The English-Speaking Union

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Announcing the Winners of the 40th Anniversary ESU National Shakespeare Competition

The English-Speaking Union Celebrates the 40th Anniversary National Shakespeare Competition in New York City

On April 24, 2023, our 40th Anniversary National Shakespeare Competition was held in-person at Lincoln Center in New York City. Forty-one semi-finalists came from all over the country, along with parents, branch coordinators, teachers and supporters. Thank you to everyone who made our first in-person National Shakespeare Competition since 2019 a great success! We are so proud of everyone who performed.

With her performances of Sonnet 14 and Lady Macbeth in Macbeth, Elena Hollenbeak of the ESU Hawaii Branch won the English-Speaking Union's 40th Annual National Shakespeare Competition. She is a student of Lyn Ackerman at St. Andrews School – The Priory. As the First-Place inWner, Elena will attend the British American Drama Academy Program this summer in London. Lyn Ackerman will receive the $1,000 ESU Teacher Recognition Award.

Casey Kerr of the ESU Central Florida Branch took second place with her 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. 

Nicole Beverly Chien of the ESU New York City Branch took Third-Place for their rendition of Prince Hal in Henry IV and Sonnet 130. Nicole will take home a cash prize of $1,000.

Top Three Finalists From Left to Right: Nicole Beverly Chien, Elena Hollenbeak, and Casey Kerr

Nearly 8,000 people from around the world voted for this year's ESU National Shakespeare Competition People's Choice Award.  The recipient of the People's Choice Award, generously provided by the ESU Cleveland Branch, of a $1,000 1st place prize, Pierre Beatrix Madlangbayan of the Kansas City Branch, student of Robyn Hilt at Garden City High School, received 565 votes. In 2nd place, with 475 votes, Tucker Claremont of the Naples Branch took home a $500 prize. In 3rd place, with 365 votes, Victoria Salazar of the San Francisco Branch took home a $250 prize.  Dr. E. Quinn Peeper, Chairman, National Board of Directors of the English-Speaking Union, awarded the prizes and certificates to all the competitors.

ESU Cleveland Branch President Bill Kennedy with the People's Choice First Place Winner
Pierre Beatrix Madlangbayan, a student from the ESU Kansas City Branch

This year's judges included renowned members of the theater community: Reese Antoinette, an actress, advocate, and interdisciplinary artist; James Elliott, an actor and director with three decades of experience; Diana Green, Founder and former Artistic Director of The Children's Shakespeare Theatre; Melinda Hall, an artist and creator of the Annual Shakespeare's Birthday Sonnet Slam; Dana Ivey, a 5 time Tony nominee and star of the Broadway stage and screen; Dr. Catherine Loomis, Author and Shakespeare Scholar; and Sara Topham, a Broadway actress currently starring in Tom Stoppard's Leopoldstadt on Broadway.

The Ten Finalists of the 2023 National Shakespeare Competition

The ESU provided the semi-finalists with a weekend of educational and cultural activities in New York City, including an acting workshop at the English-Speaking Union National Headquarters in mid-town, a double-decker bus tour of New York City and a performance of The Play That Goes Wrong on Broadway.  Perhaps best of all for these teenagers was the opportunity to spend a weekend in New York City with other students from across the country who share a love of Shakespeare. 

ESU Executive Director and President Karen Karpowich and Chairman Dr. E. Quinn Peeper

The English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition is a school-based program designed to help students develop their speaking and critical thinking skills and their appreciation of literature as they explore the beauty of the language and timeless themes in Shakespeare's works. In three progressive competition levels, students memorize, interpret, and perform monologues and sonnets in their own schools, at ESU Branch-sponsored community competitions and at the English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition. 

Students Performing at the 2023 National Shakespeare Competition

It is one of the many educational programs and initiatives of the English-Speaking Union that over the years have changed the life trajectories of so many people – students, teachers, English language learners, new immigrants, and of course our ESU members. Founded in 1920, the ESU is a nonprofit, nonpolitical organization that promotes English as a shared language to foster global understanding and good will by providing educational and cultural opportunities. To learn more about upcoming ESU events, educational, and cultural programs, or to join as an ESU Member, please go to

Thank you to everyone who supported and participated in the 2023 National Shakespeare Competition!

Teachers Supporting Their Students at the 2023 National Shakespeare Competition

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