Junior Sarah Walker performs at a national Shakespeare competition in New York City. (Contributed photo)

By The Viking Press


The competition was held on April 23 at Lincoln Center in New York City for 58 winners of ESU Branch competitions nationwide.  Walker had won the ESU Colonial N.C. Branch regional competition.

This year’s winner of the English-Speaking Union Charlottesville regional competition, Tiffany Ames, won first prize in the ESU National Shakespeare Competition, winning a full Scholarship to attend the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art’s Young Actors Summer School in London, England.  Second place winner, Cyler Winnie, representing the Portland Branch, won a scholarship to attend the American Shakespeare Center Theatre Camp.  Third place winner, Katie Weatherseed, representing the Greenwich Branch of the ESU, won $500 from the Shakespeare Society.

The English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition is a school-based program to help students develop their speaking and critical thinking skills and their appreciation of literature as they explore the beauty of the language and timeless themes in Shakespeare’s works.  In three progressive competition levels, students memorize, interpret, and perform monologues and sonnets in their own schools, at ESU Branch sponsored community competitions and at the National Shakespeare Competition.  Inaugurated in 1983, the program has engaged more than 250,000 young people.

As the winner of a local English-Speaking Union Branch Competition, Walker, a student in drama teacher Clay Raines’ theater arts program, was awarded the trip to New York City for the final stage of the Competition.  The provided the Branch finalists with two full days of activities, including an acting workshop at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and tours of New York City.  Perhaps best of all for these teenagers was the opportunity to spend a weekend in New York City with other students from across the country who share their love of theater, language and, particularly, Shakespeare.

Among the distinguished judges for this year’s Competition were Shakespeare scholar and Rutgers University Distinguished Professor of English Maurice Charney; Director of Mission and Co-Founder of the American Shakespeare Center Ralph Alan Cohen; New York University Tisch School of the Arts Classical Studio Director Louis Scheeder; Artistic Director of The Shakespeare Society Michael Sexton; Program Director of the Poetry Foundation Stephen Young; Casting Director at the Public Theater Heidi Griffiths and Peter Francis James, an actor who just finished his role as Oscar in Edward Albee’s The Lady from Dubuque.  The judges were asked to evaluate three components of the students’ performances: understanding of the material, ability to effectively communicate to the audience and artistic expression.

The English-Speaking Union of the United States is a non-profit, non-political educational organization whose mission is to celebrate English as a shared language to foster global understanding and good will by providing educational and cultural opportunities for students, educators and members.  The ESU carries out its work through a network of 70 Branches, sponsoring a variety of language and international education programs.  For information on joining the ESU, visit www.esuus.org or call 212-818-1200.