News And Events

Blue Valley High Junior Wins First Place in ESU Kansas City’s 35th Annual Shakespeare Competition

Matthew Grigoratos, a junior at Blue Valley High School in Overland Park, Kansas, won First Place in the Regional Finals of the English-Speaking Union's Shakespeare Competition in Kansas City, MO. His sponsoring teacher was Maureen Davis. This was the 35th anniversary of the Shakespeare Competition for the ESU Kansas City Branch.

Approximately 165 students participated in preliminary competitions in Kansas City area high schools. The ESU Kansas City Branch Competition was held on February 24, 2019, at the Kansas City Public Library, Plaza Branch, Kansas City, MO. 

Ten school winners from the Kansas City area schools participated. Matthew impressed the judges and captivated the audience with his performance of Shylock from The Merchant of Venice and his recitation of Sonnet 102. He will go on to represent ESU's Kansas Branch as a semi-finalist at the National Shakespeare Competition held at Lincoln Center in New York City on April 29, 2019.

The Second Place winner in the ESU Kansas City Branch finals was Ashley Schwach from Paola High School, Paola, Kansas. Her sponsoring teacher was Leslie Anne Coats. The Third Place winner was Aliyah Pullin from Olathe South High School, Olathe, Kansas. Her sponsoring teacher was David Hastings.

Matthew's First Place prize package from the ESU Kansas City Branch included a check for $150, a full scholarship to the Shakespeare Exploration Camp offered by the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival, a Certificate of Appreciation and an engraved First Place Medallion.


Matthew will be awarded an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City for the final stage of the Competition. The trip also includes educational and cultural activities—an exclusive acting workshop by the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University and a tour of The Juilliard School, sightseeing activities and spending the weekend with 55 fellow teenage aficionados of the Bard. Perhaps best of all for Matthew will be the opportunity to spend a weekend with other ESU Branch winners from across the country who share his love of the Bard and his works.

Matthew will be competing for amazing opportunities this summer. The National First Place Winner receives a full three-week scholarship to the British American Drama Academy Midsummer Conservatory Program in Oxford, England. The Second Place National Winner receives a full three-week scholarship to the American Shakespeare Center Summer Theatre Camp in Staunton, Virginia and the Third Place National Winner receives $500.00.

Deborah McArdle, ESU Kansas City Branch's Vice President and Shakespeare Competition Coordinator, commented, "The ESU Kansas City Branch is proud to have provided this competition for 35 years now. Each year, we see the students display an unbelievable understanding of the works of William Shakespeare, one of the world's greatest geniuses. In unique ways, the contestants bring Shakespeare's words to life by voice, movement and overall interpretation. Additionally, we thank our committed teachers who give so generously of time and talent."

Two previous Kansas City winners have won First Place in the National Shakespeare Competition in New York. In 1992, David Roche, also a student at Blue Valley High School, won National First Place. In 1994, Dannye Thompson, a student at Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts, won National First Place. One past Kansas City winner won Second Place in the National Competition. The ESU Kansas City First Place winner in 2017, Trevon Wainwright from Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts, went on to compete in the ESU National Finals and won Third Place in the National Finals.

The ESU Kansas City Branch is one of 55 Branches competing in the National Shakespeare Competition in New York City on April 29, 2019 at Lincoln Center.

The three distinguished judges for the 2019 Kansas City Branch Shakespeare Competition:

Sidonie Garrett—

Sidonie Garrett is the Executive Artistic Director of the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival where she recently directed Much Ado About Nothing, The Winter's Tale, King Lear, Twelfth Night and Hamlet, all awarded Best Play in Pitch Magazine's BEST OF KC as well as 15 other Shakespeare plays. Locally, Sidonie has directed many plays at the Unicorn Theatre, Coterie Theatre and the Kansas City Actors Theatre. She has directed previous collaborations with the Bach Aria Soloists and also KC Ballet, KC Symphony and KC Chorale, The African Company Presents with the Black Repertory Theatre of KC and Script-In-Hand readings including The Beard of Avon and The Women, with KC Actors Theatre and The Tempest for JCCC's Performing Arts Series. Next up, she will direct Shakespeare in Love for HASF's 27th season, June 11 – July 7, 2019, in Southmoreland Park.


Melinda McCrary—

Melinda McCrary is a member of Actors' Equity Association with a several decade-long history of both performing and teaching Shakespeare. She has over 20 Shakespeare productions under her corset, including four roles with the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival--Ariel in the inaugural production of The Tempest, Hermia/ A Midsummer Night's Dream, Calpurnia/ Julius Caesar and Beatrice/ Much Ado About Nothing. Melinda has performed with Virginia Shakespeare Festival, Boston Shakespeare Company, St. Louis Rep, The Coterie, New Theatre, American Heartland Theatre, The Unicorn, and Arizona Theatre Company and contributed as actor, director and board member with Kansas City Actors Theatre. Melinda is currently the Director of Education and Community Programs at Kansas City Repertory Theatre. She served as Education Director for the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival for four years and as adjunct faculty teaching Foundations of Theatre Arts for the University of Missouri at Kansas City for 10 years.

Mark Robbins—

Mark Robbins is a member of Actors' Equity Association and has more than 170 professional roles to his credit in theaters in Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Phoenix, Tucson, St. Louis, and Kansas City. He has performed the title roles in Macbeth, Oedipus Rex and Richard III and has worked as a leading actor for every major professional theatre in Kansas City, most recently at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre (in A Christmas Carol, Angels in America, and Sticky Traps) and the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival (in King Lear). He is also an experienced director, having directed for the Unicorn Theatre (where he received a Best of Kansas City award for Best Director), the American Heartland Theatre and UMKC's Graduate Training Program. He is a founding member of the Kansas City Actors Theatre and directed and appeared in its production of Hamlet (Summer 2014).

2019 Shakespeare Competition, ESU Kansas City Branch, (L to R) Aliyah Pullin, Third Place, Olathe South High School, Ashley Schwach, Second Place, Paola High School, Matthew Grigoratos, First Place, Blue Valley High School, Deborah McArdle, Vice President and  Shakespeare Competition Coordinator


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