High school students nationwide read, analyze, perform and recite Shakespearean monologues and sonnets in three qualifying stages: school, ESU Branch and national.
The program begins in classrooms nationwide each fall, culminating in school-wide competitions in early winter in which students memorize and perform a monologue.
The school competition winner advances to a community ESU Branch competition, usually held between January and March. Here students perform their monologue and a Shakespearean sonnet. The winner advances to the national competition held in New York City.
At the ESU National Shakespeare Competition (held in late April, near Shakespeare's birthday on April 23), students perform their monologues and sonnets in New York City before a distinguished panel of judges as well as their fellow contestants from across the country. Based on their performances, seven to ten students advance to the final round. Finalists, performing their selections along with a cold reading of a monologue, compete for cash prizes and the opportunity to attend a summer drama program.