McKenna, Levine and Keegan Command the Stage at Shakespeare Competition


Sophie Levine, Editor

“To be or not to be: that is the question…”


Last month, I had the wonderful opportunity to compete in the Princeton Branch of the English Speaking Union competition, where students from all over the region compete by reciting various Shakespeare monologues and sonnets. Although it was held virtually, it was still so much fun, and I can’t wait to do it again next year!


This level was preceded by the first branch of the contest, which was held here at HMHS. Ten brave souls from HMHS’ Shakespeare Troupe took the stage in our auditorium to recite their chosen monologues and sonnets for three judges: Mr. Thomas, Ms. Welsh, and Mr. Holman. We were able to watch each other’s performances and cheer each other on. It was a very supportive environment, which is what made the experience so great. After much deliberation, Shaelin McKenna was chosen for first place and I came runner-up, with Joseph Keegan as an alternative if one of us couldn’t participate in the next branch of the competition.


Over the next few months, we received coaching from Ms. Dickstein on how to deliver our pieces. We had to dive deep into the meaning and context behind the piece. We had to put ourselves in the characters’ shoes to understand how they were feeling in the scene. It was important for us to learn the backstory, the intent behind the words. It truly taught me how every line that Shakespeare wrote had a meaning; nothing was written for no reason. The week before the competition, we practiced our pieces in front of the rest of the Shakespeare Troupe. 


Once the big day arrived (February 20th), excitement levels were high! Although it might seem like a hindrance, in reality, it was helpful that the competition was virtual because I was away for President’s Day weekend! Shaelin and I signed on with the other students, did a warm-up, and practiced before the judges arrived. Then, we got started. Doing a competition virtually was definitely an adjustment (we had to be aware of whether the camera captured our whole body and if the lighting was adequate, but nevertheless, we persisted!). Once all the participants performed, the judges went into a breakout room and deliberated. The suspense was intense as we awaited the decision! Then, the results were in…I placed 2nd and Shaelin placed 1st! The judges gave us some feedback about our performance and how to improve, which was very helpful and constructive. Because she placed 1st, Shaelin now moves on to the final national level of the competition, which will be held in April. Good luck, Shae! 


When I asked Shaelin for her thoughts about the competition and the exciting outcome, she expressed, “It was a great way to bond with people that share interests similar to mine. I honestly didn’t think I’d get this far when I started. It was more of an opportunity to do something I enjoy, but being able to advance through this competition has allowed me to gain some more exposure to different interpretations of Shakespeare, to see how a 400-year-old text can be transformed into something new by every actor that performs it. I’m looking forward to Nationals. I’m not sure what to expect, but I’m excited regardless. It’s a really cool opportunity.”

Hopefully next year, the competition will be in-person so that participants can truly experience the contest in the way it is meant to be presented. Whatever the form may be, I know that I had a great time participating this year, and I strongly encourage everyone to join the Shakespeare Troupe, so they can have the opportunity to participate!