April is Shakespeare's month at the English-Speaking Union. For the past thirty-nine years, the ESU National Shakespeare Competition has brought together high school students, their families and teachers, and ESU members in Branches across the country for a celebration of the Bard's lasting literary legacy. The Competition has endured for nearly forty years because of its transformative effects on the young participants and the profound feeling of satisfaction and delight it instills in all of us who support it.
This year was no exception. Forty-three Branches sent their best contestants to the virtual semi-finals and I hear from the judges that they were hard-pressed to select the top ten from among so many outstanding performers. The Finals on the afternoon of April 25th were broadcast live and attended by nearly 300 ESU members, teachers and parents.
|Watch the Recorded Competition!|
I am delighted to announce that the winner of the 2022 English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition is Sasha Fedderly (ESU New York) with runners-up, Roxanna Beebe-Center (ESU Charlottesville) in second place and Kathuure Miriti (ESU Kentucky) in third place. I am sure you will enjoy the performance videos from all contestants and the announcement of the 2022 ESU National Shakespeare Competition and People's Choice Award winners on the ESU website.
I thank all of you for your support of the ESU National Shakespeare Competition and all other ESU programs and activities. Without your participation as members and volunteers, the ESU would not exist. The ESU's time-tested culture and traditions have wisely relied on you having a strong interest and voice in the future of our Union.
That's why, on behalf of the ESU Board of Directors, I've invited the Reverend Renee LiaBraaten to lead us this summer in a conversation about our aspirations for strong and vibrant Branches. Reverend LiaBraaten has decades of experience working with congregations and other charitable organizations on successfully moving forward in the midst of a rapidly changing cultural and societal context.
The ESU Board and I believe that such a conversation is timely and much needed. The past three years posed extraordinary challenges to our organization and undermined the progress we had made toward strengthening our Branches and membership. The Covid-imposed isolation has been antithetical to the ESU's spirit, which is grounded in human interaction, in people meeting each other face to face and across borders. With the pandemic receding and members getting together in person again, it is time to look to the future.
You may remember Renee from a few years back, when we worked with her on our Centennial campaign. Her seminal report informed our decision to bring back into focus the ESU's essence of a membership organization.
This time, Renee, supported by Executive Director Karen Karpowich and her staff, will work with a diverse group of stakeholders including Branch leaders, members, volunteers, and beneficiaries of our programs to discern pathways to growth at the Branch and national levels. Titled "Setting the Stage for Growth," this work will result in a state-of-the-union report that will outline the process for expanding participation in the ESU. Renee will work with us throughout the summer so that the report is ready for the 2022 ESU Annual General Conference.
And I am thrilled to announce that finally, after three years of Covid, we will meet in person November 11-13 for the 2022 ESU Annual General Conference. It will be hosted most graciously by the ESU Charleston Branch in charming Charleston, South Carolina.
Under the same theme of "Setting the Stage for Growth," the 2022 Annual General Conference will give us an opportunity to review Reverend LiaBraaten's report and use it as a springboard for what I hope will be a productive discussion about the ESU's path forward to a growing membership and dynamic Branches.
And, in closing, I would like to reassure you that we are in close contact with Buckingham Palace about setting the date for the rescheduled Gala in the presence of Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal. Her Royal Highness' office is working on a date for us between late September 2022 and early January 2023. We will be in touch as soon as the plans firm up.
In the meantime, while we await The Princess Royal's visit, I invite you to join us on June 3 for a special event that marks Her Majesty's Platinum Jubilee.
The event will feature a recording of my performance of Duke Ellington's The Queen's Suite, an album of six wonderful jazz pieces the Duke dedicated to Her Majesty after meeting her in 1958. During our June 3 Platinum Jubilee celebration, the recording will be offered as a gift (a lagniappe, as we say in Louisiana) to all registered Gala attendees with our gratitude for their support and patience.
Dear friends, better times are up ahead. The pandemic is in retreat, we are getting to see each other's smiles again, and there will be many great occasions to mark. Our Union endured through the Covid pandemic with fortitude and grace, the way it prevailed over innumerable challenges throughout its century-long history. As we celebrate what we have, let's look forward with optimism to the future.
With best regards,
Dr. E. Quinn Peeper Chairman
The English-Speaking Union of the United States