ESU Central Florida Branch
Professor Maurice O'Sullivan, Central Florida Branch President
Welcome to the home page of the Central Florida Branch of the English- Speaking Union. We are a branch dedicated to the ESU mission; we pride ourselves in devoting our time and resources "to celebrate English as a shared language and foster global understanding and good will by providing educational and cultural opportunities for students, educators, and members."
Since the Central Florida Branch was formed in 1960 by a group of Winter Park residents, it has greatly impacted lives. Through teacher scholarships, entertaining lectures with dynamic speakers, the Shakespeare Competition, and a host of additional national and local initiatives, our branch has rooted deep into the core of literacy and made a truly monumental investment in the community. We invite you to become acquainted with us by perusing this site as it showcases our commitment. Perhaps after viewing the many opportunities available to members, you might feel motivated to become one yourself!
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News And Events
The 2024 ESU National Shakespeare Competition Starts Now!
– November 7, 2023
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 the Central Florida 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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Left to Right: Jennifer Grace, Dr. Quinn Peeper, Casey Kerr, and Gail Chase
We simply had to spread the news about our own Central Florida Shakespeare Competition Branch representative, Casey Kerr, and their amazing performance on Monday, April 24th at the 40th National Shakespeare Competition! Casey took second place with their performances of Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream and Sonnet 81. As the second-place winner, Casey will be attending the American Shakespeare Center Theatre Camp in Staunton, Virginia.
The Central Florida ESU is so very proud to have been a part of bringing Casey's amazing talent to the Lincoln Center stage! We also congratulate the dedicated team of professionals who were a part of Casey's preparation for the big day: Gail Chase, Lake Nona's Drama Department Head, and Jenny Chase, AP Literature teacher, have been by Casey's side from their school competition all the way to New York City! We have trustworthy intel (through the grapevine) that they all charmed Dr. Quinn Peeper, Chairman of the National ESU!
Additionally, we would love to extend gratitude - once again- to our Central Florida Competition judges, Anne Hering: Director of Education at The Orlando Shakespeare Theater, Dr. Maurice "Socky" O'Sullivan: Kenneth Curry Professor of Literature Emeritus at Rollins College and Central Florida ESU Branch President, as well as Donna Miller: former Program Coordinator for Orange County's Language Arts Department. Your eye for technique and artistry has allowed our branch to shine through Casey's accomplishment. It is a win for us all!
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Drey Scholars Reunion
From Left: Matthew, Nash Brown, Kristina Thompson, Bryan Boggiano, Greg Wedel, Jennifer Gautier
The Sheraton North's Irish Pub, the An Tobar, set the stage for Central Florida's Drey Scholars Reunion on Wednesday, March 29th from 5:00-7:00 p.m. Jan McClure and Reta Jackson greeted scholars and Board members with name tags and free drink tickets. The Sheraton donated a generous platter of fruits, crackers, and cheeses while the Branch provided charcuterie boards and barbecued wings. President Maurice (Socky) O'Sullivan gave the scholars a welcome, calling teachers the true heroes of Florida. The new scholars: Bryan Boggiano, Jonathan Jackson, Olivia Mindermann, and Greg Wedel met former scholars who shared their travel stories and tips for an easy transition into London or Edinburgh, Scotland's culture. Donna Miller, Elaine Laegeler, Nancy Williams, Barbara Hughes, Gilda Gomez and Debra Williams were seen enjoying conversations with teachers like Jennifer Gautier, Matthew Nash Brown, and Sally Marjama. Judging by the noise level in the Pub, a good time was had by all.
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Central Florida Branch Shakespeare Competition
On February 20, 2023, 17 students from the tri-county area arrived at Orlando Shakes to participate in The English-Speaking Union's annual Shakespeare competition. Contestants were vying for the opportunity to win $1,000.00, an additional prize to cover the cost of travel to New York City for the National competition, and a scholarship to Orlando Shakes' The Young Company, which is valued at $250.00. This year's contenders made for difficult judging decisions. On the panel of judges this year were Anne Hering: Director of Education at The Orlando Shakespeare Theater, Donna Miller; former Program Coordinator for Orange County's Language Arts, and Dr. Maurice "Socky" O'Sullivan: Kenneth Curry Professor of Literature Emeritus at Rollins College.
From Left to Right: Casey Kerr, Delaney Polk, and James Helsinger
Casey Kerr from Lake Nona High School took First Place with a portrayal of Bottom from A Midsummer Night's Dream and Sonnet 81 under the direction of their teacher, Ms. Jennifer Gautier. Second Place went to Delaney Polk from Windermere Prep. Delaney was coached by her teacher, Ms. BambiEllen Fadoul, on her depiction of Lady Macbeth from Macbeth and Sonnet 144. In Third Place was James Helsinger who was trained by his teacher, Ms. Marie Gentile, at Boone High School.
New to the competition in 2021 was the Richard Burbage Award. Named after one of the most famous actors at The Globe Theatre, this award celebrates the work and dedication of teacher sponsors who have managed year after year to keep their students engaged, their involvement in our competition ongoing, and our audiences enriched. The 2023 recipient of the Richard Burbage Award is long-standing sponsor Kristopher Kahn of Cypress Creek High School. The final award given this year is The Love of the Bard Award. This award requires a teacher nomination and is an award given annually to one student who, "Exhibits determination, grit, fortitude, and a true passion for Shakespeare's works." This year's winner is Malaki Headrick of Avalon Private School.
After serving 27 years as either the Shakespeare Competition Coordinator for the Central Florida Branch of the ESU, or an Assistant Coordinator, Ginger Bryant completed her final year of service in her rewarding role. Brett Carrier will be seamlessly stepping into the role for the 2024 Shakespeare Competition.
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