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Tiffany Ames Wins First Place in the ESU National Shakespeare Competition

With an impressive performance of the Jailor's Daughter from Shakespeare's The Two Noble Kinsmen and recitation of Sonnet 149, Tiffany Ames from Charlottesville, Virginia, a student of Tucker Winter at the Tandem Friends School in Charlottesville, took first prize in the 2012 English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition.  The Competition was held on April 23, Shakespeare's 448th birthday, on the Mitzi E. Newhouse stage at Lincoln Center Theater in New York City.  Fifty-eight winners of ESU Branch competitions nationwide participated in the competition.  Tiffany had previously won her school competition and the ESU Charlottesville Branch competition.  As her prize, she will receive a full tuition scholarship to attend the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art's Young Actors Summer School in London, England.

Read her blog about her trip to London.

Cyler Winnie, this year's winner of the ESU Portland Branch competition, was runner-up in the National Shakespeare Competition.  His prize is a full tuition scholarship to the American Shakespeare Center Theatre Camp in Staunton, Virginia.  The third place winner, Katie Weatherseed, representing the ESU Greenwich Branch, won $500 from the Shakespeare Society.

The English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition is an educational program in which high school students across the country read, analyze, perform and recite Shakespeare's monologues and sonnets.  The program was initiated in 1983 with 500 students in New York City, and now engages approximately 2,000 teachers and 15,000 students nationwide each year.  The Competition provides teachers with a performance-based program for their instruction of Shakespeare and language arts, allowing their students to develop communication skills and an appreciation of the power of language and literature.  Students make their presentations of the Bard's works in three progressive stages, at the school, community and national levels.  Dedicated ESU Branch volunteers administer the school and ESU Branch competitions while the ESU National Headquarters directs and funds the National Competition in New York City.

The 58 winners of the local English-Speaking Union Branch Competitions were awarded a trip to New York City for the semi-final and final stages of the National Competition.  They arrived at ESU Headquarters on Sunday, April 22 for registration and immediately began to make friends with their fellow competitors.  The competitors were then taken to New York University for dinner followed by private workshop at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, led by the Tisch School's Experimental Theatre Wing Director, Rosemary Quinn.

Early on Monday, April 23, the competitors warmed up on the Mitzi E. Newhouse stage at Lincoln Center for the full-day Competition, which took place on the set of the acclaimed play, 4000 Miles.  Then, each student performed a prepared monologue and sonnet from Shakespeare.  They were judged on how well they understood their selected pieces and how effectively they expressed and communicated that understanding.

The judges of the Semi-Final Competition (shown deliberating) were Shakespeare scholar and Rutgers University Distinguished Professor of English Maurice Charney; Actor, Director and Teacher Jonathan Epstein, who works primarily with Shakespeare & Company; Actor and Teaching Artist Jacqueline Gregg; Artistic Director of The Shakespeare Society Michael Sexton; and Program Director of the Poetry Foundation Steve Young. 

After the semi-final Competition round, competitors were treated to lunch at The Juilliard School and visited the Shakespeare statue on Poet's Walk in Central Park.

The final round of the English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition commenced in the late afternoon.  From the group of 58 semi-finalists, ten were chosen as finalists.  The ten finalists were Jalen Gilbert from the Jackson Branch; Tiffany Ames from the Charlottesville Branch; Katie Weatherseed from the Greenwich Branch; John Way from the Phoenix Branch; Cyler Winnie from the Portland Branch; Rachel Woods from the Nashville Branch; Jordan Friend from the Washington DC Branch; Monica Thompson from the Denver Branch; Fiona Robberson from the Dallas Branch; and Jessica Pinnick from the Cleveland Branch.  At the final competition, the ten competitors each performed their monologue, sonnet and a cold reading of a monologue from a Shakespeare play, selected at random.

The judges for the final round of the Competition were:  Casting Director at The Public Theater Heidi Griffiths; New York University Tisch School of the Arts Classical Studio Director Louis Scheeder; Director of Mission and Co-Founder of the American Shakespeare Center Ralph Alan Cohen; actor Heather Lind, an alumni of the ESU National Shakespeare Competition who recently appeared with Al Pacino in The Merchant of Venice on Broadway; and actor Peter Francis James, who had just finished an Off-Broadway run of The Lady from Dubuque.

While the ESU provided the competitors with two full days of activities, perhaps best of all for these teenagers was the opportunity to spend a weekend in New York City with other like-minded students from across the country.  As one participant stated in a thank-you to the ESU, "Even though we only knew each other for a couple of days, I have never had so much fun with a group of people!  It was so great to finally be around people that understood and appreciated my love for Shakespeare and the stage."  As ESU President and Executive Director Alice Boyne noted, "The 58 competitors came as winners of their Branch Competitions, and their vibrant and intelligent performances on the Lincoln Center stage and their immediate, heartwarming bonding with each other demonstrated each and every one to be a true winner on a national scale.  The ESU National Shakespeare Competition embodies the ESU purpose: to celebrate English as a shared language to foster global understanding and good will by providing educational and cultural opportunities for students, educators, and members."

View photos of the competition.

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