A row of children dressed mostly in white shirts and black pants stand in a line on a stage.

Oratory Residency and Festival

Working with a Ford’s Teaching Artist, students bring historical speeches to life by staging a class performance of the speech.

Have your students experience and explore the power of a historical speech. Classrooms study historical speeches and work with a Ford’s teaching artist over a series of five in-person residency visits to learn oratory and performance skills. Throughout the program, students expand their vocabulary, develop public-speaking skills and build confidence as they bring historical speeches to life. The program culminates with classrooms performing on Ford’s historic stage on one of two Festival days in early February.

To qualify for the Oratory Program, your school must be a:

  • D.C. Public School, D.C. Charter Public School; or
  • D.C., Maryland and Virginia Public, Public Charter and Title 1 schools within the Capital Beltway.

Applications for the 2024-2025 School Year will open this fall.

“Thank you for the great experience of … get[ting us] on stage to get our jitters out and boost our confidence. You also boosted my speaking skills by not being afraid to be in front of a big crowd.”

– Brandon, Fifth Grader, Brent Elementary, 2016


Meet Our Teaching Artists

Ashley Buster-Ogunwuyi

Ashley grew up just outside of Washington, DC in Silver Spring, MD. She earned a BA in Broadcasting Telecommunications and Mass Media and Theater from Temple University in Philadelphia, PA and an MA in Educational Leadership and Supervision from Loyola University Maryland. After living in New York and singing for Royal Caribbean International, Ashley moved back to the DC area to continue her acting career her and has been seen at NextStop Theater, Signature Theater, and in “The Wiz” and “Freedom’s Song” at Ford’s. Ashley is also an Associate Artist with Ford’s Theatre. This is Ashley’s ninth year with Ford’s Education.

W. Ellington Felton

W. Ellington Felton is an Actor/Singer/Poet/Father, a native Washingtonian and product of DCPS School Without Walls. He studied Acting at Carnegie Mellon University Theatre Conservatory and returned to DC as a selected Company Member of Arena Stage’s “Living Stage.” Using his theatrical training and improvisational skills developed as a full-time musician, Felton introduces various facets of the arts through what he calls “EDUTAINMENT.” He is an artist committed to social change in the classroom and on the various stages he performs worldwide. The son of Hilton Felton Jr., musical director of Ford’s Theatre’s “Five Guys Named Moe,” W. Ellington is excited to work with Ford’s Theatre this year. This is W. Ellington’s eighth year working with Ford’s Education.

Mary Myers

Mary Myers is a professional actor and Teaching Artist based in Washington, DC. She has been working for over a decade, and has collaborated with students of all ages, teaching physical comedy, acting technique, improvisation, movement, and devising. Most prominently she has taught Shakespeare, and has worked with Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, WSC Avant Bard, and Educational Theatre Company, for whom she was on staff as their Director of Shakespeare in the Schools for seven years. She has performed with numerous theatre companies around town, and has won a Helen Hayes award and received multiple nominations. B.A. in Theatre, The College of William & Mary; Physical Theatre training, St. Mary’s University, Twickenham. This is Mary’s second year with Ford’s Education.

Headshot of Heidi Fortune.

Heidi Fortune

Heidi Fortune is a professional actor and teaching artist. Heidi holds a BFA in Musical Theatre from Webster University Conservatory of Theatre Arts and a MA in Arts Administration from Winthrop University. Heidi has worked as a teaching artist for over a decade, most recently at Boys & Girls Clubs in South Carolina. At Boys & Girls Clubs, Heidi worked with hundreds of children to produce over 30 plays and 50 original student films. The program she created won many grants and awards, including a highly competitive National Endowment for the Arts grant and a national award from Comcast, Disney, and Boys & Girls Clubs of America. This is Heidi’s eighth year working with Ford’s Education.

Headshot of Kristen Noetzel

Kirsten Noetzel 

Kirsten works regionally as a Director and Teaching Artist. She learned to teach at the Tony award-winning Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis, MN. Regionally, she has directed for The Theatre Lab (Romeo and Juliet, As You Like It, The Magic Hour), Imagination Stage (Bye Bye Birdie, Unlabeled, The Pencil is Mightier, O Wonder, Aladdin), Montgomery College (The BURN), Metropolitan School of the Arts (Mirror Mirror, Peter Pan, The Tempest, Legend of Sleepy Hollow); and the Hub Theatre (Emerging Writer’s Festival). She also serves on the faculty of Wolf Trap, The Theatre Lab, Imagination Stage, and Metropolitan School of the Arts. Kirsten has been invited to speak about educational theatre at conferences sponsored by DC Collaborative and The Kennedy Center. Kirsten received her B.A. from Wheaton College and an M.A. in  Theatre from the University of Houston. This is Kirsten’s third year with Ford’s Theatre

Headshot of Eliseo Valerio.

Eliseo Valerio

Eliseo Valerio is a Teaching Artist specializing in Shakespeare and language. He’s the School Programs Manager at the Shakespeare Theatre Company and has done education work at the Alley Theatre, the New Victory Theater, Second Stage, and in Mexico as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. He majored in Theater and Performance Studies with Honors from Stanford University. This is Eliseo’s second year working with Ford’s Education.

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