Captivating audiences with prepared performances of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 14 and a monologue by Rosalind from As You Like It – plus a random cold reading of Angelo from Measure for Measure – Walden Theatre’s Chloe Bell won second prize at the 31st annual English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition. The Competition was held on May 5 at Lincoln Center Theater in New York City for 58 winners of ESU Branch competitions nationwide. Chloe had previously won the ESU Kentucky Branch regional competition to earn a spot at the national competition.
For placing second at the English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition, Chloe won a full scholarship to the American Shakespeare Center’s Theatre Camp in Staunton, Virginia.
While in New York, Chloe competed with other Branch winners in the semifinals to earn a place among the 10 finalists. At that point, competitors were randomly assigned a cold reading of a monologue to perform in addition to their prepared sonnet and monologue. Thanks to learning the scene during class work at Walden Theatre, she was familiar with the character Angelo and with the story arc of Measure for Measure. This familiarity proved valuable, as competitors were only given 10 minutes with the assigned monologues to craft a good performance for the judges.
“I was definitely prepared for this competition thanks to Walden Theatre,” said Bell, “so didn’t have to stress the logistics of the Angelo monologue and could focus on the goal, the final product. A lot of people were freaking out about cold read, but I felt prepared thanks to familiarity with Shakespeare’s canon as a whole and to the training I’ve done.”
“It was great to be around people who are interested in and passionate about Shakespeare to a large extent. There was a big sense of community. And I’m looking forward to studying at the American Shakespeare Center this summer before heading off to college.”
The ESU provided Branch winners with two full days of educational and cultural activities in New York City, including an exclusive acting workshop at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University and a performance of the Realistic Joneses on Broadway. 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 a love of theater, language and, particularly, Shakespeare.
The English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition is a school-based program designed 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. The program has engaged more than 250,000 young people since its inception. Citing its 31st season this year, the Honorable Bill De Blasio, Mayor of the City of New York, proclaimed May 5th as William Shakespeare Day. Danny Lopez, the British Consul-General in New York, read the proclamation, and Josiah Bunting III, Chairman of the English-Speaking Union, awarded certificates to the competitors.