ESU Hawaii Branch

A Message from the Hawaii Branch President

President's Update February 2023

The Hawaii segment of the ESU National Shakespeare Competition, during which Hawaii's school competition winners competed for a chance to represent Hawaii in the national competition in New York City, was held on Saturday, February 25, 2023 at Luke Auditorium in the Punahou School's Wo International Center.

The competition progresses through three qualifying stages.

  • Ninth through twelfth graders are eligible to participate in a school-wide competition (provided they have not been paid for performing during the current school year). Schools have the option of requiring that students perform both a sonnet and monologue at the school level competition.

  • The school winner then advances to a competition held at the local ESU Branch. 

  • Branch winners will travel, all expenses paid, to New York City for the national competition.

Elena Hollenbeak, student of Alden Watts from St. Andrew's Schools achieved first place at the English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition Hawaii Branch tournament on February 25, 2023. Iolani School student Ella Tom earned second place, and Punahou School student Irene Zhong was awarded third place in the Hawaii Branch competition. Each student performed a Shakespearean monologue of their choice and recited a sonnet. Competitors were judged on their understanding of their selected texts and on their ability to communicate their interpretation to the audience. Judges for the Branch Competition included Betty Burdick, Eden Lee Murray, and Connor Lawhorn.

Pictured above are the top three finishers in the 2023 ESU Hawaii Branch Competition: Ella Tom (2nd place), Elena Hollenbeak (1st place), and Irene Zhong (3rd place)

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News And Events

2019 Hawaii Branch National Shakespeare Competition Finalist

Left to right: Maggie Odom (third), Mariko Jurcsak (first), Skylar Dysarz (second) Top three winners in the Hawaii segment of the 2019 ESU National Shakespeare Competition.

April 29,  2019 may have been a normal Monday for most high school students, but for Mariko Jurcsak from 'Iolani School it will be a day to remember forever. Mariko, student of Robert Duval, placed as a finalist at the 36th Annual National Shakespeare Competition celebrating William Shakespeare's birthday while competing against 50 students from around the US on stage at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center Theater in New York City.


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Honolulu Area High School Student to Compete in the 35th English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition at Lincoln Center in New York

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Left to right: Ruby O’Malley (first place), Mark Lawhorn (ESU Hawaii President), Kylie E Shaieb (second place)

Ruby O'Malley, student of  Ann Ogilvie from Kaiser High School in Honolulu achieved first place at the English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition Hawaii Branch tournament on March 3, 2018. The repeat win for Kaiser High School, whose Makana Richter won first place in 2017, is the first such back-to-back public school win since Mililani High School won in 1998 and 1999. Ms. O'Malley will travel to New York City along with more than 50 other contestants from around the country to participate in the ESU National Shakespeare Competition at Lincoln Center Theater in New York on April 23, 2018. 


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With a performance of a sonnet and monologue from Shakespeare, Makana Richter  from Honolulu, HI, a student of Ann Ogilvie at Kaiser High School in Honolulu, placed as a semi-finalist in the 34th  annual English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition in New York City. The Competition took place on May 1, 2017 on the stage of the Mitzi Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center with 54 semi-finalists from as many ESU Branch competitions nationwide. Makana previously won the ESU Hawaii Branch competition.

The winner of the 34th English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition, Ogechi Egonu, representing the San Francisco Branch, received a full scholarship to attend the American Shakespeare Center Theatre Camp in Staunton, VA, this summer.  Second place winner, Brandon Burk, from the Kentucky Branch, won a cash prize of $1,000 from The English-Speaking Union, while the third place winner, Trevon Wainwright, representing the Kansas City Branch of the ESU, received an award of $500 provided by The Shakespeare Society.

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All The World's a Stage for Home Schooled Teen

Honolulu, February 20, 2016 – Ari Dalbert, a student of Eden Lee Murray, won the Hawaii segment of the 2016 English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition.  Erica Ito, a student of Paul Palmore at Punahou School, took second place. Chandler Bridgman, a student of Robert St. John at Le Jardin Academy, was awarded third place. Ari had already won the school level Shakespeare competition among home-schooled students coordinated by Eden Lee Murray in Honolulu.  The ESU Branch competition was held on February 20, 2016 at the Luke Auditorium in Punahou School's Wo International Center in Honolulu, and 20 school winners from the ESU Hawaii area participated, including one student from Maui, one from Kauai, and three from Hawaii Island. All participants were awarded single volume editions of the complete works of Shakespeare and complimentary tickets to upcoming performances in the Hawaii Shakespeare Festival season and the spring production of the Hawaii Theatre Young Actors Ensemble. In addition to monetary awards, the top three finishers each received six free tickets to Hawaii Shakespeare Festival's summer season and DVDs of Kenneth Branagh's Henry V. Ari impressed the judges and captivated the audience with his performance of Edmond from King Lear and his recitation of Sonnet 116.  He will go on to represent the ESU Hawaii area as a semi-finalist at the national competition to be held on Monday, May 2, 2016 at Lincoln Center in New York City. Ari also won the Hawaii competition in 2014 and placed among the top ten finalists at Lincoln Center that year.


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