High school students participate in Shakespeare competition

08:16 PM, Mar 02, 2013

Wendy Low, left, of Rochester and president of the English Speaking Union's Rochester Branch, shares a moment with Gus Cuddy, center, a School of the Arts student and the first-place winner of Saturday's annual Shakespeare Competition, and third-place winner Summer Howard of Wayne High School. (MARIE DE JESUS/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)/

Written By Megan DeMarco Staff writer

One by one, the nine high school students walked onto the tiny stage at the Multi-use Community Cultural Center theater.

They each politely explained which school they attend, and what Shakespeare work they were performing.

Then, in the blink of an eye, they transformed — to an ambitious army general, a moneylender, a Danish noblewoman crazy with grief.

Is this a dagger which I see before me?” asked Jenna Keele from Churchville-Chili Senior High School, acting as Macbeth.

Hath not a Jew eyes?” asked Walker Zupan from The Harley School, acting out a scene as Shylock from The Merchant of Venice.

There’s a daisy,” said Webster Schroeder High School student Stephanie Bertman, acting as Ophelia from Hamlet.

The nine students competed Saturday for a spot at the English Speaking Union’s National Shakespeare Competition in New York City in April. The winner of that competition wins a summer course at the British American Drama Academy in the United Kingdom.

Each student won a competition at their respective high school, advancing them to Saturday’s event. They each memorized one sonnet and one monologue, and performed both in front of an audience of parents, teachers and other thespians.

We hope that they incorporate Shakespeare’s brilliant language and understanding of character and thought into themselves,” said Wendy Low, president of the Rochester branch of the English Speaking Union.

Eash student was sponsored by a teacher from the high school. Other high schools participating included Aquinas Institute of Rochester, Hilton High School, Rush-Henrietta High School, Wayne High School, Joseph C. Wilson Magnet Commencement Academy and School of the Arts.

The English Speaking Union provides high school teachers with a performance-based program for the study of English language arts and their teaching of Shakespeare. The competition is designed to teach students communication skills and give them an appreciation for language and literature.

Though only one person — Gus Cuddy of School of the Arts — moved on to nationals, the top three finalists were invited to perform at Highland Bowl this summer during a performance of Twelfth Night by the Shakespeare Players of Rochester.

And Low said even the students who didn’t make it to Saturday’s competition still benefited by learning a monologue.

Now they know how Shakespearean language works and why it’s so brilliant,” she said.

The emcee for the competition was Jay O’Leary, who won the competition in 2008 and represented Rochester at nationals in New York City.

We got to take an acting class at NYU; we ate lunch at the dining hall in Juilliard,” she said. “It’s really intimidating when you go to the Vivian Beaumont Theater in Lincoln Center. You go onto that stage and just the hugeness of it is unbelievable.”