”
The Shinnston News was unable to reach Miyah Riley, who represented Lincoln High School at the competition, but the newspaper plans to recognize her in a future edition.