News And Events

Chicago Area High School Students to Vie for Chance to Compete in the 35th English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition at Lincoln Center in New York

The Chicago heat of the English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition took place at Roosevelt University on February 22, hosted by the ESU Chicago Branch.  It is open to the participants and winners of area high school Shakespeare competitions that have been held this winter.  17 students representing Chicago private and public high schools participated, each performing a Shakespearean monologue of his or her choice and a sonnet.  Competitors were judged on their understanding of the texts they performed and on their ability to communicate that understanding to an audience. Judges for the Branch Competition included Elizabeth Ledo, Chuck Stransky and Kendall Zwillman.  Seven Finalists were chosen to compete at the Finals Round at 6pm February 28th at The Newberry Library for the chance to win $1,000 and a trip to New York on April 23rd (Shakespeare's Birthday) for the 35th ESU National Competition. The students chosen to advance to the Finals Round on February 28th are Sam Theis (Oak Park River Forest), Elise Hall (New Trier), Ellie Ryan (York High School), Freedom Martin (Chicago High School for the Arts), Benjamin Johnson (Huntley High School), Heavenly Lizarzo (Valeo Academy) and  Bryan Kratoska (Brookfield Academy). Finalists and their families and supporters will be co-hosted by the ESU and The Newberry Library along with judges Belinda Bremner, Diane Dorsey and John Stark, as well as John Saville, Consul General to Great Britain and special guest speakers.

The English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition is a performance-based education program in which high school students nationwide read, analyze, perform, and recite Shakespeare's works.  Through the program, students develop communication skills and an appreciation of the power of language and literature.  In the Competition's three progressive levels, students perform in their own schools, at ESU Branch community competitions, and at the ESU National Shakespeare Competition at Lincoln Center Theater in New York City.  Since 1983, more than 300,000 young Americans of all backgrounds have taken advantage of this opportunity to bring the timeless works of Shakespeare to life and learn to express his words with understanding, feeling, and clarity.

The winner of the ESU Chicago Branch Competition will receive an all-expense-paid trip to New York City to represent the Branch in the ESU National Shakespeare Competition at the world-renowned Lincoln Center Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater on April 23, competing with more than 50 other winners of Branch competitions nationwide.  On stage, each will perform a monologue and sonnets before a panel of distinguished judges as well as their fellow contestants. Based on their performances, seven to ten students will advance to a final round. Those finalists, performing their selections along with a cold reading of a monologue, compete for the first place award, which is an all-expenses-paid scholarship to attend the Young Actors' Summer School for two weeks at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.  For additional information regarding the English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition, please visit

Founded in 1920, The English-Speaking Union is a non-profit, non-political educational organization that employs English as a catalyst to foster global understanding and good will through educational and cultural exchange programs.  The ESU carries out its work through a network of 58 Branches nationwide along with affiliates in the United Kingdom and 60 other countries. For additional information about the English-Speaking Union, please visit . For details about the ESU Chicago Branch or to join the Branch please visit


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