"Suit the action to the word, the word to the action."

MIDDLETOWN, NJ - Reciting Shakespearean monologues and sonnets on the stage at Brookdale's Performing Arts Center on Saturday, March 5th, a group of twenty-six convivial and talented young thespians from 15 different high schools entertained and supported each other at the 21st annual Shakespeare Competition for High School Students sponsored by The English-Speaking Union of Monmouth County.

left to right:  Jerry Sanchez, Jersey City Performing Arts School, 3rd place; Jordyn Tumas, Ocean Township High, Honorable Mention; Einat Sapegin, Colts Neck High, 1st place; Reid Henderson, Red Bank Regional Performing Arts, Honorable Mention; Brian Howard, Howell High School, 2nd place

The students, mostly from Monmouth County high schools, but also from Hudson and Union counties, demonstrated their love of acting and of Shakespeare by performing self-selected monologues from Shakespeare's plays, using only their body language and voices (no props or costumes) to convey their characters' moods, concerns, values, and intentions. In addition, the students showed their versatility and intellectual acumen by reciting one of Shakespeare's 154 sonnets to reveal its structure, mood, and themes. The audience of parents, friends, and educators was noticeably impressed by the range and quality of the performances, and the students themselves supported each other with genuine good will and respect. The competition was judged by four theater professionals: Kate Cordaro, Director of Educaton at The Two River Theatre Company; Jamie Brink, Associate Director of Education at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey; William Henning, actor and writer; and John Bukovec Assistant Professor of Drama at Brookdale. Each of the contestants had earned his or her place in the competition by having won an internal competition, supervised by English and/or drama teachers, in his or her own school.

Einat Sapegin of Colts Neck High School, (teacher Reynold Forman) won first prize with her powerful performance of Lady Macbeth's speech from Act I in which she tries to convince her husband to kill King Duncan. Einat, then completely shifted gears, and gave a gently bemused rendering of Shakespeare's sonnet 17 "Who will believe my verse in time to come ..." In addition to winning $200 from the English Speaking Union, Einat will represent Monmouth County at the National Shakespeare Competition in New York City, May 1st and 2nd. During that weekend, Einat and 56 other high school students who were winners of their local competitions across the United States will be treated to workshops and tours, culminating in the final competition on the stage at Lincoln Center. This competition is judged by noteworthy theatre professionals who in the past have included Diane Wiest, Sam Waterston, Gene Wilder, Sarah Jessica Parker, Christopher Reeve, Cynthia Nixon, and Helen Hayes to name just a few. The 1st prize at the National Competition is a fully funded scholarship to study acting in a three week summer program in England.

Other prize winning performances in the Brookdale event were those of Reid Henderson of Red Bank Regional Performing Arts (teacher Joe Russo) and Jordyn Tumas of Ocean Township (teachers Elizabeth-Baxter Ripley and Jayne Van Nosdall.) Both Reid and Jordyn were awarded honorable mention prizes for their portrayals of Hamlet and Juliet respectively. Third prize of $100 went to Jeremy Sanchez of Jersey City Performing Arts School (teacher Daniel Paolucci) for) his riveting performance of Shylock's speech in The Merchant of Venice to Antonio in Act 1, Scene 3, "You call me misbeliever, cut-throat dog ..." Second prize of $150 went to Brian Howard of Howell High School (teacher Amy Acchione) for his vivid and convincing portrayal of young Prince Hal vowing to redeem himself in service to his father, King Henry IV.

Teachers and students who participated in the Saturday event came from the schools mentioned above as well as from Academy of Allied Health and Science, High Technology High, Holmdel High, The Hudson School, Long Branch High, Middletown North, Monmouth Regional, Ranney School, Red Bank Catholic, and Rumson Fair Haven Regional High School. All of the teachers and students were presented with certificates of appreciation and/or achievement by Janet Pitman, ESU Chair of the Competition and by Richard Biernackie, President of The Monmouth County English- Speaking Union. The eventfulfilled one of the goals of The English-Speaking Union i.e. to help high school students develop their speaking and critical thinking skills and their appreciation of literature as they explore the beautiful language and timeless themes in Shakespeare's works. The event, overall, was a successful celebration of Shakespeare, theater, teachers, and especially young people.