Local speakers take top honours in BC Performing Arts Festival

The Prince George oration results at the B.C. Performing Arts Festival were so good it'll leave you speechless.

The provincial championships were held last week in Fort

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St. John for dance, music and speech arts. Aspiring Prince George actors and public speakers proved they were among the best in the province.

"In a nutshell, our performers shone beautifully," said Caroljoy Green, spokesperson for the local region's speech arts and drama festival, the event through which the provincial competitors are chosen from this area.

There are dozens of different categories in which local competitors can participate, and the ones with the highest scores in the core disciplines are selected by the adjudicator to move on to the annual provincial event. Prince George has one of the largest and oldest of these regional events in the province, but all areas are open to any competitor, so participants may come here from other places to earn their way into the provincials and likewise our young actors can go to other towns to win a spot for themselves.

There are three age brackets at the B.C. Performing Arts Festival: junior (11-13 years), intermediate (14-16), and senior (18 -25).

"Each category's competition takes an entire day where the top contenders from local festivals around the province compete with a memorized poem, section of fiction or prose, and act out a scene," Green explained. "Prince George has such a wealth of speech arts happening, that between our own festival and those festivals attended elsewhere by Prince George students, we had three students competing in the junior category, four students competing in the intermediate age group, and one in the senior category."

There is also a separate category for the Shakespeare specialty.

The local competitors were:

Juniors: Breanna Challen, Claire Ramsay, Meg Peters and Aidan Hartford (observer).

Intermediate: Aleisha Ramsay, Anika Green, Nancy Li and Paris Deacon.

Senior: Chelsea Godden.

Shakespeare: most of the above plus Josh Hogan, Katie Hogan and Molly Fandry.

Two-thirds of the local competitors came home with some kind of hardware from the competition.

Leading the way was Peters bringing back gold in Junior Shakespeare, with Claire Ramsay taking silver in the same category.

Aleisha Ramsay was the provincial silver medalist in the Intermediate division.

Godden got an honorable mention in the senior provincial division.

Also earning first place was the team of Katie Hogan and Deacon in Shakespeare duos with the pairing of Fandry and Reurink the runners-up in the same category.

Green was runner-up in intermediate Shakespeare.

The success from the Prince George crew was not new, and this year's adjudicator was impressed. Calgary-based actor and speech arts/drama teacher Grant Patterson has adjudicated the Canadian National Festival, he's a senior examiner for the Royal Conservatory, co-directs a Shakespeare company for youth in Calgary, and he is a professor at Mount Royal University.

"I found the standard of the competition at the Prince George festival to be very high," Patterson said.

"I was most impressed with the support and camaraderie that exists among the young performers, and with how much fun they were having in preparing and performing their pieces. The teachers are to be congratulated for fostering this kind of spirit and attitude toward the work, and the festival is to be commended for providing this opportunity and for its many years of service to the community.

"It was a pleasure to be in Prince George in the fine facilities of UNBC, and I thank the competitors and my hosts for a wonderful time."

Many of the students involved in the competition are now preparing for their Royal Conservatory exams. Some are taking their Grade 10 exams, which is the highest level offered by the national standard-setter before teacher qualifications.

"At the Grade 10 level a student prepares about 20 minutes of memorized material, performing a poem, prose, scene, Shakespeare, mime, oral speech, improvised speech, storytelling, and prepares to discuss the authors' lives and work and make personal connections with all their pieces," Green explained.

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