Shakespeare Monologue and Scene Competition 2016


Maya Lapp, Senior Reporter

The Pittsburgh Public Theater’s Annual Shakespeare Monologue and Scene Competition this year had almost 1,300 participants from over 80 different schools in the Pittsburgh area.

Monday night twenty-six scenes and monologue finalists had the honor of performing in the O’Reilly Theater in front of six judges and a full audience. I have attended the past four years, and always enjoy watching as students from fourth to twelfth grade enact some of the greatest scenes in the history of the theater.

During the past few months, students all around Pittsburgh have been memorizing the Bard’s words and filling them with life. As a thanks to my fifth grade teacher for introducing me to the Shakespeare Competition, I volunteered each Wednesday to help prepare his group of fourth and fifth graders for the show, and let me tell you. It was amazing watching them develop from children stumbling over Shakespearean words to young thespians, confidently mounting the stage. Most of my time I spent helping to choreograph a Three Witches scene from Macbeth, and so I was delighted to discover they had moved on to the final round and were performing Monday. The three witches, Jaiden Gibson, Lana Steward and Nia Woodson-Hunt, were the very first to perform on Monday, and started the night off with great energy, as they chanted and danced across the stage.

The Shakespeare Competition has a lower division (4th-7th grade) and upper division (8th-12th grade). This year Simon Nigam secured the best monologue in the lower division, with a heart-wrenching performance of Shylock, from The Merchant of Venice, one of my personal favorite monologues of all time. Despite overstepping the time limit by more than a minute, Will Sendera and Sophia Sousa blew the lower division scene competition out of the water with their rendition of the “balcony” scene from Romeo and Juliet. Their only competition came from a performance of Desdemona and Emilia from Othello by Dorothy Crow and Kira Mukogosi, who found an impressive natural rhythm in their conversation for ones so young.

The final scene of the night was the hilarious Kate and Petruchio from The Taming of the Shrew, performed by Laela Lumsden and Anna Ungario. Lumsden took the male role and together they got the crowd laughing outright, and they came away with the win for the upper division scenes. Sundiata Rice performed the typical King Henry from Henry V, one of Shakespeare’s most powerful monologues; however, Rice did an incredible job making the monologue his own, managing to avoid falling into the pattern many actors use during this most famous of monologues. This monologue has won the competition many times in the past and did not fail to deliver on this occasion.

Despite the fact that the judges chose winners for the night, each person who mounted the stage had amazing performances and each of them were a winner, so I would like to recognize a few more performances. A group from Hope Academy performed the scene from Winter’s Tale where Hermione comes back to life, and the effect was eerily beautiful. Jacob Epstein from CAPA performed a monologue by Launce from Two Gentlemen of Verona that I had never seen before, but thought was incredible. Grace Randall performed “All the World’s a Stage”, a monologue that is extremely difficult to perform well and normally is nothing less than agony to see, but performed admirably. All in all it was a very entertaining night, and it was a bittersweet feeling to watch for the last time, before I head out to college. The Shakespeare Competition is a wonderful opportunity for all thespians, and I highly recommend taking part! There is no better way to experience the works of the greatest poet in history.