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Image: Alley Theatre

For many teenagers, high school can be a tough place to voice their thoughts and express their artistic sides. But as Alley Theatre knows, allowing students to express themselves through dialogues of their own personal experiences and knowledge is both vital and healthy. That’s why since 2012, Alley has hosted Slam Poets, which offers both an in-school residency program and the chance to compete at the theater’s fall and spring slam competitions.

“The slam poetry program is really important, because it gives students a voice,” says Alley’s In-School Programs Manager and Resident Teaching Artist, Michelle Edwards. “So often, kids are mechanized to be quiet in the classroom, by not expressing themselves. When they get somebody like our teaching artists that go into their classrooms and says ‘this is your voice, this is your chance to speak what’s on your mind,’—it just opens up a new door for them.”

Next Friday, March 4, students from Alley’s partner school program will find themselves center stage in the Neuhaus Theatre competing for a cash prize and a chance to advance to the Space City Poetry Slam Semi-Finals presented by Writers in the Schools. 

The teaching artists, Edwards notes, are the impetus that fosters this artistic platform for the teen poets. “I think anything that you can do to show kids that poetry is more than just what’s in the textbook you study at school, she says. “That it can actually come from you, and is a way of expressing yourself—what more can you ask for?”

This spring, Alley will be pulling from seven partner schools, one of those being J.H. Reagan High School, where one young poet has her heart set on the big stage. After “slamming” out a powerful piece, 18-year-old Reagan senior Victoria Flores found her name called as the winner of her high school’s slam competition. With the win, she advances to Alley Theatre’s Spring Slam competition hosted by Seth Walker, who is currently ranked as one of the top four slam poets in the world.

“Poetry is a great way to express myself personally, because there are a lot of things that you want to say, but sometimes you can’t really tell people, because you know they’ll have a certain type of opinion about you, so you can’t really tell that person without them having a biased view,” says Flores, who performs a piece based on her own experiences at Spring Slam. “Being able to express myself, even if I don’t slam the piece, and let everyone know. It helps me vent out how I’m feeling, whether it be about my day or how life is going in general, it’s a big part of my life.”

During the in-school residency at Reagan, Flores credits Alley’s teaching artists for helping her grow and develop as a writer. “The people who came and taught us were very open and accepting. There was never really a bad idea, they never tried to shun you. You were always given this creative leash to go on and do whatever you wanted to—it was really nice.”

March 4. 7. Free. Alley Theatre, 615 Texas Ave. alleytheatre.org

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