A performance-based educational program serving grades 9-12
The ESU National Shakespeare Competition

Since 1983, the competition has engaged more than 360,000 young people. Approximately 2,500 teachers and 20,000 students in nearly 60 ESU Branch communities across the country. 

2024 National Shakespeare Competition

On April 15, 2024, our 41st National Shakespeare Competition was held at Lincoln Center’s Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater in New York City. Forty-four semi-finalists came from all over the country, along with parents, branch coordinators, and supporters. Thank you to everyone who made our National Shakespeare Competition such a great success! We are so proud of everyone who performed.

With his performances of Sonnet 17 and a moving monologue from Othello, Malachi White of the ESU New Orleans Branch won the English-Speaking Union’s 41st Annual National Shakespeare Competition. He is a student of Gary Mendoza at Covington High School. As the first-place winner, Malachi will attend the British American Drama Academy Program this summer in London. Gary Mendoza will receive the $1,000 ESU Teacher Recognition award.

Malachi White, New Orleans Branch

Willow Peyton of the newly-established ESU West Virginia Branch took second place with her performances of Portia in Julius Caesar and Sonnet 55. As the second-place winner, Willow will be attending the American Shakespeare Center Theatre Camp in Staunton, Virginia.

Willow Peyton, West Virginia Branch

Evelyn Hall of the ESU San Francisco Branch took third place for her rendition of the Jailer’s Daughter in The Two Noble Kinsmen and Sonnet 71. Evelyn will take home a cash prize of $1,000.

Evelyn Hall, San Francisco Branch


Top Three Finalists From Left to Right: Evelyn Hall, Malachi White, Willow Peyton

People’s Choice Awards

Nearly 6,000 people from around the world voted for this year’s ESU National Shakespeare Competition People’s Choice Award. The recipient of the People’s Choice Award, generously provided by the ESU Cleveland Branch, of a $1,000 1st place prize, was Pierre Madlangbayan of the ESU Kansas City Branch, who received 502 votes. In 2nd place, was Bee Wipper of the ESU Savannah Branch, who took home a $500 prize. In 3rd place, was Bradyn Prisand of the ESU Los Angeles Branch, who took home a $250 prize. Bill Kennedy, President of the ESU Cleveland Branch presented the awards. Thank you to the Cleveland Branch for underwriting the People’s Choice Award first place prize.

People’s Choice Winners with Bill Kennedy, ESU Cleveland Branch

This year’s judges included renowned members of the theater community: Ian Belknap, a director, writer and former artistic director of The Acting Company; James Elliott, an actor and director with three decades of experience; Melinda Hall, an artist and creator of the Annual Shakespeare’s Birthday Sonnet Slam; Dana Ivey, a 5-time Tony nominee and star of the Broadway stage and screen; Dr. Catherine Loomis, author and Shakespeare scholar; John Way, actor and ESU National Shakespeare alumnus, Mary Way, Former Executive Director of Southwest Shakespeare Company, and Dathan B. Williams, director, playwright, educator and former Artistic Director of the Harlem Shakespeare Festival.  

The Ten Finalists of the 2024 National Shakespeare Competition

The ESU provided the semi-finalists with a weekend of educational and cultural activities in New York City, including an acting workshop with Broadway veteran Erin Dilly at the English-Speaking Union National Headquarters in midtown, a double-decker bus tour of New York City and a performance of Kimberly Akimbo 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 Shakespeare. 

ESU Chairman Dr. E. Quinn Peeper and ESU Executive Director and President Karen Karpowich

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 English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition. For more information contact Maryellen Liotta, mliotta@esuus.org.

The ESU thanks the National Shakespeare Competition Platinum donors including Mr. Donald A. Best, Mr. and Mrs. William W. Caruth III, Ms. Karen Karpowich and Mr. Ian Calderon, Dr. E. Quinn Peeper and Mr. Michael D. Harold, and Dr. Julia Churchill Van de Water.

The National Shakespeare Competition is only one of the many educational programs and initiatives of the English-Speaking Union that over the years have changed the life trajectories of so many people – students, teachers, English language learners, new immigrants, and of course our ESU members. Founded in 1920, the ESU is a nonprofit, nonpolitical organization that promotes English as a shared language to foster global understanding and good will by providing educational and cultural opportunities. To learn more about upcoming events, educational and cultural programs, or to join as an ESU Member, please go to www.esuus.org.

Thank you to everyone who supported and participated in the 2024 ESU National Shakespeare Competition! 

2024 National Shakespeare Competition Prizes

Program Videos

Check out what NSC Finals weekend in NYC is really like!

Click here

National Shakespeare Competition Overview



The English-Speaking Union’s National Shakespeare Competition is a performance-based education program in which high school students nationwide read, analyze, and perform Shakespeare’s works.  Students develop communication skills and an appreciation of the power of language and literature.

The ESU National Shakespeare Competition is aligned with modern educational practices. Participating students:

  • practice essential skills such as critical thinking, close reading and public speaking
  • work through all 6 levels of Bloom’s taxonomy, from recall to creation, increasing self-confidence through reading, analysis and performance of Shakespeare
  • have multiple points of entry to explore universal themes and are challenged to decode for themselves the complex beauty of Shakespeare’s language 
  • work with teachers and peers in a student-centered program of experiential and cross-curriculum learning
  • meet local, state and national standards in English Language Arts and Drama.

The ESU National Shakespeare Competition has been recognized by the Globe Center (USA), the Children’s Theatre Foundation of America and the American Academy of Achievement.

Program Timeline


Fall (School Level)

The program begins in classrooms nationwide each fall, culminating in school-wide competitions in early winter in which students memorize and perform a monologue.

Winter (Community Level)

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.

Spring (National Level)

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 compete for cash prizes and the opportunity to attend a summer drama program.

Contact Us

Maryellen Liotta
Manager, Shakespeare Programs

144 E 39th St
New York, NY 10016

(212) 202-5031 x 246