Apex Student Advances onto National Shakespeare Competition

“To be or not to be”is  a famous quote from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet and is instantly recognized by almost any American student. It’s no surprise as about 90% of schools across the United States implement William Shakespeare’s works into their English curriculums. The playwright’s works can even be found in popular films such as 10 Things I Hate About You inspired by Taming of the Shrew and She’s the Man based off of Twelfth Night. While the renditions of Shakespeare’s works are well-loved, they were originally written as plays, so it’s foreseeable that many theaters and theater classes would perform them, including our very own Theater III/IV class. 

Recently, members of the Theater III/IV class, taught by Mrs. Levine, competed against each other in order for two of them to advance to the 2023 ESU Shakespeare Competition. While the ESU, English-Speaking Union, is hosting their 40th annual Shakespeare Competition, this is Mrs. Levine’s 10th year helping students to prepare. The competition is a part of the class’s Shakespeare unit, specifically formulated to develop the student’s chosen pieces. For each competitor, the performer must choose one work from both a packet of monologues and a packet of sonnets. From there, the participant must memorize the works and perform them at the school or local level, the regional level, then the national level, given the actor advances each round. This year, Apex High’s two school-level winners were Ali Patalano and Emily Hoder with Ava Cobb as an alternate. These two compete at the regional competition with one reaching the national level. 

Ali Patalano, a graduating senior, won the regional Shakespeare competition with their performance of Sonnet 138 and one of Lady Macbeth’s monologues from Macbeth. Before the unit started, Patalano began their preparation: “I chose my pieces and started [researching]…You have to answer actors’ questions like: Who am I? Who am I talking to? What’s my objective, obstacles, stakes?…The book works.” Working on the competition in class, Mrs. Levine played an extensive role in student’s preparation: “We do text analysis, go over the scansion, go over literary devices [and] the use of sound and word color.” Both Patalano and Levine stress the importance of connecting yourself and your body in performing the text. Levine states, “We learn…how to get the text in your body and bring it to life.” Patalano continues, “That’s one of the biggest things that makes each piece original. Any person can do this, but you have to apply yourself and find a way for it to be unique to you.”

With their advancement into nationals, Patalano will be going to New York City on April 24th. In preparation for their upcoming performance, Patalano has been avidly refining their arrangements: “[For the school competition] I would do a lot of the text work outside of school, and we would come into class to do activities…I would come home every day and rehearse for an hour. Now that I have more time before nationals…I’m focusing on the stuff needed for the musical and then after…I’ll probably spend thirty minutes to an hour every day running my pieces.” Since winning regionals, Mrs. Levine has also been working with Patalano one on one and describes her role as, “We will continue to work on those [pieces]. They’re in good shape, so it’s really just keeping them up and practicing as we get closer to April.” Aside from rehearsing Patalano’s chosen pieces, the pair have also been preparing for a possible cold reading where she would be asked, on the spot, to read and perform a completely new piece.

Last year, Sasha Fedderly from the New York branch, took first place in the competition and won a spot at the BADA Midsummer Conservatory Program in Oxford, England. This year, the prizes range from $1000 to another acceptance at the British American Drama Academy Midsummer Conservatory Program. The program is a three-week intensive centered around everything Shakespeare and has cultivated thespians like Phillipa Soo, David Schwimmer, Orlando Bloom, Chadwick Boseman, Aja Naomi King, and Yunjim Kim. 

While the competition is evidently stressful, Ali Patalano highlights the fun in the experience stating, “I really enjoy Shakespeare…Knowing Shakespeare for literature is really important, but finding the fun in Shakespeare is just really amazing.” As the national competition approaches, Patalano is first spending time starring in Apex Players’ Seussical as Cat in the Hat. Make sure to stop by this weekend to enjoy the show, and tell them to break a leg!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s