News And Events

NYC Teen a Finalist at the 2015 ESU National Shakespeare Competition

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Willington Vuelto, 2015 Competition Finalist, onstage at Lincoln Center.

With his performance of a sonnet and monologue from Shakespeare, Willington Vuelto of New York City, a student of Gabriel Silva at Urban Assembly School for the Performing Arts, placed as one of 10 finalists at the 32nd annual English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition. The Competition was held on April 27th at Lincoln Center Theater in New York City for 57 winners of ESU Branch competitions nationwide. Will had previously won the ESU New York Branch regional competition.

The winner of this year's ESU National Shakespeare Competition was Sarah Spalding from the ESU Hawaii Branch. She receives a full scholarship to attend the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art's Young Actors Summer School in London, England. Second place winner, Evelyn Johnson, representing the Philadelphia Branch, won a scholarship to attend the American Shakespeare Center Theatre Camp. Third place winner, Elizabeth Mears, representing the Boston Branch, won $500 from The Shakespeare Society.

The other finalists were: Alfred Bardwell-Evans (Charlottesville Branch); Angelo Chukwudebe (San Francisco Branch); Andrew Davis (Austin Branch); Koria Johnson (Sandhills Branch); Hale Stewart (Phoenix Branch); and Harry Thornton (Chicago Branch).

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 32nd season this year, the Honorable Bill De Blasio, Mayor of the City of New York, proclaimed April 27th as William Shakespeare Day. Nick Astbury, the British Deputy Consul-General in New York, read the proclamation, and Josiah Bunting III, Chairman of the English-Speaking Union, awarded certificates to the competitors.

The English-Speaking Union provided the 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 Tony nominated musical Something Rotten! 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 finals competition judges were distinguished actors and educators. Matt Harrington, a Broadway, television and film actor currently playing the role of Mr. Wormwood in Matilda the Musical on Broadway, was the first-place winner of the 1999 ESU National Shakespeare Competition. He received both his BFA and MFA from Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. Peter Francis James, graduate and an Associate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, teaches at Yale School of Drama as well as the British American Drama Academy at Oxford. He was nominated for a Lortel award for his performance in Edward Albee's The Lady From Dubuqueat the Signature Theater. Dr. Peggy O'Brien, Director of Education at the Folger Shakespeare Library, has taught policy, theory, and practice in American K-12 education at Georgetown University and continues to consult on major national education programs. Louis Scheeder, Arts Professor and founder and Director of the Classical Studio, an advanced training program at the Tisch School of the Arts, also serves as Associate Dean of Faculty at the school. He was most recently awarded NYU's Distinguished Teaching Award. Ralph Alan Cohen, Founding Executive Director and Director of Mission at the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, VA, also has directed 35 productions by Shakespeare and his contemporaries.

View photos of the 2015 National Competition. 

Watch videos of the 2015 Competition Finalists.


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