OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPress release from English-Speaking Union of Monmouth County

On February 28, a dozen high school students each took the stage of the Middletown Arts Center and, without scenery, costumes or props, brought William Shakespeare’s words to life. It was the 25th annual Shakespeare Competition for high school students, sponsored by the Monmouth County Branch of the English-Speaking Union, and the stakes were high.

Each of the contestants had practiced and prepared, each had studied and rehearsed, and all of them performed wonderfully. Despite the competition, the atmosphere among the students was mutually supportive.  Their audience included teachers, parents, and members of the ESU, as well as five theater professionals who served as expert judges.  Each student presented a sonnet and a short monologue.

Third place, and a cash award, went to Lauren Pelaia from Colts Neck High School for her impassioned Hamlet, berating himself that he could not summon up as much emotion as a mere actor. Second place was taken by Patrick Monaghan from Red Bank Regional High School, whose intelligent Hal from Henry V was by turns humorous and furious.  Honorable mention went to Guy Rose, from Middletown High School North, for his outraged Edmund from King Lear, and Jess Fisher, from Middletown High School South, for her charming Rosalind from As You Like It.

First place went to Naomi Stuart of Glen Ridge High School, whose delightful Phoebe from As You Like It wavers between maidenly circumspection and full-hearted celebration of her youthful crush on the handsome young Ganymede.  What she doesn’t know is that her heart-throb is actually a woman, Rosalind, disguised as a man.

The winner will go on to a national competition at Lincoln Center in New York on April 26 – 28, where the top prize will include an all-expenses paid trip to study acting in England. Naomi will enter the National competition in May, but you needn’t go so far nor wait so long to see her.  She, Patrick, and Lauren will repeat their performances at Bingham Hall in Rumson, at 3 pm on April 12, when the ESU will host a Spring Tea, open to the public.

An added attraction: this year’s tea has a Downton Abbey theme; period costumes will be modeled at the event. Join us there for refreshments and to see these excellent young people act!  For details contact the branch president, Richard Biernacki, at monmouthesupres@verizon.net.