Jaylen Hocker, a fifth grader at Jefferson Elementary, in the West Jefferson Hills School District, was the winner of the lower division for monologues in the 2017 Pittsburgh Public Theater Shakespeare Monologue and Scene Contest, held Feb. 20 at the O’Reilly Theater. Hocker won with his portrayal of Shakespeare’s character Shylock from the play “The Merchant of Venice.”
The competition presented by the Pittsburgh Public Theater as a wonderful opportunity for young people to experience the excitement of live performance while learning the works of William Shakespeare, is a part of Shakespeare in American Communities, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts, in partnership with Arts Midwest. EQT was the major sponsor of the event.
During the contest, students in grades 4-12––the upper division (grades 8-12) and lower division (grades 4-7)––presented a monologue, scene or both from works of Shakespeare to a panel of judges during the preliminary round. Those finalists selected, including Hocker, went on to present their pieces at the Showcase of Finalists. Coaching sessions were made available to students at school and the O’Reilly.
Lori Gephart, Hocker’s Gifted Support teacher, said gifted student participants from her 4th and 5th grade practiced extremely hard for the competition. She went on to say, “We are all very proud of (Hocker’s) hard work, natural talent and great success in the contest. Jaylen has never acted in his life, so this is really a major accomplishment. He is quite talented.”
For his win, Hocker took home a book of Shakespeare’s plays, as well as a year’s subscription to the theater.
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