ESU Hawaii Branch

A Message from the Hawaii Branch President

President's Update June 2024


The Hawaii Branch has participated in the National Shakespeare Competition from its inception in 1983. Since then, more than 6,000 students, from public, independent and charter schools statewide, as well as homeschooled students, have had the opportunity to compete in this challenging program. By participating, high school students develop their appreciation of literature as they explore the language and timeless themes in Shakespeare's works. Hawaii students have excelled at the competition over the years as evidenced by the frequency of Hawaii students making it to the final round of the top ten competitors nationally. Additionally, one of the top three places has gone to a Hawaii student several times and four Hawaii students have won the national competition within the last ten years (Connor Lawhorn, 2011; Sarah Spalding, 2015; Ari Dalbert, 2016; and Elena Hollenbeak, 2023). In the 41 years since the competition began, no other branch in the country has ever had back-to-back national winners, and no other branch has ever had four national winners. Links to performances by several past Hawaii winners can be found on the ESU Hawaii website:

Hawaii's Latest National Winner: Elena Hollenbeak
Elena Hollenbeak not only became a finalist but achieved first place in the 40th national competition for her stellar performances of Sonnet 14 and a monologue by Lady Macbeth from Macbeth. Lyn Ackerman, Elena's drama teacher at St. Andrew's Schools: The Priory in Honolulu, attended the national competition and was awarded the $1,000 Teacher Recognition Award.

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News And Events

The 2024 National Shakespeare Competition Starts Now!

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We are pleased to announce the kick-off of the ESU's National Shakespeare Competition! Schools in our region may enter now, giving students the opportunity to compete in Hawaii Branch Competition.  The winner of the branch competition will travel to NYC to compete in the national finals at Lincoln Center!  


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2019 Hawaii Branch National Shakespeare Competition Finalist

Left to right: Maggie Odom (third), Mariko Jurcsak (first), Skylar Dysarz (second) Top three winners in the Hawaii segment of the 2019 ESU National Shakespeare Competition.

April 29,  2019 may have been a normal Monday for most high school students, but for Mariko Jurcsak from 'Iolani School it will be a day to remember forever. Mariko, student of Robert Duval, placed as a finalist at the 36th Annual National Shakespeare Competition celebrating William Shakespeare's birthday while competing against 50 students from around the US on stage at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center Theater in New York City.


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Honolulu Area High School Student to Compete in the 35th English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition at Lincoln Center in New York

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Left to right: Ruby O’Malley (first place), Mark Lawhorn (ESU Hawaii President), Kylie E Shaieb (second place)

Ruby O'Malley, student of  Ann Ogilvie from Kaiser High School in Honolulu achieved first place at the English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition Hawaii Branch tournament on March 3, 2018. The repeat win for Kaiser High School, whose Makana Richter won first place in 2017, is the first such back-to-back public school win since Mililani High School won in 1998 and 1999. Ms. O'Malley will travel to New York City along with more than 50 other contestants from around the country to participate in the ESU National Shakespeare Competition at Lincoln Center Theater in New York on April 23, 2018. 


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With a performance of a sonnet and monologue from Shakespeare, Makana Richter  from Honolulu, HI, a student of Ann Ogilvie at Kaiser High School in Honolulu, placed as a semi-finalist in the 34th  annual English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition in New York City. The Competition took place on May 1, 2017 on the stage of the Mitzi Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center with 54 semi-finalists from as many ESU Branch competitions nationwide. Makana previously won the ESU Hawaii Branch competition.

The winner of the 34th English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition, Ogechi Egonu, representing the San Francisco Branch, received a full scholarship to attend the American Shakespeare Center Theatre Camp in Staunton, VA, this summer.  Second place winner, Brandon Burk, from the Kentucky Branch, won a cash prize of $1,000 from The English-Speaking Union, while the third place winner, Trevon Wainwright, representing the Kansas City Branch of the ESU, received an award of $500 provided by The Shakespeare Society.

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